Guadalajara: North America’s Rising Manufacturing Hub

Guadalajara, Mexico, has a lot to offer the electronics industry in terms of a well established electronics manufacturing support base, highly skilled workers, cooperative business environment, and competitive labor rates.

I expect that the value of Guadalajara as a destination for outsourced electronics manufacturing will continue to improve in the future. The city is relatively safe, culturally interesting — and the reigning Miss Universe, Jimena Navarrete, hails from Guadalajara.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking in Guadalajara at Provelec, the annual conference for the electronics cluster in Guadalajara that is represented by CADELEC, Mexico's electronics supply chain organization. It had been about five years since I last visited the industry in Guadalajara, and I was very impressed with what I saw.

The first issue that you must confront when traveling to Mexico these days is the security concern caused by the drug wars that have been raging since 2006. The US State Department has a travel warning for Mexico that is generally applied to the whole country, but I found that security is not an issue in Guadalajara. I traveled about very easily, without experiencing any unsafe situations. I was told by many locals that Guadalajara has managed to avoid most of the drug problems that have plagued other states in the country.

The Provelec conference is always a good barometer for the electronics industry in the state of Jalisco, and more specifically for the city of Guadalajara. The conference attendees included representatives of the state and local governments, OEMs, EMS, and various supply chain companies. The general mood was very positive about the situation in Guadalajara and the prospects for its future.

Here are some of the facts about this important region based on data presented during the conference and in discussions I had with many industry people there:

  • Employment in the electronics industry is at its highest level ever.
  • Through August, electronic exports for the year were at 62 percent of the 2008 level and 75 percent of the 2009 level.
  • Other electronic companies are looking to transfer their operations from the more volatile border regions to Guadalajara.
  • The local supply base is good for sheet metal, plastics, painting, and cable and harnesses.
  • While there are no longer any IC fabs in Mexico, the electronics industry in Guadalajara has made arrangement for two direct flights per week from China to bring in electronic components, which normally clear customs within one day. The flights then return to China loaded with agricultural products.
  • Government incentives and grants are still available for companies wanting to establish operations in Jalisco.

Guadalajara is still a unique spot in the electronics manufacturing market because of the local people's desire to see the industry succeed. This results in greater collaboration among the various companies for the common good of their industry, state, and ultimately the country.

The industry data that we gather at Charlie Barnhart & Associates LLC and apply in analyses using our proprietary methodologies is supportive of Mexico, and in particular Guadalajara, as a manufacturing solution for products sold into the US. We have been advocating this to our clients for a few years now.

Reported quality concerns by some OEMs related to Mexico still may need to be addressed, although these are usually associated with manufacturing done in the border zones. Since this issue was first raised years ago, we have been trying without success to track down a credible case where quality in Mexico was a significant long-term problem. However, that perception still exists.

When calculating the true cost of global electronics outsourcing, you must consider, not just the price paid to an EMS/ODM partner, but also the OEM’s internal expenses in support of the outsourcing initiative as well as the geographic risk inherent in the solution selected. When simply looking at the price paid to an EMS/ODM partner, an OEM may incorrectly assume that a low-cost country such as China, India, or Poland offers the best value. However, once the OEM’s internal spend and geographic risk are added into the analysis, the results often change, and it is in such an analysis that Mexico often emerges as the best value.

If you would like to learn more about our analysis, please contact me at .

8 comments on “Guadalajara: North America’s Rising Manufacturing Hub

  1. Ashu001
    December 2, 2010



    This is a very-very good and informative read for all would-be outsourcers(in the Manufacturing Industry).I was aware that Mexico is making huge strides here but still a lot of your report was an eye-opener and path-breaking for me. Its a fact that the State(Govt.) can either choose to be supportive of Industry or throw millions of obstacles in its way and impede its progress.Its good to see Mexico's local Govt. do whatever it takes to make this industry suceed thereby generating lots of good quality jobs.One more issue which you should have raised is how much of an advantage all this manufacturing(so close to America's huge market) will be once Crude Oil crosses USD 100/Barrel.



  2. Parser
    December 2, 2010

    I have been to Guadalajara in 2008 for a technical service call at a very modern hospital, where a U.S. manufacturer was performing clinical studies. I was very impressed with the infrastructure of the town and its surrounding cities. For a business the questions are how to quantify or weigh the terms “well established support base”, “skilled workers” or “cooperative business environment”?

  3. AnalyzeThis
    December 2, 2010

    Great article, Eric, I agree that Mexico and specifically Guadalajara potentially has a lot to effort the electronics industry. And I do think that many companies are or shortly will be evaluating the possibility of transitioning their operations there from Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

    But as you mentioned, the chief concerns center around security and build quality, I believe. With additional time, experience, and more well-trained labor and management, I believe the quality issues can be addressed. Or at the very least, as you mention, the PERCEPTION of quality issues can be alleviated. Now regardless of whether or not there are actual quality issues, I think it is fair to say that the labor force is not as experienced and the infrastructure and facilities may not be as advanced as they are elsewhere. And as a result of that, there is at the very least a good deal of skepticism about Mexico's ability to deliver the same quality already produced elsewhere. And I think that's a viable concern.

    As for the security issues… well, that is obviously a bit more complicated. There are certainly certain areas of the country which at the moment do not seem like good places to make investments.

  4. Hawk
    December 2, 2010

    Don't underestimate the concerns at least in North America about safety in Mexico. The recent news reports have not been positive at all and the government in Mexico does not seem to be winning that war fast enough. When companies relocate manufacturing plants or when they consider investing in a country, they often have to transfer employees from headquarters and existing facilities to the new site. How readily will people from the US or Canada even temporarily move to Mexico?

  5. Ashu001
    December 3, 2010


    Be willing to move outside your comfort zone.Thats the only way to be succesful today in your chosen vocation.

    Many American Citizens currently work in Saudi Arabia.Inspite of it being not only one of the most oppressive places on earth but also extremely uncomfortable(the weather).So what?People adapt.

    And Adaptibility is going to become more and more important in the 21st century.You go where the oppurtunities are,the oppurtunities dont come to you.And as Unemployment Insurance in US and Europe run out completely between Now and middle of 2011;more and more skilled people will see no option but to emigrate to where the jobs are.I don't know whether you are following Ireland's Debt problem closely.What deal the Irish Govt has set with the IMF/EU for a bailout ensures that a significant portion of Irish citizens pension savings will go to re-finance existing Irish Debt.Many Irish (are already realising) and will soon realize;that there will be negligible pensions for them when they retire.So what are they going to do about it? Emigrate.Same thing is going to happen in America as well.Whether they be in Mexico,China,Saudi Arabia,Australia or elsewhere is immaterial.



  6. Ashu001
    December 3, 2010


    The following article from Gains and Pains summarizes exactly what I was mentioning in my earlier post…


    Goodbye Benefits…

    Hello “Interesting” Times Don’t they get it?

    It’s truly bizarre to me that the powers that be cannot figure out WHY the average American is growing increasingly disenfranchised with how things are going. Let’s do a quick review of the facts: 1) Food stamp usage at record highs 2) Real unemployment around 17% 3) Food and energy inflation on the rise 4) Incomes and housing prices falling 5) Wall Street bonuses at record highs 6) The Fed continuing to pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the banks while proclaiming a “recovery” Seriously, a second grader could connect the dots here and see how this will work out (hint: BADLY). What’s truly strange is to see allegedly educated, intelligent people like Ben Bernanke talk as though the stock market is somehow an economic indicator. I’m sure it’s a great indicator of prosperity if you work at Goldman Sachs or are a corporate insider at a publicly traded company. However, for those Americans who DON’T have flawless trading records (or stock option grants) stocks have NOTHING to do with your day-to-day activities. After all, your typical American DOESN’T buy food or pay their mortgage with the profits from their day-trading; they pay with the money they earn from their JOB. On that note, get ready for some “interesting” times. I’ve been warning for months that things are going to get “interesting” in the US. After all, with over 42 million folks on food stamps and millions of others one paycheck away from being homeless, it was only a matter of time before something broke. In fact it just did. As of yesterday, people who have been unemployed for more than six months began losing their unemployment benefits. Whether or not you agree with the concept of unemployment they’ve been the one thing keeping millions from homelessness and desperation. Desperate people do desperate things. And with two million Americans about to lose their benefits this month, desperation is going to be on the rise BIG TIME going forward. On that note, NOW is the time to be preparing. I’ve been urging my subscribers to stockpile some food, water, cash, and bullion for well over a year now. I do not believe we’re heading into some Mad Max/ Armageddon times, but I DO think that there will be periods of shortages in the US in the future. And those shortages will not be handled well by most folks. As a personal anecdote, earlier this year the area I live in suffered a severe snow storm that made it difficult for shipping trucks to get in to town. The grocery stores were virtually picked clean within 24 hours. I shudder to think what would have happened if this has lasted more than a day or two.”

    Think about it closely.At what point does Security no longer become an over-riding concern for most Americans?rather putting food on the table becomes their primary concern?That time is coming as our Bankrupt Govt can no longer fulfill any of the onerous Social Obligations it has taken on.Then You will see Emigration out of America like never before.The only other sensible alternative is for the US Govt to default on their Debt.But that is atleast a decade away.Till then this Ponzi scheme (US Govt Debt)will continue.



  7. Mydesign
    December 3, 2010

       Parser, I am totally agreeing with you, recently me too had a visit to Mexico in connection with a workshop. During that time, I got an opportunity for an industrial visit to some of the electronic production company.  They had an excellent production line facility with fully automated system and this type of facilities is at par with the electronic industries in Thailand & Malaysia. Here am not referring to the quality of products, only referring the production line facility. Some of the PLC controller which they are using is very advanced and sophisticated. From production line to packing stage, the human interaction is very less and they are achieving this by using industrial robotics, neural networks, PLC controller and fussy logic systems.

  8. Susan Fourtané
    December 9, 2010

    I lived in Guadalajara for a year. During that year I was working in close, daily relationship with Ford Motor Company and Ford Credit. Most of the managers and supervisors had been transferred from Mexico City. Since then, Guadalajara grew as center for manufacturing due to the good conditions the city offered. With less pollution than Mexico D.F. and less corruption that Monterrey, Guadalajara is a good hub for business. People are friendly and the city is much safer than many others in the country. 

    Monterrey, where I also lived for a year, is a different story. Although it is also a state with a concentration of industries, the very high temperatures in the summer, the many problems with drug dealers and the high level in corruption makes Monterrey a place I would never recommend, let's say, if some employees from the U.S. or Canada have to be transferred there with their families. In that sense, Guadalajara is a better and safer option. And a more beautiful state with nearby places like Puerto Vallarta. 

    Guadalajara has been growing as a good choice for manufacturing for the past years. One of the reasons has been the need to move people away from Mexico D.F. due to overpopulation. That is why the government offers incentives. Guadalajara has presented itself as a new opportunity for doing business and relocate manufacturing plants. 



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.