On February 27, 20 years have passed since HEXA Ingenieros was founded. A period of two decades in which the six professionals who began this journey have seen how today the company has 40 workers, a headquarters in the United States, the trust of its customers and its partners and, above all, a great capacity to adapt to the needs of an industrial sector that is experiencing a real revolution with the arrival and capillarization of Industry 4.0.
Twenty years after opening the doors of the company for the first time with great enthusiasm, José María Guillén – its CEO – looks back to review how the journey is being, now that the 20th anniversary has arrived. Past, present and future are reflected in this interview that shows the soul of a consultant who looks forward without forgetting where she comes from.
Two decades have passed since HEXA Ingenieros became an engineering consultancy focused on the industry. With what vision did its founders set it up in 2001?
More than vision, excitement. The excitement of being able to create something that will last over time. We were born as an industrial software company in which the partners thought that our experience could solve many of the integration problems that our clients had. We were a group of professionals with multidisciplinary knowledge who, placed at the service of our clients, provided solutions to their systems integration, automation and information management projects.
We understood that creating a company that integrates these two areas, at that time, was a good opportunity.
From the outset, it was an adventure and the objectives that we set for ourselves were very short-term and little by little we consolidated the project. For 20 years we have continued to provide these solutions to our clients, but constantly adapting to new technologies.
To say that, without the commitment and dedication of the partners, who are still involved 20 years later, José María Bonilla, Rocío Nieva, Francisco Javier Diez, Antonio Fernández, Ricardo Burguete, José Alberto Paredes and myself, probably this project would not have been possible.
From the first year, HEXA Ingenieros began to have clients and projects abroad. You have had an office in the US for more than three years. What does this international vocation mean for the company?
In an increasingly globalized world we have always been open to working outside of Spain. In fact, one of our first projects was in Mexico, in 2001, for Grupo Modelo. In these years, we have carried out these projects abroad through third parties or with multinational companies with which we already worked in Spain, since we did not have a commercial structure abroad. Apart from carrying out projects, we have always had in mind the possibility of expanding the company through geographical distribution, but it is not always easy for a company like ours. We had to wait for the opportunity and take advantage of synergies with our clients and collaborators. That opportunity arose and we decided, with the help of ICEX, to settle in the United States.
The project is currently at a slow, albeit active, pace due to the limitations of COVID-19. Current communication systems allow us to continue working on it, but it is not the most appropriate scenario. Let’s hope that we can defeat COVID-19, sooner rather than later, and return everything to normal.
The company has been growing and adapting to the emergence of Industry 4.0 and the most innovative technologies. How has this transit been carried out within HEXA Ingenieros?
I would say that this transit has not been complex. Since 2001 we have been developing projects for the integration of different systems to facilitate the flow of information between the different parts of the factory. Let’s say we were already working on Industry 4.0. Planning, traceability, production management, Batch or MES systems are terms with which we are familiar from the beginning of the Company. With the emergence of the term Industry 4.0, and what I call “democratization of communications” this concern to digitize the different production processes was triggered. Companies have to adapt to solve market requirements: it is necessary to reduce the time to market, have more flexible processes, have more sustainable factories, better manage energy consumption… Basically optimize resources to be more competitive.
There has been a paradigm shift. Before, information was managed in real time to know what had happened or was happening and to be able to correct certain situations. Now, that information is managed to predict what is going to happen and to anticipate the problem. In addition, today, the need for information is broader, covering the entire value chain, which also includes the final consumer.
Terms such as Big Data, Machine Learning, digital twin, predictive analysis and maintenance, Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality, IIOT, Cloud, Blockchain, Virtualization, Cobots, etc. appear.
All this movement has been good for HEXA Ingenieros because we were already immersed in this industry problem and what it has done has been to generate new needs in our clients. As a company we have been continuously adapting, adopting and training ourselves in those technologies that are appearing and establishing the necessary agreements with different collaborators and partners in order to continue providing the best solutions to our clients. Technology evolves very quickly and it is not easy to have specialized knowledge of all these technologies and solutions, which is why collaboration between different companies is necessary in order to provide complete solutions to customers.
HEXA Ingenieros has around fifty professionals on its staff. What are the profiles that make it up to 2021?
We have been adapting the profiles that make up HEXA Ingenieros to the needs set by the market and the solutions that our clients required. The convergence that has occurred with all these changes between the IT and OT worlds has made us work with profiles that move well in both environments. We have on our staff of industrial engineers and computer engineers, as well as higher-level profiles in automation and electronics, mechatronics or multiplatform application development. In short, multidisciplinary technical profiles that allow us to continue providing the most appropriate solutions in each case.
What have been the keys to the success of the company to reach two decades of life with this good health?
Apart from the involvement of the partners from the beginning, we have to thank firstly our team and secondly our clients and collaborators. The entire team that has been part of HEXA Ingenieros during its 20 years of life has had a high degree of professionalism and involvement in the philosophy of the company. They have known how to adapt to the needs at all times and I believe that we have, in most cases, made them feel like an important part of the company and actively participate, beyond what can be considered a regular employee.
Regarding customers, it must be said that HEXA Ingenieros has always put the customer at the center. We have tried to be seen more as a collaborator than as a supplier. Establishing long-term relationships with our main clients has allowed us to travel this path together and with greater confidence. We have applied this same philosophy to our partners and collaborators. Obviously, regardless of philosophy, the fact of being in this situation is also due to the fact that our clients have considered that we should have done things reasonably well.
It is 20 years since the founding of HEXA Ingenieros in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, what vision do you have of the moment the industrial sector is going through in Spain?
I believe that this pandemic should lead us to make an analysis of the current situation of the industry in Spain. We have seen that the deindustrialization that has taken place in recent years has led us to an excessive dependence on other sectors and on the foreign market to meet the country’s needs. We have realized the importance of a sector like industrial in a situation like the one we live in. It is necessary to bet on reindustrialization and carry out a profound digital transformation of the existing industry to increase its weight and competitiveness. The government should encourage investment to increase the degree of industrialization of the country and to do so efficiently. I think there is a lot of talent in Spain and we have seen it in how many companies have adapted and reinvented themselves in the current situation. It is necessary to facilitate investment for this change to take place.
I have a great degree of skepticism, but we trust that the institutions have taken note and help to strengthen the industry and make it more efficient thinking in all those terms that we have already spoken about: time to market, flexibility, sustainability, optimization of resources…
From HEXA Ingenieros we help our clients to develop and implement this digitization plan.
The Next Generation EU recovery plan is expected to boost the Spanish economy in the coming years. In what sense should the industry take advantage of this European economic injection and what forecast have they made in this regard from HEXA Ingenieros?
I refer to what we have spoken before. Let’s hope that all that economic injection that comes from Europe, not only for the industrial sector, is used properly and reaches where it needs to go, to improve the conditions of all those who are having a bad time. With regard to the industrial part, promote the creation of new industry and make the existing one adapt to the change we are experiencing and be more competitive. Renovation and digital transformation. We must press the accelerator if we want to have weight in the world in the coming years.
Spain happens to be one of the countries most affected by the crisis derived from Covid-19. Does that mean that you have to expand new business horizons abroad?
For sure. Spain, indeed, is one of the countries most affected by Covid-19, both in terms of health and economics. We can say that we have not done something well, or be more benevolent and say that we were not prepared for a situation like this. In any case, I would say that with or without Covid, companies must open ourselves more and more to business abroad. In a globalized world like the one we live in, we not only compete with companies from our country, but also with companies from all over the world and with very different idiosyncrasies, which makes competition more complicated. All companies have to optimize our processes and improve our competitiveness significantly to continue fighting in this market.
One of the positive things that this situation has been able to bring is to confirm that it is possible to work in a delocalized way, not in person, in an equally efficient way. Our experience in this regard has been very positive. At HEXA Ingenieros we have been teleworking from the first day of confinement. We have been able to verify that the responsibility of the workers is usually independent of whether they are looking at them or not. In the end, the work either does or does not. I think that relocation of work is here to stay, although some aspects have to be polished, because psychologically I think we were not prepared. In any case, this possibility of relocation makes it easier to open businesses outside of your usual environment.
In addition to serving the business today, every company has challenges and aspirations for the future. How does the management of HEXA Ingenieros envision the future of the company five years from now?
In the current situation it is difficult to plan things in the medium and long term, but we can think about where we would like to be. In all this scenario that we have been talking about, we want to be a reference within the sector and continue to provide the best solutions to our clients. What do we have to do to achieve it? Exactly the same as we request for our clients.
All companies – and ours is no exception – must be able to adapt to the evolution of technologies, be flexible and optimize all our processes, both internal and in project development. In this sense, we must focus on different points to continue advancing with guarantees. Continuous training of our staff, to be able to adapt to changes, which will be faster and faster. Consolidation of relationships with our partners and clients. Investment in R&D and standardization of systems and solutions, to optimize the development of our projects. And, finally, continue with the internationalization process and increase the business share in the foreign market.
One of the key aspects for a consulting firm like HEXA Ingenieros is the training carried out in higher education centers. How is this being produced in recent years in Spain?
We currently have a relationship and agreements with different educational centers to carry out internships for their students. In most of the cases we have ended up incorporating these people into our organization. Students tend to come better and better trained, but we must continue to bring the company closer to the educational world and vice versa. Dual training is a very interesting option. In an environment where technology changes so rapidly, educational plans must be adapted to the needs of the market and companies. New needs and professions appear, and schools must adapt continuously. Companies should also be more involved in the educational world, facilitating this work.
From the competent bodies in the field of education, there must be a continuous analysis of the needs of the labor market to adapt the study plans and degrees to real needs. The transition from university and training centers to the world of work should be as smooth as possible. If not, the incorporation of young people will be more complicated, as companies end up looking to hire people with experience and with the appropriate knowledge.