Head of MPE Group ‘keeps rocking’ as business grows across Latin America
By D.Ann Shiffler05 July 2023
Alvaro Rodriguez was exposed to the realm of mechanical engineering as a youngster, working on weekends and holidays in his father’s shop fixing mechanical, electrical and air-conditioning issues on cars.
“I decided to study mechanical and electrical engineering as this was a natural thing for me,” he said. “Just after graduating, I got a job at one of the biggest steel pipe factories in Mexico. This is when I got involved with serious and big machinery installations. When I started doing bigger machine installations, I was so excited. It was like a dream come true, so I kept pursuing bigger jobs.”
But he only lasted as an employee for three years. An entrepreneur at heart, he said he “learned the drill” and then started his own business in 1990, performing residential and commercial installations.
“Initially it was only me, and then I hired a helper and then a few more guys,” he remembered. “Roughly two years after that I had the opportunity to participate in several industrial machinery installations for a friend’s company. It was small machinery back then, but I was steadily managing to increase the size and complexity of the machines I was installing.”
Today, Rodriguez is the president and owner of Montajes y Proyectos Especializados, better known in the United States as MPE Group, which he started in 2000, performing similar work to the smaller companies he started in 1990 and 1992 and merged in 2000. In 2010, MPE Group became his sole entity. The company represents several product lines in Mexico and Latin America and also performs project management for large-scale machinery installations.
Rodriguez became active in SC&RA in 2006, and he has become a well-known Mexican businessman in the Association. Besides being one of the most respected rigging professionals in the industry, he is also known for the guitar receptions that he and other industry musicians have made traditions at SC&RA Annual Conferences.
One of the most encouraging and positive voices in the industry, Rodriguez is respected and admired for his knowledge and acumen. He’s a good friend to many, and he genuinely loves what he does. While I have known him for years, I know him much better after this interview.
How does MPE Group distinguish itself in the markets it serves?
I think I’ve been trying to honor my father’s best advice, “Do things right or don’t do them at all.” I have always been trying to perfect what I deliver to others, always trying to do better and offer the best experience to our customers.
What do you consider the biggest challenges in your business at the current time?
At this point, I think getting back to normal after the pandemic. Most industries and companies had to put their projects and investments on hold. This seriously affected many companies in the industry, but I learned to be super-efficient during bad times in order to survive.
What about doing business in Mexico for so many years?
I have been doing business in Mexico from the start. There have been many ups and downs, but I think after over 30 years of doing this I have some useful experience.
What are the particular challenges to doing business in your country?
I would say mostly government policies. Sometimes they change the rules, and it really affects how companies develop, and some of them just could not survive because of this.
Besides project management, you represent several well-known product lines. how did this evolve?
Just after I left the original merged company, I was offered the opportunity to be an independent sales representative for Lift Systems. I am very grateful for this opportunity. I knew the owner, I used to have their gantry systems and I knew the market, the country, the language and such, so it was really easy to take on that responsibility. After a few months, I was offered the chance to be Versa-Lift’s sales rep as well. Then another one and then another one. Today I represent several world-class companies that manufacture quality products for this industry, including Lift Systems, Rigging Gear Sales, Riggers Manufacturing, Versa-Lift, Rig Ready, Nelson Trailers, GKS Lifting and Moving Solutions, RUD, DICA, Hydra-Slide, ERA Transfer Carts and Aerogo.
What is the biggest project you’ve ever performed?
There have been a few very large projects I participated in, some of them in collaboration with other partners and some of them on our own. Most of them are related to super big stamping/forging presses.
What is your involvement in the Associación de Grúas, Equipos y Dispositivos Industries (AGEDI)?
The AGEDI Association started about nine years ago. I joined back in 2015, and I have been actively participating in it since then. In 2021, I was invited to be a part of the board of directors for a period of two years. I feel very proud to collaborate with this association as it has great potential, and the networking is great even though it is still a small and young association in Mexico.
What keeps you engaged in this industry?
I like everything related to heavy rigging and hauling, the challenges the industry presents and the solutions we as companies must come up with to help our customers.
What is your business philosophy?
Give the customer the best experience possible.
You are an accomplished guitarist. When did you start playing the guitar?
I started playing at the age of 10, mostly chords and easy melodies. But after a couple of years, I wanted to play rock, so I asked my parents to get me some private lessons, so they found a teacher for me. I did not have an electric guitar until the age of 12. That’s when I started rocking. But it wasn’t until I was at university that I listened to a guy playing a classical guitar. I was literally blown away. I wanted to play like that so I started looking for teachers. I tried a couple ones and they were not what I was expecting. Then a friend told me about this local music university that offered a classical guitar program. I enrolled just after I graduated as an engineer. The classes were at night, so I went to this school after work for two years. I graduated in 1988, and then I asked my main guitar teacher to give me private lessons. He did so for another four to five years. But in parallel, I kept rocking. I was very into heavy metal in the 1980s, then progressive metal in the 1990s and mid-2000s, then moved to jazz/fusion in late 2000s until today.
Did you ever consider a career in music?
Yes of course, that was my dream. But here in Mexico, it is extremely difficult to make a living out of playing the guitar, so I had to keep it as a hobby.
Does everyone in your family play the guitar?
Yes, my oldest daughter has musical talents; she mainly plays the drums but also plays the ukulele and a little piano. My second daughter is playing classical guitar just like me. It just so happens that my former teacher at the music university I attended over 30 years ago was available for private lessons, so she has been learning from him since 2016. She is doing great, and she also plays the piano very well. My youngest daughter asked me to teach her electric guitar a couple of years ago. I gave her a few lessons, and she picked it up immediately. She has some natural abilities to play instruments, and she also plays the piano.
What do you do in your leisure time?
I have several hobbies, obviously the guitar is one of the most important, but I also do photography, woodworking, calligraphy, metal lathe fabrications, graphic design, computers, technology and such. I just can’t be around doing nothing – I just can’t help myself. I love to spend time with my family, and I am very thankful to my wife for all the support she gives me, in business and also my hobbies. She’s been a very important part of my success since 1996 when we got married.