Challenge: Remaining relevant
Solution: Diversification, patience and innovation
Tronos Leasing and Maintenance located in Prince Edward Island first launched in 2001 to provide maintenance services for Tronos Aviation owned assets. Up until that time the UK-based company was an aviation leasing company only – providing jets to main line carriers like United and US Air. Once the leases were over, the planes needed significant maintenance to get them ready for new markets in South America. Rather than setting up a maintenance business in the UK, the company decided to set up shop in Charlottetown, in part because PEI was committed to developing an aviation sector.
While the company was originally set up to service its own fleet, the business over the long-term was not sustainable. A shrinking fleet meant that the company needed to continue to look for ways to expand and diversify. As a result, the maintenance facility has continued to evolve, thanks to an ongoing commitment to R&D, innovation and a desire to apply creative thinking to the aviation sector.
In 2009, the company invested in R&D to develop an air tanker technology which led to the first 3000-gallon firefighting jet aircraft on the market. "We developed that product right here in Prince Edward Island, says Tronos CEO Mark Coffin. All of the physical and manufacturing work was done here, and then the aircraft went into service in the U.S. through the U.S. forest service."
The original contract was for the manufacturing of 11 aircraft. Tronos completed seven, and then sold the division to a U.S.-based partner in Montana.
"The funding from government partners is a big reason why we embarked on the air tanker program; it allowed us to minimize the risk," says Coffin. Once the program was sold and the government loan was fully repaid, the company then turned its sights to the next opportunity to move the company forward.
"We recognize the need to continuously diversify, adds Coffin. We always try to stay relevant and innovative. We saw the machine shop as an opportunity to develop PMA products." (Parts Manufacturer Approval is an approval granted by the United States Federal Aviation Administration to a manufacturer of aircraft parts.)
In 2016, the company launched its new ISO certified manufacturing division. Bringing the company's 30 years of experience in the aerospace sector and related manufacturing environment together with the latest in SolidWorks CAD software, coupled with next generation CAM software. Tronos now offers several solutions for all kinds of machining and manufacturing needs.
Essentially, the company reverse engineers aviation components and re-engineers them in a way that improves on the original design or makes them cheaper to reproduce. The next step will be adding new technological innovation with the addition of 3D printing with metals.
By reinvesting profits into further innovation, Tronos has been able to ensure longer-term sustainability. It is finding a market for niche components that bigger manufacturers aren't interested in.
Coffin's advice is to be patient when building markets and street credibility. "People have to do their homework as to what their market is and what the possibilities are. Establishing your credibility doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, planning and the right partners."
Partnerships, such as the one with the Government of Canada, play a key role in Tronos’ continued growth. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Tronos build on its aerospace knowhow. With an investment of over $450,000, the company is establishing an aerospace parts and components manufacturing facility through the purchase of equipment.
Tronos Leasing and Maintenance is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.