Hawkesbury’s Tulmar celebrates 30th anniversary, as airline industry bounces back from COVID-19

Pat Tallon Banner

As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, Tulmar is looking to a bright future in the air industry, following two years of pandemic-related challenges.

Founded in April of 1992, the Hawkesbury-based company – which designs, manufactures and distributes engineered protective textiles, survivability and safety solutions for the aerospace, defence and public security industries – signed up a record number of new customers last month. The addition of new, smaller air companies to its baseline business of commercial carriers helped the company weather the COVID-19 storm over the past two years and has allowed Tulmar to diversify its customer base, as orders bounce back from larger companies.

“We’ve added an incredible number of new customers,” beams Patrick Tallon, Tulmar’s President and minority shareholder. “We worked really hard to get business from smaller operators.”

Prior to March of 2020, 40 per cent of Tulmar’s business was from commercial aviation, with 90 per cent of contracts coming from a small group of commercial airlines, including Air Canada, Westjet, United, and Porter Airlines. While the company’s military contracts – which make up the 60 per cent majority of business – remained stable, orders from commercial carriers came to a grinding halt at the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, as airlines grounded their planes due to travel restrictions.

Tulmar’s future is secure in Hawkesbury, Tallon says, citing the company’s excellent workforce as a major factor in the continued expansion of its manufacturing facility in the municipality. The factory’s modernization includes equipment ranging from computerized cutting tables, stitching machines and Radio Frequency welding and heat sealing equipment, to highly sophisticated testing and certification equipment, including cold temperature test chambers, inertia reel testing equipment and computerized measurement and test equipment for quality inspection.

“We have an unbelievable team,” Tulmar’s president says proudly, of the company’s focus on employees, customers, and shareholder returns. “We have a fantastic workforce all through the plant and a strong executive team.”

Tulmar’s, military and defence contracts, which became a disproportionately high portion of its revenue over the last two years, are also taking flight, with the company receiving a very large order from its largest customer General Dynamics just this month. General Dynamics also obtained the contract for light-armoured replacement vehicles for the Canadian military and Tulmar is heavily involved in the project.

While optimistic about the coming year, Tallon says the company’s executive team remains cautious about the long-term effects of the pandemic on business.

“We thought last November things were picking up, but then the darkest days for us were in January,” he observes. “While I’m optimistic today, I’m concerned about things like inflation, cost of raw materials, and the cost of diesel.”

With fuel costs continuing to rise, shipping prices have more than doubled in the past two years. Supply chain issues are also a concern, as Tulmar’s key defence contracts require military specification parts, which are often sole sourced.

“A lot of the things we make you can’t just go buy (the materials) somewhere else,” Tallon says.

As part of its 30th anniversary, Tulmar has been holding small celebrations, including a recognition ceremony two weeks ago for 30 long service employees – three who have worked with the company since its beginning.

The company is also celebrating the introduction of the AS9100 Quality Management System – a key achievement for its Aerospace and Defence business. Tulmar achieved its AS9100 certification in December 2021.

As it moves into the future Tulmar is developing the company’s own products, as opposed to being reliant on contract manufacturing, including the launch of two tactical life jackets this spring. Prototype work has also been completed on an anti-theft device to be used on autonomous military vehicles – with a company representative traveling to Fort Benning, Georgia, this month to demonstrate it to the United States Army.

“We can go and find unique products and turn them into solutions,” Tallon says of Tulmar’s innovations. “Our customers count on us for those challenging items.”

Read the original Article by the Vankleek Hill Review by clicking here.