Chris Allen, General Manager and Island resident since 1999, describes the history and truly global nature of the business Triumph Actuation Systems, an aerospace manufacturing company, now conducts from the Island.
“The facility we have here has a long heritage. Our business can trace its origins right back to the 1930s. We have been at this particular site since 1965…”
“We specialise in landing gear hydraulic systems. Our components fly on a number of aeroplanes all around the world. We boast applications on Boeing and Airbus and some of the major airliners. Our systems are generally used for extending the undercarriage leg, retracting the undercarriage leg and opening and closing the under-carriage doors.”
In 2014, American owned, Triumph Group Inc. bought the high-tech facility in Onchan and the business has gone from strength to strength, aided by funding support from the Isle of Man Government. High levels of investment are needed to support Triumph’s continued growth and the strategy that allows Triumph to compete globally requires this.
“The kind of work we do here is very high technology and very capital intensive. We have to purchase expensive equipment. Some of the machines we have bought recently have been half a million pounds each! We get a good level of support from government with that.”
“Success is based on a working partnership with government that aligns what business wants to achieve with what government is able to help with”
“Our business is in a phase of growth and we have had significant support from the Isle of Man government with regard to new plant, equipment and new facilities. Some of the programs we are supporting, particularly Airbus and Boeing, are selling really well at the moment. We have had to invest in new equipment to match the new demand and uplift in volumes for those. We approached Government for support and we have had some great success.”
Chris talks about the process involved in applying for funding, meeting with Government and filing a business plan.
“The process itself is very easy. We produced a business plan and talked to the team at the Department of Economic Development, explained our project and what sort of support we might need. Generally, equipment investment requires a lot of upfront cash. Often businesses need support to get them over that initial hurdle.”
“There are a number of pieces of paper you have to fill out, but they are very easy to follow and there is a level of support offered by the DED team themselves. Generally you’d need a few meetings with them to discuss and agree what you are looking to achieve. You then have to wait for a review of that proposal. The government will consider it and come back to you with an offer of support. If that meets with your joint agreement then you move forward. Then there’s some legal paperwork to finalise the deal.”
The support on offer in current schemes varies depending on the size and maturity of the applying business. Triumph, in this case, received a grant which helped to offset the cost of new machinery. They were also able to utilise the funding beyond start-up capital costs.
The funding Triumph received also covered “training, support, any infrastructure support … and first time expenses associated with the establishment of a project.”
Chris stresses, “It’s not just a capital plan, [the funding] supports the investment and resources we needed to get that new project started.”
One of the challenges Chris initially experienced was in the recruitment of skilled staff. Working with other members of the Isle of Man’s aerospace cluster, the Isle of Man College of Further and Higher Education and the Department of Education and Children (DoEC), Chris was able to tackle this problem head-on.
“To support our growth we have had a requirement to increase our staff numbers. Manufacturing skills have been a particular issue in the past decade or more. Manufacturing has fallen out of fashion with a number of people and for our businesses to grow on the Isle of Man we have been looking for improved skills to support our growth. We have worked very closely with government, and in particular the Department of Education & Children and DED to drive the growth of the Isle of Man College’s support for apprentices and trainees. We have had some significant successes. The Isle of Man Government has provided a massive investment to Isle of Man College in terms of equipment, staff and new facilities… It’s been a very satisfactory relationship with the government both in terms of education and economic development. They listen to our requirements and deliver the support we need.”
Chris considers the growth that his team have achieved with support from the Isle of Man Government highly significant. Triumph have also recognised the high degree of skill offered by their Manx manufacturing business unit and the capital investment strategy Chris has pursued has realised that success.
“Since Triumph took over our business, they previously had a number of components manufactured in China. Triumph sees the value of bringing [the manufacture of] those components back from China, with a number attracted to the Isle of Man itself. While the Isle of Man may seem an unlikely place for a factory, with the right strategy and right support we are able to compete on a global stage in terms of skills, capabilities and costs.”
“When you follow a strategy that is focused on capital intensive processes, the labour cost becomes a small proportion of the overall cost of the product. Therefore on the Isle of Man we can compete. With the support packages we get we can level the playing field and in some cases become more competitive.”
The future for Triumph is bright, their biggest challenge now is keeping up with demand and Chris is currently in talks with the Isle of Man Government with a view to expand or relocate Triumph’s facility. Chris considers Triumph’s partnership with the Isle of Man Government vital to their continued success.
“Government support has enabled us to deliver our expansion plans in the timescales we wanted. We may have expanded anyway, but generating the right level of funds to support growth is always a difficult prospect for a business. With the support of government we have been able to do that and we have been able to support our customers in a timescale that suits all parties… That has actually increased our opportunity for growth. Government support is essential and beneficial in our ability to respond to some of the challenges we’re faced with. “
Find Out More
Click here for more information on Triumph Actuation Systems and the services they offer
Click here for more information on the Isle of Man Government funding available through both the Enterprise Development Scheme and Financial Assistance Scheme.