AEROTUF: On a mission to make ULDs more sustainable

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AEROTUF: On a mission
AeroTherm


AETOTUF is setting itself apart and focusing on material science to develop its performance driven ULDs, Ian Buck, head of business development at US based AEROTUF tells ACW.

“We steer away from “standard” materials, strongly focusing on composite material that makes lighter units that are stronger, require less time in repair and that have strong sustainability credentials,” he explains.

He says the company’s AeroTHERM product was designed to keep perishable food protected from extremes of temperature. Along with this offering, AEROTUF’s other product AeroPALLET is incredibly strong and requires no shoring materials, such as wood, hold the weight of loads, which also cuts down on labour to prepare it greatly.

“Composite materials play a huge role in the AEROTUF business. These have come from various sources and have been put together to make our ULDs lighter, tougher, insulated and a lot more robust than anything else out there in the market. When this mix happens, great results occur. It’s sometimes overlooked that the composites used in the construction of the AeroPALLET also have great thermal properties, which means that goods that are on the tarmac for long periods of time can be protected from the heat.

“Many of our key product development initiatives are confidential at this stage, but we are focusing on combining what we have learned with other newer materials to give even greater benefits in the insulation, weight and ease of handling/ preparation categories.”

Needs changed

Has the pandemic changed what customers want from their ULDs? “That’s a question that we could speak about for many hours,” says Buck. “I think customer’s needs are truly evolving as we move out of the crisis mode that the pandemic forced upon us.

“We are seeing that airlines want better offerings for their specialist services, which is where AeroTHERM can support as part of a perishable product strategy. AeroPALLET can refine cargo operations and cut costs but it has to be noted that both of these products are not standard, and neither is their pricing. However, these products are going to help grow top and bottom lines of airlines and investments of this nature seem to be being made with more of a long-term view, which is great news.

“The pandemic has also thrust the term ‘versatility’ into the airline industry. Who could have predicted that passenger aircraft would have been filled in every possible space with cargo in the passenger cabin? We are fortunate that AeroTHERM also offers this level of versatility. While its primary “value add” element is the protection of perishable goods whilst in transit, it can be used to move regular baggage and cargo, which means it can be repositioned to where it needs to be with relative ease.”

Demand

Buck says the company has had an incredibly busy second half of 2021. “Airlines want to be able to offer more services with fewer, smarter, more efficient assets at their disposal, and this speaks very strongly to the Performance Driven ULD’s we have on offer,” he says.

“Interest has been strong. We have had great success with specialist projects such as working with Sonoco ThermoSafe on the development and launch of their Pegasus container, which uses the AeroTHERM concept as its “chassis” to keep high value temperature controlled healthcare products at the right temperature through the airfreight supply chains on a global basis.

“There are also a number of other strategic projects we have in development where our technologies are being used to push the boundaries for producers that require strict temperature control, as well as temperature protection.

“Both have been received incredibly well. However, as with everyone in this space, the pandemic brought a lot of the development projects, which we had with airlines, to a standstill whilst they focused on survival. Generally speaking these guys have had no time for a development strategy, it’s been around doing the best with what they have.

“Now that the market begins to look forward and seek our various means for growth through innovation, airlines are asking us how the AeroTHERM can add value to their perishable product offerings, and how the AeroPALLET can maximise cargo loading operations, with both products having a strong sustainability slant.”

At the heart

Pressure is on the aviation industry to do all it can do to minimise its negative environmental impacts. “Sustainability is at the heart of what we do. It is estimated that there is close to a trillion USD of food lost in the supply chain every year. If AeroTHERM can help cut this down by protecting food and perishables for longer, then we can really say that sustainability is at the heart of our strategy.

“A standard airline pallet can require up to 40kg of wood beams to be applied to it as “shoring material” to give it the strength across its width to hold the weight that goes on to it without twisting and bowing and potentially damaging an aircraft. This wood needs to be grown, cut down, cut, transported, purchased, stored, fitted, shipped and then disposed of, usually after one use. The strength of the composites used in an AeroPALLET, along with its design, mean that these shoring materials are not required. We feel strongly that the use of an AeroPALLET can play a role in not just our own sustainability strategy, but also of those airlines that adopt it.

“We also need to call out AeroTHERM’s benefit when it comes to reducing the perishable market’s reliance on single use plastics in the form of thermal blankets. We are helping several 3PL’s and airlines cut their use of these products down considerably as they are not needed with the protection properties of an AeroTHERM. These blankets, especially when they are a mix of plastic and flexible metals can go straight to landfill. We want to play a role in eradicating that whenever and wherever we can,” concludes Buck.