June Member Spotlight – Proponent
What is your business industry category or specialty?
Proponent is the world’s largest aircraft parts distributor & solutions provider. Our product portfolio consists of over 400,000 high quality aircraft parts, which we deliver on-time, anywhere in the world. In addition, we have a manufacturing operation, and we increasingly get involved in the repair and repair management of aircraft components.
How do you describe your job to people outside the industry?
We support the manufacturers (OEM’s) of aircraft parts with sales and distribution services to the end users; Airlines and Maintenance facilities. It is my job to convince these OEM’s to partner with Proponent for the distribution of their products!
Who are your main competitors and what differentiates you from the competition?
What makes you unique?
Our market is in the midst of a consolidation wave. The two 800-pound gorillas of our industry are Boeing and Airbus, who both have their own Aftermarket distribution operations. We are the number 3 followed by a long tail of competitors.
One of our key differentiators is our independence. We are 100% employee owned, making for a very dedicated, loyal and engaged workforce, which is obviously attractive to our customers and suppliers alike. Not being owned by an aircraft OEM or by Wall Street allows us to make long term investment decisions with the best interests of our customers and suppliers in mind. Despite our size, we have managed to stay very agile.
How was the business started?
Proponent is the merger of 2 companies; Avio-Diepen from the Netherlands and Kapco Global from the USA. Avio-Diepen was founded in 1946 by Dutch aviation pioneer Frits Diepen. It was part of Fokker from 1954 until 1995 when Avio-Diepen became an independent company through a management buy-out. Kapco Global was formed in 1972 under the name Kirkhill Aircraft Parts Company, and in 2017, the two companies merged under the new name ‘Proponent.’
How many employees does the business have?
Proponent has a little over 550 employee-owners in 13 locations around the world. Our headquarters are in Brea, CA. In The Netherlands we have a large facility in Alphen a/d Rijn to serve the EMEA region.
How did you end up in Atlanta?
My wife and I moved to the USA in 2006 when I worked for Fokker. After 6 years in Alabama and Georgia, we moved back to Amsterdam in late 2011 and returned to Atlanta in 2013 when I joined my previous employer; Kuehne + Nagel. I joined Proponent in March of this year.
Avio-Diepen had its Americas HQ in Atlanta for many years until the merger with Proponent. Toon de Groot, a long-time Avio-Diepen employee, started the US operations back in 1992, and over time the business grew into a significant operation with over 50 employees. After the merger, the Atlanta operation was consolidated into the California and Florida facilities of Proponent. At this time, there are still 8 (former Avio-Diepen) Proponent employees working in the Atlanta area.
What is your number one business goal over the next year?
The aerospace industry is booming! It’s the healthiest and most profitable it has ever been, and the outlook for the next 6-7 years is extremely strong. This outlook has put a lot of pressure on the aerospace supply chain and OEM’s are struggling to keep up with producing new aircraft and at the same time supporting their legacy products. We want to capitalize on this momentum and partner with the larger Tier 1 manufacturers. We recently signed one of these large deals with a UK based OEM and we hope to add more to the portfolio.
What is the best advice you have received regarding doing business with Americans/Dutch?
Although there are a lot of similarities between the Dutch and American culture, there are many, if not more differences as well. You must take the context and the origins of the US society in mind and postpone (our Dutch) judgement. Sometimes we feel that our way is the only way, but it simply doesn’t work that way.
Any other personal information you would like to share, e.g. hobbies, special interests, family etc…
My wife, Sandra Weustink, and I live in Virginia-Highland together with our dog, Annie Oakley. We are close to the Beltline, Piedmont Park and a ton of bars and restaurants. We walk or bike everywhere and are just amazed by the development and change that Atlanta is experiencing. Also, I’m always up for a round of golf!
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