TLD: From Silkweaving to GSE

June 20, 2006
Starting as a silk weaving business, TLD has now become a worldwide global leader in the airport ground support equipment market.

The TLD Group (TLD used to mean Teleflex Lionel Dupont) was ushered during the 19th Century in France. Starting as a silk weaving business, TLD has now become a worldwide global leader in the airport ground support equipment market.


TLD’s origins began in 1897 in a silk weaving workshop in Lyon, France—the Mulatier et Dupont company. Slowly, the silk weaving business turned into a steel manufacturer. In 1930, Lionel Dupont became the president of the company and created strong links with Compagnie Générale d’Electricité who provided TLD with a steel manufacturing business. This mutual cooperation lasted more than 20 years.


The company changed its name to Tissmétal Lionel-Dupont in 1951. During this period the company was traded on the Paris Stock Exchange. An expansion of company activities introduced it to greater diversified markets, especially in the newer technological markets of electro-mechanical industry, automated handling systems, synthetic fibers, industrial filtration and aeronautical equipment. The company sold its metal manufacturing business in 1985 and was renamed Téléflex Lionel-Dupont.

The GSE industry becomes fragmented

GSE was born and independent companies ACE and TRACMA were created in 1953 and COCHRANE (LANTIS) was created in 1956. These three companies had 50 years’ experience and were later integrated in the TLD Group.

In the early ’80s ACE had invented the jet starter, TRACMA the towbarless tractors and in 1956 LANTIS invented the belt loader when an engineer from a well-known airline engineering group based in California had an idea taken from a Cochrane Farm lettuce-loading machine. ALBRET, DEVTEC and ERMA were created in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

The love story between TLD and GSE

In 1990, TLD had a subsidiary, Teleflex Systems, which specialized in fixed baggage handling installations for airport buildings. When bankers presented the ALBRET and TRACMA companies to the chairman of the board of TLD, he became very excited about synergies that could be developed with Teleflex systems in the growing market of aviation support. This is how TRACMA and ALBRET were purchased by TLD.

Very soon, TLD realized that synergies between airport fixed installations and airport GSE were small due to the different natures of the two businesses. Therefore, the chairman of TLD, under the proactive vision of the industrial director of the group, decided to develop a unique strategy for airport GSE.

Two years of acquisitions

In 1990, as you already know, TRACMA (baggage tractors and aircraft tractors) and ALBRET (passengers stairs and lavatory and water trucks) had already been purchased by TLD. TRACMA and ALBRET were famous brands but they were mainly focusing their efforts on French-speaking countries where they held a near-monopolistic position.

In 1991, TLD purchased ERMA Co., which had a complementary line of products including belt loaders, transporters and catering trucks. ERMA was a small company but was growing quickly. It offered a very experienced and energetic team and was oriented toward exportation.

After this acquisition, TLD was a strong European player in GSE but had no real presence in the American and Far Eastern markets. To expand into these markets, in late 1991, TLD purchased DEVTEC Corp. and its two subsidiaries, Accessory, Controls and Equipment (ACE) and DEVTEC Co. (Hong Kong).

At this point in time, TLD had a foundation of a worldwide service and sales network and a nearly complete line of products. However, TLD was still weak in the loader business. The negotiations with the owner of the LANTIS Corp. were lengthy, but at the end of 1992, TLD took control of the company.

The main acquisitions were done. TLD now had the right tools to become a leading global supplier of GSE.

Structure and Organization

In reality, in 1993 the group was a melting pot of different histories, cultures and people. TLD had to create unity, to define a structure and to develop the basic rules to help everybody work together. This third phase took about two years. Many meetings and discussions were held, some managers left the group and new ones joined TLD. In early 1994, TLD started to use e-mails and the Internet to better communicate and exchange engineering resources.

1995: The first Development

All of TLD was now ready to work as a team. TLD made significant investment in research and development beginning in 1995. Examples of new products include the successful TRACMA towbarless tractor line, the new generation LANTIS loaders, the ERMA jumbo loader contract, ACE’s continuous improvement in ACUs and jet start units and the ALBRET new stairs generation.

But TLD is also an industrial group with factories. The size of the ERMA facility more than doubled in late 1994. The Taiwan facility was significantly improved in 1996 and TLD opened a new facility in Shanghai in 1997. Major upgrades also occurred at the ACE and LANTIS facilities.

1998: management crisis

Because of poor leadership, the young management team of TLD Group exploded in 1998 and about 12 key executives left the group in 1998 and 1999. It is important to note that they all returned to TLD between 1999 and 2003 after this sudden but short crisis was over.

9/11 and a good recovery

The 9/11 events were terrible for the GSE industry. TLD decided to go though the crisis with industrial restructuring, but still keeping resources strong to support the customers and develop new products. In 2002, the original brand names were abandoned and the whole group started using the TLD banner, which helped with recognition in the market.

The service network, TLD’s tool to keep in constant and close contact with its customers, has expanded since 1997 and now has 18 locations around the world. Since 2002, the TLD group has grown at an average rate of 25 to 30 percent.

TLD, with its multicultural culture, has entered the new millennium as a global company, a leader on the worldwide GSE market and offers its customers a complete range of equipment, designed and manufactured in its six facilities and supported by the most comprehensive and dedicated service and sales network.

Company Chronicles is a new monthly column in Ground Support magazine. If you would like to see your company’s history featured in this column, please e-mail your story and contact information to [email protected].