Sitka resident Tim Fulton knows firsthand that loading and unloading aircraft can be a pain.
Fulton in 2014 founded Ramper Innovations, a company that makes a conveyor system that moves baggage and cargo within the bellies of 737-sized aircraft. Fulton spent 38 years as a ramp service agent, loading and unloading airplanes and within that time he said he only ever knew of one person that didn’t suffer from tremendous back pain. He said his company can save airlines money and prevent pain and suffering from his former ramper colleagues.
“I spent roughly 30 years in the industry and the aircraft bellies were getting longer and we’d have to put more in it with less time with less people, and I was seeing way too many of my fellow ramp agents getting injured. So, I set out to come up with a better way,” said Fulton.
This wasn’t, however, his first stab at creating a similar product, in the early versions it was designed as a folding roller system that worked for fish boxes where it was used successfully for many years to help move millions of pounds of fish in and out of the belly of aircrafts in Sitka. But as Fulton explained, there wasn’t a big enough market for commercial fish boxes outside of Alaska Airlines, so he set out to find a combination that could span the gap to what could work for many more commodities.
Fulton’s product is called TISABAS, short for Tim Saves Backs, and currently there are three beta units being shifted around the globe with great success. In addition to taking first place in the 2019 Pitch Contest at the Innovation Summit, TISABAS continues to gain positive momentum with having recently received a favorable Safety Risk Assessment from Alaska Airlines.
“We made our first sale to a company in Mexico, so we have one unit there that’s in use and right now we have a unit in North America that’s on its way to Fairbanks. The Safety Risk Assessment was a big milestone for us because what that does is it allows us to go into Alaska Airlines jets across the U.S. and Canada with companies that are using them,” said Fulton.
Ramper Innovations currently has an active Wefunder campaign online at https://wefunder.com/ramper.innovations and Fulton is asking people to get involved if they can because the funding will directly allow Ramper Innovation’s operations to move into his hometown of Sitka where he hopes to eventually house most of the manufacturing of TISABAS, instead of sourcing his parts from elsewhere. Fulton said the idea behind crowdfunding the project rather than seeking out venture capitalists was to give the local people in Sitka the opportunity to invest in a larger business before it reaches a point of being financially unrealistic.
“We’re in our seed round, we set out to raise $500,000 and we’re at like $319,000 that we’re moving forward on,” said Fulton. “My end goal is to be walking down the corridor in an airport and having a ramp agent recognize me as the person that came up with the product that saved their back and their career. So, that is a big piece of my driving force is to get that recognition and to know that we’re making a difference in people’s lives. But honestly, to do that we have to start turning a profit, the people that have invested in us, I really want them to be able to get a great return on their money for believing in us. Eventually we’d love to grow this and get acquired or bought out so it can really take off.”
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at firstname.lastname@example.org.