ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Costa Rica 2018 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Minor Rodríguez, General Manager of Coopesa, on being the only self-managing cooperative in the world dedicated to heavy aircraft, the importance of communication, and maintaining a flat and democratic governance structure.

 Minor Rodríguez
BIOGRAPHY
A certified CPA from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) with an MBA from the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, Minor Rodríguez has 20 years of experience in administration and finance and 10 years with Coopesa.

How did Coopesa get started?

We started off in 1964 as a company called SALA, then owned by an American. Due to financial problems and eventual bankruptcy, it eventually dissolved. The employees of SALA, who had all sorts of salary problems, went to the legislative assembly and helped bring about a new law for the founding of a new self-managing cooperative. The employees then became owners and associates of the newly formed company, receiving various contracts with aircraft companies all around the world and became successful. The cooperative has now been around more than half a century and competes with many international companies such as Aeroman, (MRO Holdings), Lufthansa technics, Puerto Rico, and Mexicana. It has been a huge success, and we are now in the process of relocating to the southwest of the airport as part of a special government program. We have 620 employees, of which nearly 400 are associates, meaning partial owners of the overall “capital stock," so to speak. The other 220 are employees, not associates, though they have a unique culture. Coopesa is the only self-managing cooperative in the world dedicated to heavy aircraft maintenance. We are extremely proud of where we are today and who we are. We support more than 800 families through our operations and services.

What services do you provide at Coopesa?

We work with commercial narrow-body aircraft such as the Embraer, Boeing 737 series, and Airbus family. We are currently preparing for a new phase, seeking to go into wide-body aircraft, mainly Boeing 767 and 787s, which we expect to start on in the next two years. As for what we do, we take care of heavy maintenance for the airframe and engines, painting, interiors modifications, wireless, and line service in the airport gates. We are also currently doing jobs such as overnight special service for interiors for companies such as American Airlines. We will do the same with Copa as well. In addition, we will also do cargo conversion, which is a strong business for us, especially for 737 classics. However, our core business is heavy maintenance.

Who are your biggest customers?

LATAM from Chile and Brazil, Avianca, Copa, BoA, American Airlines, Cayman, Volaris, and Bahamas are our biggest customers, in addition to several leasing companies like Automatic, Nordic Aviation Capital, and GECAS. We have a great customer balance because every customer is important and we provide specialized services based on every customer's needs.

How do you ensure client satisfaction and provide quality services?

We always consult our clients and listen to their needs. We have a great deal of face-to-face meetings and always look for ways to work together to improve our services. Communication is key. In addition, we place great importance on turnaround time (TAT) for our customers, an extremely important factor for all airlines due to cost and time, especially with large ones. Some clients, such as Copa, are particularly focused on TAT to the point where it is a part of their slogan, so we have to meet those needs of all needs.

What advantages and unique challenges does the cooperative structure provide?

Cooperative company employees have strong rights and benefits, which mean higher costs. Besides that, the social structure of our cooperative is very flat and democratic. We have meetings with associates and employees every two or three months that are always face-to-face between groups of 50-60 people exchanging ideas, seeking to make improvements, listening to their ideas, and what not. This also enables us to more efficiently and faithfully meet and approach customer needs when we meet with our customers. All of this can be difficult; however, again, communication is key, and everyone knows what needs to be done to get the job done. Three or four years ago, we had many financial problems; however, currently the cooperative is strong, financially, strategically, and logistically in every sense. We are now in talks with associates about the path we need to take in coming years to grow, expand, and change the way we do certain things.