Osborne Propellers changed hands for the first time in its 70 year history in 2005 after the passing of Bob Osborne, the company’s charismatic founder. At the time, Osborne’s main focus was on providing commercial marine customers with specialized repair and customization services. A large percentage of the commercial tug and fishing boats based along the west coast run Osborne wheels produced in B.C.’s shipbuilding heydays of the 1970’s and ‘80s.
The ship building industry in B.C. had changed a lot in the previous 40 years and Osborne needed to catch up quickly to remain competitive in a changing marketplace. Much of the equipment was out of date, in poor condition, and out of line with the capacities required to serve the local market. Osborne hadn’t made a propeller over 90-inch diameters in at least 10 years and couldn’t compete with pricing for large wheels from off-shore suppliers. The owners needed to make significant changes to the business to ensure that they had a future in the marine industry in B.C.
Fast forward to 2011 and Osborne is still the largest propeller repair, manufacturing, and sales company in Canada. They have installed new CNC machining capabilities and have upgraded and replaced specialized equipment for propeller repairs. Currently, propeller repairs and modifications account for roughly 65 per cent of sales with the balance of revenues coming from the sale of new propellers, cutlass bearings, and anodes.
Although there have been many changes in the shop since the new owners took over in 2005, Osborne’s repair and alteration capabilities have not been reduced. They retain full service capabilities to handle the largest commercial propellers operating in the Pacific Northwest. Osborne’s dedicated staff are experts in propeller modifications including re-boring, counter bores for shaft liners, fitting propellers to fixed or steering nozzles, re-tipping to increase diameter and tip thickness, pitch changes for re-powers, and blade re-shaping and weld overlays. Osborne’s welding capabilities include MIG, TIG, SMAW, and Brazing to cover the full spectrum of propeller materials.
Osborne is the only propeller repair company in Canada that uses computerized inspection equipment that compares blade geometry to an ISO manufacturing standard for marine propellers. This equipment is incredibly useful in the repair process as it shows the repair technician exactly where on each blade there is damage and it compares each blade to the other blades on the propeller bringing it all in line. This inspection equipment enables Osborne to tune up propellers to a very high standard which makes for a smoother running propeller that minimizes vibrations and optimizes fuel consumption.
With such rapid change and uncertainty in world financial markets over the last four years Osborne has made changes in its business model to ensure that they can continue to operate for another 75 years as a full-service propeller company. These include changes in capacities and the introduction of additional products and services. Osborne is continuously looking at ways to improve service, quality and pricing to their customers and this has led to the company partnering with other propeller manufacturers and suppliers in the marine industry. While they retain the ability to produce propellers in-house, options from off-shore manufactures allow Osborne to offer a lower-priced alternative to their commercial and recreational customers. As buyers become more and more price-sensitive, this is an option that has been well received.
These partnerships have also given Osborne access to additional products and services for commercial markets that include Kort Nozzles, controls, transmissions, shafting, and propeller design services. Osborne is also working directly with off-shore manufacturers to be able to supply large stainless steel propellers for commercial service.
Changes in the business made to better serve the commercial market have had a spin-off effect for the recreational market as well. Last year Osborne exhibited at the Vancouver International Boat Show to reach out to the recreational boaters/builders market and their presence was very well received. To better serve this market, Osborne will soon become the first stocking distributor in Western Canada for ZF Marine with inventory of three and four bladed in-board propellers CNC finished to an ISO 484/2 Class I. Having local inventory will speed up deliveries and reduce costs to local marine dealers and end users.
Additional products that Osborne will be carrying in the new year will include:
- marine shafting up to four inch diameter
- cutlass bearings
- outboard propellers (covering the most popular Mercury and Yamaha engines)
Osborne Propellers is located in North Vancouver at 1865 Spicer Road, adjacent to Allied Shipbuilders Ltd.
Sales – New Propellers
604.929.8407 ext. 2
Customer Service – Repairs and Modifications
604.929.8407 ext. 1