Select Page

Interview with Luke Etherington, Co-President at Nathan Trotter

 Founded in 1789, Nathan Trotter has grown to become one of the largest tin and solder manufacturers in North America.  ISO 9001 certified since 1997, the company currently serves the automotive, aerospace, electronics, plating, and chemical industries globally. Recently, we caught up with Luke Etherington, Co-President, to find out more about the company, from its beginnings more than 230 years ago to today and to see where the company will go in the future.

For readers who may be unfamiliar with Nathan Trotter, can you please tell us about the company? We understand that it was founded 230 years ago and provided tin to colonists building America. How has the company grown and evolved since Nathan Trotter founded it all those years ago?  

The primary driver for growth, especially over the past 50 years, has been downstream product development and a focus on manufacturing, including alloying and extrusion.  As solder has become more diverse in its uses, forms, and alloys, we have risen to the challenge of expanding our product lines and putting together a significant stable of manufacturing equipment that enables us to best serve our customers’ requirements.  However, one thing that hasn’t changed in over two centuries is the strong set of values, including honesty and hard work, that create the fabric of our business.

It looks like the company manufactures at least 60 different solder alloys. What makes your alloys stand out from the competition?

Amongst the solder producers in the electronics sector, there are a few different business models. Some companies are focused on creating new solder formulations, others are best at providing value-added products that can improve the intricacies of the soldering process.  Nathan Trotter is squarely positioned as a high-volume producer of reliable, proven solder alloys in bar and solid wire.  With this straight forward, commodity-centric approach we excel in providing our customers with the best and most competitive option in the industry for their wave and selective soldering requirements. Solder smarter!

We also understand that Tin Technology & Refining (Tin Tech) is an arm of Nathan Trotter. How does it fit into the business? What benefits does it provide customers?

Tin Tech is the recycling division of Nathan Trotter and serves an important role by processing all of the scrap generated by Nathan Trotter and our customers.  Whether it is dross from wave soldering, stale paste in jars and tubes, contaminated alloys, or any tin-based residues, Tin Tech has the capability to refine this material back into clean metal that can be re-used for industrial applications.  Tin Tech is helping to ensure the future sustainability of our tin resources by facilitating a closed-loop system and reducing the pressure on tin mining across the globe. Tin Tech is a certified conflict-free smelter.  

What role do distribution partners play in Nathan Trotter’s success?

We have been fortunate to team up with an experienced group of reps and distributors in North America that do a fantastic job of supporting and supplying our customer base.  E-tronix in the US, and Rocka Solutions and Reymet in Mexico have been instrumental in establishing a strategic sales network that will continue to grow our footprint in the electronics industry.  We also offer private-label options for companies who already have solder lines or would like to add one.  Please contact us if you feel that your rep group or distribution company would be a good addition to our team.

Nathan Trotter also has a reputation for valuing quality and customer service which can be seen through the company’s attention to detail and dependability. How does this focus help Nathan Trotter be successful?

Fortunately, these attributes are nothing new to our business so we have a lot of practice in getting them right.  This business philosophy is also fairly simple which helps its likelihood of success.  We have found that the key is consistency in our daily operations, a great work force, and dedication to our customers.  Of the thousands of customer interactions over the years, it is a very rare day when an existing customer opts to work with another supplier.  That’s a statistic we’re proud of and is an ongoing confirmation by our customers that we’re accomplishing what we set out to do.

In your opinion, what are the most significant ways that the pandemic changed the way we do business today?

In addition to the heightened focus on health and safety in the workplace, the pandemic has definitely prompted a greater sense of efficiency centered around the customer experience.  Whether it’s more streamlined transactions, better delivery times, greater vision into supplier capabilities, or flexible inventory management, we have all been challenged to improve and adapt our operations on many levels.  One particular challenge in 2020 has been the unpredictable demand for solder combined with the shut-down disruptions at the tin smelters and ports around the world.  Our supply-side and demand-side of the business has been much more erratic than we have ever experienced.  The solution has been increased communication with both customers and suppliers.   Despite these abnormal conditions, our team has done a great job in shipping on-time and proactively and creatively addressing spikes or drops in production.  The more frequent communication with customers and suppliers has absolutely been a good thing, and has helped to ensure the stability of our business during the pandemic.  

What would you most like the industry to know about Nathan Trotter?

We are the largest importer of tin in North America and supply over 1 million pounds per month of solder to our customers in the US, Canada, and Mexico.  We produce all ranges of solder alloys in bar and solid wire and supply in order quantities from 100 lbs. to 20 tons.  We offer 1:1 pot swaps for new customers and free analytical services from our in-house lab.  Our goal is to cultivate a long-term partnership with our customers that puts them in the absolute best position to succeed and grow their business.