IBS Paper Performance Group (IBS PPG) is continuing to bring fresh and innovative solutions to the global paper and pulp industry in its bid to push beyond its €85 million 2014 revenue forecast and drive up industry standards and sustainable practice.
Recent acquisitions, including that of PGA in southern Austria, has brought the company’s portfolio of brands to seven, helping the bespoke machine components producer to deliver higher quality parts across a wider geographical scope.
New products such as the iTable and Flowmaster are respectively providing greater flexibility and process visibility for paper and pulp businesses, with word of mouth already pushing sales.
And despite IBS PPG now operating worldwide, it remains true to its Austrian roots by maintaining its headquarters in the small village of Teufenbach, where founder and keen inventor Heinrich Bartelmuss began pioneering the first one-piece ceramic cover for dewatering elements in paper machines.
Dietmar Schatz, Vice Director Sales & Marketing, has experienced a 25-year journey with the company which has seen it greatly expand from its early days. He said: “When I started 25 years ago the company was a small operation with around 60 people, and now we are at 600.
“This growth has been an exciting challenge for all of us – we are working across many countries and mentalities so channelling this into one goal is crucial.”
Expanding its range of customised paper and pulp machine components is vital in what is an up and down industry.
IBS PPG specialises in a range of established products including dewatering systems, fabric guides and tensioners, doctors and showers, engineered consumables and several specialised items.
However, one of its newer solutions is the ground-breaking iTable, designed to provide flexibility for paper makers by making their machines adjustable to different sizing and material requirements.
“One of our biggest recent success stories has been the iTable, which we are selling successfully in the US and here in Europe,” Schatz added. “This offers very good flexibility for paper makers to produce different grades of paper at different speeds with the same machine parts.
“These parts are extremely flexible using height and angle adjustable units, which can be adjusted according to the needs of the customer, allowing them to produce paper of improved quality across a larger range.”
So far the company has sold 40 of these units, with word of mouth proving to be the most effective form of marketing.
Another innovation, and one based on customer feedback, is the year-old Flowmaster, which measures the efficiency of dewatering elements of paper production, offering crucial visibility to clients.
“Customers drive our research and development,” Schatz said. “Our focus is on improving the quality of production in the paper and pulp industry as well as enabling energy savings. For example, compared to polyethylene de-watering solutions our ceramic parts use less than 50 percent of the energy needed.”
IBS PPG is also looking to streamline its own process through automation, something which will require careful investment given the bespoke nature of the products produced.
Equally important as pioneering fresh solutions is the ability to reach a wide audience, and IBS PPG now operates seven specialist brands following the acquisition of PGA six months ago, a company excelling in making disperging units.
Other specialist brands around the world include James Ross in Canada, manufacturer of doctors and showers which help to clean paper machines. Liechtenstein-based JUD specialises in stretchers and guides while Swiss unit Jakob AG produces re-wetting systems.
IBS Steel Performance, a premium brand of Berger, comprises a steel engineering plant that makes dewatering boxes, fabric tensioners and guides, doctors and showers and also steam showers.
Schatz added: “We are always looking to expand our product portfolio in ways that suit our existing range. We have production in Austria, Canada and the US along with service bases in Brazil, Indonesia, Finland, Japan and China, where we also carry out some production for the Chinese market.”
As well as targeting paper producers, IBS PPG also has healthy relations with machine manufactures who rely on their parts to assemble entire production units.
IBS PPG’s global footprint owes its existence to humble origins in a small village in southern Austria.
Teufenbach today is home to just 600 people, and back in 1967 Heinrich Bartelmuss founded the company which started out producing leather belts for drives in saw and paper mills, securing ten patents by 1976.
“Bartelmuss was an inventor and extremely passionate about the products he made,” Schatz said. “After passing away in 1981, his two sons took over and began a programme of diversification and expansion which has been very successful, and in 2012 Klaus Bartelmuss took over 100 percent of the company.”
Schatz is charged with maintaining the sort of growth which will see the company hit €85 million in sales for 2014, and emphasises the need to innovate to overcome the fluxes in the market.
He concluded: “The pulp and paper industry has been up and down and we have had to contend with losing customers who have shut down machines; we have lost 20 in Scandinavia in the past four or five years.
“We must keep innovating new products and attracting new customers as well as remain relevant to our existing clients. If we do this I hope that we can reach our goal of growth and perhaps stretch to the €100 million turnover mark.”