The anniversary year of IPS Technology is also the silver jubilee for Frits Bax and Peter Geerts. Together they tell how they made something beautiful out of that enterprise with a clear head and a well-functioning underbelly.
That gut feeling belongs to Peter (63). Smiling, the founder tells how, until recently, he made important investments based on his gut. "I think that could be something, a clean roomlike that," he heard himself say more than ten years ago. Today, almost fifty people work at this part of IPS.
'I'm allowed to miss it a little bit, aren't I?'
He does feel a little homesick for those days. The current co-director understands that things are not like that nowadays. "IPS is now part of Meilink, a much larger concern. And so we work according to the procedures that fit a company of this size. It has benefited IPS a great deal. A random example: the personnel policy is much more mature than before. And it is logical that a reference to my gut is not enough for significantly large investments. But I may miss it a bit, right?"
A meter and a half away, Frits (55) hears it nodding. "I do recognize that. Show me a product for which packaging has to be developed and I'll come up with the solution. A matter of years of experience. It's all in my head. But that doesn't suffice. A design has to be justifiable and so we have to demonstrate on paper what I think I've known for a long time."
It's a bit ironic, though: IPS wormed its way out of a large company, Philips, a quarter-century ago and chose to become part of a larger entity again a few years ago. "That comparison is flawed. At Philips we no longer fitted in with the core activities and at Meilink we are strengthening them," Peter points out the difference.
"You have to get out of here, or you'll never get out."
About Philips. Because that's where it all began. "Do you remember the term Centurion," asks Frits. "That sweeping reorganization by Timmer, the top man at Philips at the time? Ultimately that led to our privatization. Because we could see from afar that one day it would be our club's turn, the Packaging Design Bureau." Peter: "Or that we would be merged with the people who designed consumer packaging. That didn't seem like a wise idea, because that's really a completely different profession."
And so IPS was born. For Peter as director-owner an exciting adventure ("Family, two still young children - imagine if it went wrong"), but for packaging engineer Frits little changed at first. "We even kept our workstations in the Philips building." Peter remembers how someone from that company advised to move quickly, "otherwise you'll never get away from Philips". But then he didn't know Peter yet. "The rent was low and because of all the empty offices on our floor I could secretly do some land grabbing. I was fine there." Broad smile.
Eventually a move to the Boschdijk followed, where IPS is still located. A branch office on the Ambachtsweg followed and houses Innovar, the cleaning service provider, and an additional location will soon follow.
"I've been working for the same company for 25 years"
The company itself grew from four colleagues in 1996 to over 100 today. And if you look superficially, you would think that IPS is still doing the same as it was back then: designing packaging for industrial products, machines and appliances. That impression is reinforced when you hear that Frits has been serving the same client for 25 years. "I also work for other clients, but it's true: the first client I was given responsibility for in 1996 - I'm still active for that." Ten years ago, by the way, that was a little tense, when a new manager there was skeptical about the need for a packaging designer. "Unsolicited, he told me the other day that he had made a mistake. That he is happy with IPS. And with me."
Incidentally, the superficial observation that we are still doing the same thing is not correct. Where IPS used to design packaging, today it also supplies it. The company also handles the tooling - development of transport equipment, testing, transport and the assembly of products and product parts. And then there is the cleaning.
All these years, Frits has never felt the temptation to move. "This is wonderful work. I get along well with the customers and the atmosphere here in the house is also good. It's nice that, as the years go by, I've become a bit of the company's go-to person. 'Just ask Frits about that,' it sounds like."
There is no question of "last mile". "On the contrary. Since Meilink acquired an interest in IPS, IPS has had a two-man board and Peter has been concentrating more on technology. The question is how to properly help a product, often quite simple, through a complex process. At IPS, that is in good hands. Just as IPS is in good hands at Meilink."
How does he know that for sure? "That's what my gut says."