IPU Group celebrates 60 years of innovation and growth in solutions for power generation and other critical industries.

IPU design, manufacture and distribute high-quality fuel conditioning products, engine starting systems and motors, emissions solutions and engine components for critical diesel and gas engine applications.

Starting from humble beginnings in Wolverhampton back in 1959, IPU has seen tremendous growth over the years and are now recognised world-wide as an industry leader in our key markets.

The engineered solutions provide reliability and confidence where you need it most, with IPU’s core competence lying in diesel engines and power generation. With almost every diesel generator manufacturer in the customer base, IPU supply into any industry where reliability, performance and safety are paramount.

IPU are celebrating their Diamond jubilee with some big and exciting changes…

Interview with Robert Beebee

How did IPU start? Tell us briefly about the history of the company:

My dad, Roy Beebee and George Wedge had both worked for Henry Meadows diesel engine company and decided to set their own company up selling small industrial two stroke engines. They started to import JLO engines from West Germany. These were fitted to Ministry gensets. The rest is history as they say. The engine test cell was in the abattoir section of George’s wife’s butchers’ shop!

What extra products or services do IPU offer now compared to then? Which have been dropped?

Over the years IPU have sold many things: American Bosch, Barber Coleman and Heinzman governors, Gencon controllers, Kohler petrol and Acme diesel engines, Gali and TDI air starters, SubAir undersoil heating systems for football clubs, commercial and domestic lawnmowers… all of these have been dropped one way or another. We now design and manufacture solutions for Engine Starting, Fuel Conditioning and Emissions Solutions.

Technology has evolved dramatically over the last 60 years, so how has this impacted on the company?

In a way, we have always felt we were marketing some innovative technology in our niche markets. This has meant that we have had to recruit some bright people along the way, and they have brought more bright ideas. IPU have always liked to promote our flagship technology products, like our new emissions and fuel polishing systems with telematics. The people who are involved with these technologies are hungry for more and this has led to a demand for more R&D resources. In a way, the impact is that we see ourselves as at the forefront of many technologies in our niche sectors.

And how do you see IPU working with new technologies and sustainable energy sources in the future?

We are in the business of making the Internal Combustion engine, generally used in the power generation sector, as efficient and environmentally friendly as we can. So, we ensure the fuel that is stored on site is kept in prime condition rather than being contaminated and causing excessive fuel consumption. Equally we are now developing emissions systems for old and new engines to make them emissions compliant. We are intending to patent some new emissions technology in the near future.

IPU has consistently been voted one of the Sunday Times Top 100 ‘Best Small Companies to Work For’, so what tips can you share based on your experience, to create a happy and productive working environment?

How long have you got? Firstly, you need a champion of the cause. In our case it was me! I worked hard on the culture and made some inroads. It’s fair to say that I was slowed down in the early days by a completely disinterested management team. Perseverance paid off as some were won over by the benefits of an engaged workforce. But the game changer was recruiting likeminded people at every level to spread the word. Then the appointment of a HR director once the company got to 70 people made a huge difference. Now the Millennials make a big difference too. I completely believed the business writing guru Peter Drucker who said ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

How do you intend to futureproof your skills pool? E.g. Do you take on apprentices, run inhouse training or provide opportunities for current employees to increase skills and qualifications?

All of the above. Apprenticeships in the workshop and operations, Talent Management programmes and ILM Leadership training at several levels are all part of the IPU way of working.

How did IPU become associated with AMPS? – as one of the early members are there any stand out memories of the association?

When I joined IPU in 1980, I had no experience of the genset industry, or anything really! I was sitting in my sales office one day wondering how to learn about the industry that IPU were selling American Bosch electronic governors and hydraulic starters into. I was idly flicking through EPN (European Power News) which was the industry publication at the time. In it, I saw an article about an AMPS trade association meeting every quarter at Benn Hall in Rugby. I thought I had better join and find out if this was a way to learn about the industry. It was!

In those days AMPS was dominated by many more genset manufacturers and far fewer suppliers. Gerald Parkinson and Bob Wheadon ran the association and did a marvellous job of growing it. We had two main exhibitions, InPower and ICE, but to get many OEMs exhibiting was always a challenge. Largely because no one wanted their hard-won customers seeing who the competition was! It was all very secretive. The internet has rather changed this…

Being Chairman 10 years apart saw little change in one fundamental area. As Council we always questioned whether we were delivering value for money for the membership. We surveyed, we asked, we discussed. The reality with any trade association, and IPU have been members of a few as a diverse company, is that you get out what you put in. My view on my legacy will always be that I felt AMPS always needed someone actively visiting the membership and new potential members. Someone spreading the gospel of St AMPS. The appointment of Paul Blything did that back in 2011 or so. Paul got out there and got amongst the members like no one before and he did a remarkable job of understanding what the members wanted, that the council with Rob Flello as Director General are continuing.

Anything more that you’d like to tell us…

ComAp have recently acquired IPU’s Engine Controls Division. This was a natural step forward for the two companies who have worked so closely together over the last 20 years. This strategic move leaves IPU in the position to become focussed on being a solutions provider to the markets of Engine Starting, Fuel Conditioning, Emissions Systems and Components. This needs a whole new approach from being an importer distributor, which is what spurred my decision to step back as MD. Over 40 years we have slowly but surely morphed from one to the other and are determined to excel as ‘IPU Group’ without the old divisional sales structure. We want to increase the level of service we offer our customers to a new level by being more available to them more of the time with innovative solutions.

‘Enough is enough!’

As of August 27th, I have officially stepped back as MD as I feel it is time for a change. 40 years at IPU and 31 of those as MD. Enough is enough!

IPU has just appointed our current HR and Operations Director Louise Hazel as the new MD. Louise is a HR professional as well as a qualified accountant, so her passion for people and encouraging everyone to be the best they can be is part of the fabric of IPU. Louise is a great believer in self-improvement and generating a meritocracy and where IPU need to help in this, they will.

A few words from IPU’s newly appointed MD, Louise Hazel

“I’m delighted to be taking over from Robert at such an exciting time for IPU as we approach our 60th year in business.

We have a proud history, an excellent employee culture, an outstanding facility, huge passion and expertise across the team that has enabled us to establish long-term, successful relationships with our customers and partners and I look forward to leading the Company to build upon what is a great foundation.

My role as Managing Director is to facilitate the growth of IPU as we focus on the continued development and innovation of our products and services whilst expanding our activities globally throughout critical industries and infrastructure.

Delivering the needs of our customers and using our expertise to offer the best solutions will always be of primary concern to us and we aim to enhance this further by bringing our sales, engineering and technical teams together under the direction of our newly appointed Sales & Technical Director, David Caddick. Our customers should expect the best from IPU and meeting those expectations will be our pleasure.

Providing solutions for our customers that protect people and our environment will be at the very heart of IPU.”