Digitalisation with support from sister companies

IPS Flow Systems has achieved long-term stable growth by combining traditional distribution of piping systems with technical problem-solving solutions.

IPS Flow Systems is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of piping systems and valves. In 2016 an office and warehouse was also opened in Dublin, Ireland. The products supplied are mainly plastic, but the stock portfolio is being expanded with a range of metal Press-Fit piping systems. The single largest customer segment is fire protection – mainly sprinkler and mist systems – while the company also has large customer groups in drainage, swimming pool facilities, and the chemical and construction industries. The company has had strong growth during the last ten years, with average annual growth of 8%–9%.

“2017 was a great year for us, thanks in large part to strong performance for new products such as Kessel drainage systems and stainless steel piping,” says Kevin Curran, Managing Director of IPS. “Another key factor is that we became more structured in our marketing by selecting a specific product or industry to focus on every quarter.”

IPS also puts great emphasis on marketing itself on social media, such as LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, and thereby steering more visitors to its website and web shop.

“We see how the number of visitors to our website is rising month by month,” says Kevin.

Combining traditional distribution with technical problem-solving is an important competitive tool for IPS.

“We create customer value by participating in early design phases, where we provide advice and training, among other things. Most of our competitors just pull a box off the shelf and send it to the customer.”

IPS was established in 1990, and in 2007 it was the first company acquired by Indutrade in the UK. Even then IPS had a strong brand image in the UK market and was financially strong and profitable.

“Indutrade has the ability to identify and acquire successful businesses, and then let us continue to be successful. ”

“At Indutrade’s annual MD conferences I get a chance to meet with some 150 other managing directors who I can be inspired by and share experiences with,” says Kevin. “We might talk about how they are developing a product offering, or digitalisation, which is a major issue that all companies are having to manage now.”

As an example, IPS has plans to introduce a Product Information Management (PIM) system to combine the company’s business system, website and web shop in a single platform. The entire project is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

“We have visited GPA Flow Systems, our sister company in Sweden, which has already installed a similar system,” says Kevin. “For such a complicated project it is really helpful for us to be able to learn from any issues or obstacles they had to overcome.”

Kevin Curran is striving to future-proof the company’s business over the long term by hiring younger people who can grow with the company. The average age of its current employees is 45 and in 2017 the company employed three new apprentices all under 21 years of age.

“My own personal goal is to achieve sales of GBP 20 million by 2020,” he says.