In 2022, IPI Packers (IPI) is swinging back into growth mode following the impacts of COVID-19. For most of the business, it was a period of more than two years of challenges including static sales, coping with changed and new business environments, lockdowns, travel restrictions and other uncertainties that continued well into 2022. Despite this, 2021 had been put to good effect with brand new workshops being constructed in Perth and the establishment of a new manufacturing facility in Bulgaria both of which IPI had fully moved into by early 2022. Add to this the opening of a new sales office in the UAE and IPI has clearly demonstrated that it is in expansion mode after the setbacks of the COVID-19 era.
IPI in Perth now has a purpose-built, modern manufacturing facility which includes substantial offices, an advanced rubber laboratory, a climate-controlled packer building facility, an integrated, robot equipped machine shop, advanced assembly and testing facilities, significant inventory warehousing and excellent staff facilities.
The Perth-based development grew out of recognition, in 2018, that the original manufacturing location was becoming too small to accommodate the business. This realization was heightened as company revenues grew by 50% into 2019 further justifying the acquisition of the land at the new Tonkin Highway Industrial Estate in Bayswater, Perth, which is close to both a major rail line and Perth International Airport.
Following delays as the full extent of COVID-19 restrictions kicked in, ground was finally broken for building on this remediated brown fields site at the end of 2020 and by the end of 2021 the new facility welcomed its Perth team of more than 60 employees, along with all the plant, equipment and inventory relocated from the previous plant, with more new machinery added and commissioned in the following weeks.
Once all was up and running, it was well into 2022 and the official opening, also somewhat delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions, was eventually held in November 2022 with Chris Rodwell (CEO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, WA) and Ms Jessica Shaw, MLA (Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier of Western Australia; Minister for State Development; Jobs and Trade; Tourism; Commerce; Science) officiating.
The event included the entire Australian-based IPI Packers’ team with guests being local clients and industry bodies including APPEA, ADIA and CODA. All were welcomed by local Managing Director, Francis Ford, who has risen to this position after 17 years with IPI having started at the company as its first apprentice in 2005.
The guests toured the facility before formal speeches and refreshments and saw a rubber research lab that has facilities unique in the Southern Hemisphere, a machine shop with a robot-served advanced CNC lathe and a climate-controlled packer manufacturing workshop.
As part of its growth and to address the challenges associated with logistics to and from Australia, the company realized the need for another manufacturing base in another part of the world. Bulgaria was chosen because IPI has long had a sales office there, understood the country’s business climate, it’s closer to markets, has shorter supply chains and to top it off, is an EU member.
Dave Knell, who had set up IPI’s original workshop in Perth in 2001 agreed – 20 years later – to repeat the process in Bulgaria. Starting with an engineer from the Perth team, they have applied their knowledge and experience in setting-up a well-equipped, high-quality operation designed for higher volume manufacturing of inflatable packer elements. Other personnel have been recruited and trained locally to suit the needs of this new endeavor of what is now, overall, a truly international and multicultural company. The first ‘EU’ packer was built in Q1 of 2022 and the operation is currently exporting high-quality products, mainly to the Americas and Europe.
Apart from the new premises in Perth and the new manufacturing plant in Bulgaria, IPI Packers opened a new office in the UAE that replaced the office functions previously provided in Singapore and Sofia. Commercial Director Howard Kenworthy relocated to Sharjah, UAE, to head this new venture. Howard has been joined by Adam Bensaied, EMEA BDM for Oil and Gas, who has relocated from IPI Perth. Nicole Vergara has joined as Office Manager and is the first of other staff expected to be recruited locally as IPI continues to expand its operations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The company is now the world’s largest inflatable packer specialist having developed its own version of this niche technology that is gradually replacing established North American variants with major oilfield clients. This follows earlier versions of IPI’s technology having previously replaced these variants on major civil and mining engineering projects.
Although IPI Packers also services the Oil and Gas industries, it evolved from, and continues a strong commitment to providing tools for the mining, water well and geotechnical sectors. These include innovative hydraulic fracturing tools with the industry’s highest-pressure rating which enable mining techniques that are quicker, cheaper and safer than explosives. They are used for production in the world’s largest underground copper and gold mines, as well as for mine and tunnelling safety in rock burst mitigation programs. IPI is also a market leader in providing equipment for permeability testing to suit major mining and dewatering projects and supplies many inflatable packer products to the US water well market. Of course, IPI’s oilfield experience has significantly improved the capacity to address difficult environments in mining such as those including aggressive chemicals or high temperatures.
IPI Packers typically exports up to 90% of its Western Australian production and is exporting 100% of the product made in its new Bulgarian plant. With these two new facilities providing peak capacity to double its manufacturing output, IPI is looking forward to many years of continuing growth as it pursues its aim to be the world’s first-choice inflatable packer supplier.
For more information visit: https://www.inflatable-packers.com/IPI/index