The arising of IPSAM
IPSAM’s story starts with Christ Vandekeybus, a farmer’s son from Essen. In 1952 he designs the first automatic meadow pump which allows for cows to pump up their own drinking water. This revolutionary invention has a large impact on the worldwide farming industry. Finally, farmers don’t need to go out by horse and cart anymore to provide all the animals with water.
The name IPSA +M
Christ immediately files a patent for the pump, he starts his company and calls it IPSA, latin for ‘by yourself’. This refers to the cow pumping her own water, vacca ipsa bibit. He calls the products he makes IPSA Machines. Since IPSA as a brand turns out to exist already, Chris adds the ‘M’ for Machines. IPSAM is born.
The first years: the fifties
The first years are chaotic but interesting. To be able to tie the ends, Christ also sells washing machines. But he believes in IPSAM and has the desire to improve. He refines the technology and simplifies the meadow pump. Soon he isn’t able to keep up with the demand. Until over 30 years after the invention, over ten thousand meadow pumps are produced and sold worldwide. Eventually, the pump is copied endlessly and IPSAM looses its monopoly.
“Ik Probeer Steeds Alles”
(I always try everything)
The success of the meadow pump has a strengthening effect on Christ as an inventor and entrepreneur. He tries virtually everything, from irrigation installations to reels, ovens, and other agricultural installations. When he has an idea, he takes some wire to shape it into the form of the machine he has in mind. His employers give him the nickname Mr. IPSA: “Ik Probeer Steeds Alles.” (I always try everything).
Diversification during the sixties
In the meantime, IPSAM carries all the qualities of becoming a big company. But Christ doesn’t believe in mass prdocution. He chooses to keep on developing new products. “If you don’t push the wheelbarrow, it stands still”, is his motto.
Through the diversification in products, IPSAM doesn’t depend on the meadow pump anymore and becomes successful with other agricultural machines like haymakers, manure breakers, milk cooling tanks, stable equipment, manure grids, fertilizers and hydrophore systems.
The manure spreader
After the manure breaker, IPSAM comes with a novelty in Belgium, the manure spreader or manure tank. Using vacuum techniques, it is now possible to suck the manure into mobile containers which can then be emptied on the land.
Contrary to the other machines put on the market by IPSAM, the manure spreader is further renewed and developed technologically. IPSAM becomes the precursor and example in the field of agricultural tools in the Benelux. The base is set for the more sophisticated vacuum trucks which are produced nowadays.
Limitless flourishing in the seventies
For reasons of nuisance and strict environmental legislations, IPSAM is noticed in 1973 by the communal administration to move from the centre of the village to the new industrial terrain ‘Rijkmaker’. The new factory allows for an extension and soon enough more than 100 people are working on an extended range of products.
A new product is also launched for tailored tanks. It’s a bull’s-eye: tank transportation is on the increase and the worldwide demand for tanks has an exponential growth. In some years, more than 1.000 tanks per year are sold.
Succession by son Jef in the eighties
After an initial period, Christ’s son Jef Vandekeybus takes the wheel from his dad in the mid eighties. Under his wings, the technological innovations receive a lot of attention and initially, the company keeps on flourishing.
But agriculture, which is then still IPSAM’s main activity, starts to struggle. The number of farmers diminishes progressively and IPSAM doesn’t sell the same number of agricultural tools as before. Another reason is the high quality of the manure tanks which last a lifetime.
In addition, a number of loyal employees retires. They are hard to replace, which makes Jef struggle to hold all the cards. He decides that IPSAM needs a safer home and future and he sells it in 1989 to Elster-Instromet, specialised in gas meters, with a worldwide outlet.
Slow phasing out during the nineties
By this time, IPSAM has 3 distinct divisions: agriculture, vacuum trucks and tanks. But right after the takeover in 1989, there’s an unexpected event on the international stage: the fall of the Berlin Wall. Very rapidly, clients can get their tank parts much cheaper in Eastern Europe. The situation is unsustainable financially and the tank division needs to be closed down.
The agricultural division also continues to struggle. IPSAM keeps on narrowing down until it’s almost completely reduced to the production of vacuum trucks.
Turbulent years ’00
Ten years after the takeover, Instromet decides to give IPSAM a facelift. The whole factory is renewed but the renewal of the product range and management are lacking. An era of buying and selling announces itself.
2001: The German Ruhrgas buys Elster-Instromet after two years of negociations.
2003: Ruhrgas is taken over by the German energy company E. ON
2005: E.ON sells Elster-Instromet to the British venture capital fund CVC Capital, one of the largest in the world.
2006: CVC Capital perceives no advantages in an unprofitable and small side activity like IPSAM in Essen. The company needs to go.
A new start
Some competitors offer to take over IPSAM. However, they are mostly interested in the name and commercial relations ans not so much in the production itself. Luckily for the employment, a local businessman is looking for a new challenge. In 2006 Dominique Delcroix becomes the new owner.
Thanks to the strong image IPSAM has, a number of big loyal customers and the technical knowledge of the 35 remaining employees, he manages to revitalise IPSAM.
In the meantime, the sale of manure tanks is refuelled. Following the fertiliser action plans of the Flemish government, slurry needs to be injected in the soil. Farmers get up to 40% of funding to renew their old agricultural machinery.
Stability in the years ‘10
In the 11 years after the takeover in 2006, IPSAM can develop into a stable company. IPSAM is still considered to be the market leader in building vacuum trucks. Moreover, the geographical terrain expands with an important outlet in the Middle East, where they highly appreciate the superior quality of IPSAM.
Unexpectedly to most, IPSAM was sold again recently. May 3 2017, Samuel Hanssens takes over the firm. A young international entrepreneur who has worked and lived in Asia for 11 years. With his large experience in the (engineering) world of China and Indonesia, he brings the necessary dynamics to prepare IPSAM for the future.He puts the emphasis on quality, service and innovation.