This does not cause the company to fear, however. IPAC is using its expertise and extensive capabilities to diversify into new markets with customers who appreciate its brand of quality and service.
Based in Shrewsbury, Mass., IPAC was founded in 1959 by Ralph Dacey and Jerzy Engle with a vision to serve the abrasives industry. The company did just that, and has since become the industry’s largest supplier of fiberglass reinforcements and the only fully integrated manufacturer of its kind in the United States. IPAC is vertically integrated with in-house weaving, coating and cutting capabilities, and with its strong relationships with material suppliers, it has established the buying power necessary to maintain competitive prices.
“Everyone else purchases fiberglass – many times from us – and then coats it themselves,” DesRosiers explains. “But with our vertical integration, we offer much shorter turnaround times and can respond quickly to customers’ needs. Additionally, we can do short runs of small quantities, which is something our competition can’t even consider.”
A Quality Nature
With a dedication to maintaining close relationships with customers, IPAC has little client turnover. The company has contact with its large customers almost daily, and is set up with a number of clients to ensure just-in-time delivery of their product every morning or on a weekly basis. Competition from Asia often offers lower prices, DesRosiers notes, but those operations can’t meet IPAC’s level of quality or delivery speeds.
“We have unparalleled levels of service and quality,” he says. “Customers know our quality is second to no one, and our level of service can’t be met by anyone else. That keeps customers from even going to look elsewhere. It can get difficult with Asian competition – they are cheaper, but their turnaround time is a minimum of six weeks, where we can ship the same day if necessary. Plus, we provide much higher quality that can’t be found anywhere else.”
DesRosiers attributes the company’s high quality and service levels to the dedication of its employees. Tenure at IPAC averages more than 15 years, which helps maintain strong relationships with clients, he says, and provides unparalleled industry expertise. It also encourages teamwork.
“It’s the nature of our product – quality requires teamwork,” DesRosiers explains. “The person cutting the fiberglass can’t do his job right if the guy feeding it in isn’t doing what he’s supposed to do. Teamwork also is important for safe operations, and we have an active safety program that is led by a safety committee that meets at least once a week. The committee takes suggestions from employees on how to improve quality and be safer, and those suggestions are usually being implemented in the afternoon after the committee meets. The employees are then rewarded for any cost savings their ideas generate.”
IPAC’s capabilities go beyond its well-known skills in supplying fiberglass reinforcements. This allows it to serve the defense, construction, boating and a range of other manufacturing markets. For example, the company can coat a variety of materials, and up to 69 inches in width.
Additionally, IPAC heavily invests in new technology. It bought a Lectra CNC cutter last year for large-diameter fiberglass, and every piece of equipment in its cutting room is less than four years old, DesRosiers says. To ensure its services are delivered with quality, IPAC has implemented lean manufacturing.
“We’re using lean manufacturing to take advantage of whatever benefits we can,” DesRosiers says. “Almost all of our orders are custom-cut, but we still need to be efficient. We’re using lean to schedule our projects in a more optimized manner, and we’re working with vendors to reduce our inventory.”