Q: A new CEO will be starting at the company in May. Can you tell us about him and what he will bring to the company?

A: Robert Hermans has been appointed as the new CEO of IPCO and will start in May at the latest. A Swedish national, he is currently executive vice-president and deputy CEO of security products company Gunnebo AB and in charge of the business unit Entrance Control.

“I am very excited to take on the role of CEO of IPCO,” said Mr Hermans. “I’m convinced that together we can take IPCO to new levels by developing and building on the company’s unique strengths and opportunities in the market place.”

Mr Hermans is 52 years-old and has lived and worked in France, South Africa, Switzerland, and the UK for almost 20 years.

He has an MSc in Business Administration from Uppsala University and an MBA from Stockholm School of Economics.

“We are happy to welcome Robert Hermans as the new CEO,” said Håkan Buskhe, chairman of IPCO. “Robert Hermans is highly regarded as a leader and has a solid industrial experience of developing and growing organisations and businesses. He has the characteristics needed to secure IPCO’s continued development. The Board of Directors and FAM strongly believe in IPCO and will support Robert Hermans in reaching these goals.”

Q: What news is there on the product development and services/support front?

A: Innovation will be central to the way IPCO grows and prospers over the coming years and decades and we are keen to make more of a buzz about the success of our R&D work. While 2020 was understandably quiet in this respect, 2021 looks much more exciting with several product launches scheduled for the first half of the year.

Another important initiative has been our acquisition of additional production space in Forsbacka, about 6km from our current location in Sandviken, Sweden.

The works, acquired from steel manufacturer Ovako AB in 2018, is seven hectares, with a total building area of approximately 25,000m2, and is part of our long-term strategy to secure growth for the belts business and to open up for future expansions.

“This provides a great opportunity to continue to expand the belts business and not the least to design a complete site set-up based on our needs. However, it is important to keep in mind that this is a long-term project spanning over 10-15 years,” said Anders Bodin, managing director division belts.

Finally, we have also upgraded the facilities at our Productivity Centre in Goeppingen, Germany. This unit specialises in the design and manufacture of multi-stage scattering and press equipment used in the production of composite materials such as fibreboard and LVT, SPC, WPC flooring.

Q: Has IPCO managed to attend any global exhibitions in 2020/21 and does it hope Ligna in September will be a timely return to a European showcase for the wood products industries?

A: We were at IndiaWood and the PELICE conference in Atlanta/GA in the first quarter of the year before the pandemic really took hold, and both were interesting and successful events.

The only other fair we physically attended was WMF Shanghai in September, where our stand was manned by our local team in China.

Since then, teams within the IPCO group have taken part in a number of virtual conferences and events across a range of business sectors.

While some have been less successful than we were hoping in terms of attendance, others have been more positive and it’s certainly something we expect to see more of. While you can never replace real life interaction, there are some benefits to online events including access to information on demand, 24/7.

Overall though, business relationships are built on the ability to meet face-to-face, and the sharing of technical information at physical shows and conferences is key.

For 2021, we are scheduled to exhibit at VietnamWood, at WMF Shanghai and of course at Ligna, the most important fair by far for IPCO in the wood-based panels industry sector and one that has almost always proved extremely successful. The fact that it has been postponed from May to September means there is a greater chance of it taking place in some form, and we are very much looking forward to being there.

Of course, we also have to be prepared for the alternative, and we will be ready to go down the digital route if necessary to ensure that we remain closely connected to our partners across the industry.