Tony Jennings, the current managing director of IAPS Group.

Tony Jennings, the current managing director of IAPS Group.

IAPS Group was formed in early 2013 as a merger between Access Platform Sales (APS) and Independent Parts and Service (IPS), both based in the UK.

APS was created in 1987 by Jim Daintith and went on to become the UK’s leading independent powered access sales operation. IPS was formed a few years later in 2001 by Tony Jennings and has expanded to become Europe’s biggest supplier of replacement parts to the powered access industry. Its international intentions include expansion across Europe through its Parts Partner scheme - partnerships with dealers on the continent and further afield. Plans are also afoot to set up a parts supply depot the Middle East and an operation in South Africa.

In the last few weeks it has been confirmed that Steve Couling, the current managing director of vehicle mount specialist Versalift UK, will take over as managing director of IAPS Group on 1 September this year.

Mr Couling, who is also president of IPAF, could not comment widely on the new post before it starts, but told AI, “Following the successful merger of IPS with APS, it is clear that the IAPS Group have the resources and scale for significant future expansion both within and outside the UK. When the directors approached me and offered the opportunity of a key role in driving this future growth, it was an offer too good to refuse.”

Mr Couling adds, “My history with many of the key people in the business, experience of the products and strong relationships with customers gives me confidence that I can contribute significantly, and build on the strong foundations created by the existing management team.”

Steve Couling, Tony Jennings, Kevin Shadbolt - operations director - and Richard Tindale - sales and marketing director - all worked for UpRight in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Tony Jennings, who is acting as managing director until Mr Couling joins, will be joint chairman with Jim Daintith from September. Talking about the merger, Mr Jennings says, “We decided there was an incredible amount of synergy. They had a nice service operation, we (IPS) were double the size of them, we had sixteen engineers and they had eight, and they were developing quite a successful parts business in direct competition with us.

“So part of the rationale is that we are taking out a competitor; probably the most threatening competitor from our perspective, and it enabled Jim and his team to do what they are really good at and that is selling equipment.” Mr Jennings adds, “The timing is good because the economy is picking up and more and more people are buying access platforms.”

Looking at the rental situation in the UK, some big rental companies in the country are reporting around 10% growth. Mr Jennings comments, “I think a lot of our smaller customers have probably seen even more growth than that. A lot of these smaller companies have been busy for the last two years or so.

“I feel that those smaller companies, if I’m honest offer a better personal service to the local client than the larger organisations. Part of their growth has been at the expense of bigger companies.”

Global plans

IAPS’ third division Platform Service & Repair (PSR) provides 23 directly employed engineers across the UK, who work much like an automobile breakdown service, in that they attend the incident in a vehicle containing the required tools and parts. Some 85% of its customers are users, with the rest being regional rental companies and manufacturers – Genie is its biggest manufacturing client in this respect.

The three divisions had a combined revenue last year of UK£20 million: IPS took about £7 million of that, while APS took £10 million and the service segment took £3 million.

The parts service has 4000 line items in stock at all times but the company supplies about 70000 items in total, with 90% of the parts ordered by rental companies. The company has even started branding some parts items with the IPS name.

How has IAPS and its divisions coped with the recession? “If we talk about IPS, which is my history, we really didn’t suffer through the recession as badly as others, because we were providing after sales service. People were not buying new kit, they were looking after their old kit,” says Mr Jennings.

On the other hand, “APS without a doubt fluctuated, as equipment sales organisations have, based on some fairly significant dips in the operations during the recession years. But now they can focus on it [sales] and we have a stronger balance sheet so we can stock more machines.”

One of the industry challenges is the sourcing of used equipment. The prices of used equipment is probably as high as it has ever been, says Mr Jennings, as most of the surplus used equipment in Europe has now been sold and is in use around the world. “You certainly get a very good return on your old machines. They have been worked for seven to 10 years and paid for, twice over, maybe three times over, and now you are selling it for 50% of its original value.”

As a result, the company prefers its customers to trade in their used machines when buying a new one. “It gives us two bites at the cherry,” Mr Jennings explains. “We are constantly seeking those deals, as are our competitors; hence prices have driven up.”

On an international level, the company offers its Part Partner Network. “What we have in the UK is unique, there is a not anyone really who does parts, service and sales. “The reasons we set up in the UK is primarily because we are UK based and this is the largest market in Europe. But there’s a massive population of access platforms on the continent that we don’t really service.

 

Mr Jennings continues, “When we first set up IAPS, we decided that owner-managed businesses was the way to go, and we set up a subsidiary in France, in Australia and Finland. Today we still have the French business, as an owner managed operation. We sold the Australia business and Finland never really worked out with our partners.

“We have now decided the more cost effective way to do it, and the less risky way is to appoint dealers who know their territories and we have a trading relationship with them. They can source on our intellectual property and they do the upfront selling - There are big opportunities for this, not just in Europe, but the Middle East and Asia.”

The company now has Parts Partners in Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and an unofficial partner in Turkey. The company has also reached an agreement in principle with a partner in the Middle East to create a joint venture parts hub in Jebbel Ali, UAE. The hub, based in the free trade zone, will feed the whole of the Middle East area, plus India. Its launch is expected in the fourth quarter of 2014.

South Africa is also a target, and a Parts Partner for the country and neighbouring territories is likely to be announced later this year. Turning back to Europe, Germany and Italy are also on the hit list for parts partner deals. Spain also has potential, says the company, with most of the excess rental fleet now having left the country and rental rates rising enough so that a living can be made from them.

APS represents a number of manufacturers across the range of access equipment, including Genie, Hinowa, Isoli, Niftylift, Omme Lift and Youngman. Recently MEC was also brought into the equation with an agreement made in May for APS to become its sole distributor in the UK. It also recently became an Isoli dealer and bought Hinowa UK. “Isoli was a very valuable addition because it [truck mounts] was a market we did not touch at all. Hinowa was really to iron out a confusion in the market. Hinowa UK was owned by previous dealers of Hinowa in the UK,” concludes Mr Jennings.

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