70 Years of IBAK - The Pioneer of the Industry Celebrates Its Anniversary
When Helmut Hunger registered his business under the name Ingenieurbüro Atlas Kiel in 1945, he laid the foundation for a global company of world-wide renown in the sewer industry. More than 300 people are now employed at five sites in Germany and at the company offices in Australia. In addition to this, the family-owned company from Kiel is represented by some 40 commercial agencies and service partners all over the world. On October 2nd 2015, IBAK Helmut Hunger GmbH & Co. KG commemorated the company's 70th anniversary with a celebration for the staff and their families.
How It All Began
In spite of uncertain future prospects, Helmut Hunger started up production of medical equipment and echo-sounders on 29th September 1945. The scope of engineering and production was extended and later covered the manufacture of marine searchlights, heaters, switchboards and underwater TV systems. IBAK engineers designed the first TV system for remote underwater observation in 1955. Commercially available cameras were installed in a watertight housing for this purpose. So know-how and experience with watertight cameras were already available when the idea of inspecting sewers with TV was born. On 19th June 1957, the great day finally came. The first sewer TV system in the world was presented to the public.
IBAK Then and Now
The situation with regard to orders and the procurement of materials to manufacture the products were difficult in the early post-war period. So Helmut Hunger's entrepreneurial pioneer spirit was all the more important back then. “Following good Hanseatic tradition, he always demanded of himself to act in a dependable manner towards everyone and to supply his customers with high quality services and products. And he always strove for independence: independence from external investors, independence from landlords and, to the greatest possible extent, independence from third-party technology; he thought it was better to acquire the necessary know-how oneself and, if possible, to improve on it. Long-term success always had priority over short-term profit.” In these words, IBAK's Managing Director Dr. Werner Hunger describes the values of the company founder, his father. Values that still hold true and are decisive for the day-by-day dealings of the company. Accordingly, high quality, reliability and innovative capacity are among the declared aims of the world market leader for sewer inspection systems, together with the constant aspiration to be a valuable business partner for its customers.
At that time, IBAK was already highly competent in providing solutions and showed great readiness for innovation, particularly when it came to inventing niche products and manufacturing them themselves. Thus, underwater cameras were designed by IBAK to observe diver Jane Baldasare in the English Channel in 1960. IBAK inventions were involved in the search for and recovery of Hitler's forged British banknotes in Lake Toplitz and so the company from Kiel appeared in the world press. In 1972, IBAK designed a deep-sea towing gear for manganese nodule prospecting in the Pacific for the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. At the beginning of the 1980s, acoustic buoys for the disposal of moored mines were produced by IBAK.
These and many other exciting projects were characteristic for the early history of the family-owned company. The following decades were marked by numerous innovative products.
Thus, the IBAK Radiax camera once set new standards in sewer inspection, because, for the first time, the angle of view could be freely panned. The patented mechanism used in the camera brought business success for over 13 years, until it was superseded by the new flagship among the IBAK cameras, the pan and rotate camera Argus with the likewise patented always erect image. In 2000, the ORION was launched on the market. It has been continuously improved since then and now it is difficult to imagine the IBAK portfolio without it. It was the first camera with rugged LED lighting that could be operated both in push rod and tractor operation. With this versatile, universally operable camera, IBAK laid the foundation for the modularity that is still a feature of all IBAK systems today.
At the IFAT 2002, the introduction of the worldwide unique PANORAMO scanner technology marked a new milestone in sewer inspection techniques. With this invention, IBAK broke into new ground in engineering and again supplied the proof that inventive talent still existed at IBAK even at a time when it seemed that everything had already been invented.
In the spring of 2012, the 2000th TV inspection vehicle, that was equipped among other things with the PEGASUS HD, the IBAK pan and rotate camera with unique full HD picture quality, left the collection hall in Wehdenweg. The POLARIS was designed in 2013,. The bend-capable push rod camera with 90 degree direction-changing capability answers the demand for an unobstructed field of vision. Today, with the stabilising camera guide device DEIMOS 3D, it is also suitable for the 3D-GeoSense pipe run survey.
In 2012, IBAK was joined by its subsidiary IBAK Robotics GmbH. The Durmersheim-based company manufactures fully electric-driven sewer cutting and grinding robots. By adding the cutting and grinding robots to the product portfolio, IBAK seeks to provide as complete a range of products as possible for the sewer inspection and rehabilitation industry and also other future innovations in the rehabilitation sector.
Whether miniaturised mechanics and electronics or sewer software: this is all designed and manufactured by IBAK themselves. And IBAK also sees to the training of new, young staff themselves. “In our industry, our staff and their qualification are decisive assets for a company. Competent and committed new young staff members are the key to shaping a successful future,” explains Karsten Bauer, IBAK's Chief Human Resources Officer. Each year, the company trains 3 to 5 industrial business management assistants, machine operators and electronics technicians for devices and systems. In the second half of the company history alone, i.e. from 1980 onwards, 163 trainees have passed through the departments of the company. This provides an optimum basis for them to contribute and improve their extensive skills and their specific IBAK know-how also as qualified members of staff.
Celebrating Success Together
The factory tours offered in the afternoon made a thrilling start to the to collective celebration, particularly for the members of the Kiel staff and the staff from the branch offices. The staff members made use of the opportunity to show their workmates and families their world of work. They took them through the production facilities and explained the individual process steps from a blank piece of material to the operational finished product. Many of them already had second-hand knowledge about the production process, but some had not realised before how big IBAK really is. The high level of vertical integration could also be impressively demonstrated during the factory tour.
The vehicle outfitting hall, which normally contains 14 workplaces for vehicle outfitting, was cleared out for the some 450 guests and was transformed into a celebration hall with an attractive ambience. There the IBAK staff celebrated the 70th anniversary of the company's foundation with their families.
The celebration began with some humorous and congenial words of welcome.
To begin with, Dr. Werner Hunger came onto the podium. The Managing Director expressed his appreciation and thanks to the staff of all departments, the pensioners and their families for their commitment. He said that IBAK's success depends decisively on the people who give their best for the company every day. Thanks in particular to their dedication, IBAK anticipates further growth this year again. After that, former Managing Director Herwig Hunger congratulated the audience on its anniversary and handed over some special issue stamps with the portrait of company founder Helmut Hunger as a present. In his speech, the guest of honour, Kiel's Mayor Ulf Kämpfer, stressed the meaning of the independent family-owned business for the City of Kiel and the region. He said that the exemplary company had provided work and training for generations of staff members. “IBAK offers more than 300 staff members a sense of belonging, a solid income and, as a reliable partner for their employees, a safe future," emphasised Kämpfer.
A Special Book
Moreover, the company's special day was marked by the publication of a chronicle documenting the company's history. It assembles everything worth seeing and reading, in retrospective, with illustrations and enthrallingly told, to bring the different stages in the company's 70 years of history to life for the reader. Besides this, there are interviews with staff members across all company departments. They report personally and directly about challenges and striking experiences with workmates, customers and business partners and give insight into their daily work.
Before any of the 450 guests could slump into inertia after enjoying the opulent buffet, the roller shutter door to the next-door vehicle outfitting hall opened and presented a view of the stage and the dance floor. The band Lecker Nudelsalat began playing and the guests were unable to stay seated for much longer.
The guests continued happily celebrating, dancing and chatting until after midnight.
On Monday, the vehicle outfitting hall looked like a vehicle outfitting hall again. But the great atmosphere and the joy felt about the successful history of the company and the wonderful anniversary celebration will linger on for a long time.
You will find some more photos on our Facebook page.