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Freudenberg: the industry defined.

Freudenberg: The Industry Defined

There are individuals and there are companies that define the character of a business. In nonwovens, perhaps the one person and one company that fits that description best are Norbert Dahlstrom and the operation he directs, Freudenberg & Co.

Recognized as the largest nonwovens producer in the world, Freudenberg arguably remains perhaps the most influential and advanced in its field as well; correspondingly, perhaps one of the most influential and forward thinking men in the nonwovens industry is its managing partner. Under Mr. Dahlstrom's direction in the past decade, Freudenberg has been able to strengthen its claim as a world leader in nonwovens. Recent figures made available for the first time late last month indicate solid 10% growth in a business that even its chairman has labeled "mature."

But the solid sales performance of the Freudenberg nonwovens operations tells only part of the story. One is sincerely impressed by the investment the West German company has made in research and, most impressively, in its warehousing system in the past 10 years. Alone, each investment is more than many nonwovens companies make in a fiscal year. Together, they dwarf the efforts much of the industry has taken to ensure its competitiveness into the 1990's.

A prime example is Freudenberg's long, long term investment in hydroentanglement technology. For the past five years it has been investing significantly in proprietary spunlace technology, going so far as to build a two meter production width hydroentanglement line that seemingly could serve as a primary production line for some producers. At Freudenberg, it serves solely as a dedicated developmental line at the disposal of its process and product development people; no plans have been announced for the inevitable commercialization of the spunlaced technology. The primary purpose, Mr. Dahlstrom said, is to "speed up our innovation rate."

Efforts Mr. Dahlstrom initiated on behalf of the European industry resulted last month in a significant upgrading of EDANA, the European Disposables and Nonwovens Association, very similar to the moves made by INDA, the U.S. Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, in the past three years. Proving that not every move comes up smelling like a rose, other efforts begun by Mr. Dahlstrom during his tenure as EDANA chairman two years ago to more closely link EDANA with its U.S. counterpart have obviously fallen far short of the mark.

The Freudenberg chairman has warned the worldwide nonwovens industry of its impending maturity and has moved his own company into a position to benefit from the coming globalization of the nonwovens industry. That his message--and the similar messages of others--have been heard is evident in the expansion plans at equally aggressive European producers such as Corovin, Fiberweb and Suominen.

The rest of the industry would do well to learn from the lessons of these market leaders when it comes to preparing for the next decade of nonwovens growth.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:impact of Freudenberg Nonwovens L.P.'s Norbert Dahlstrom on the nonwoven fabric industry
Author:Jacobsen, Michael A.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Previous Article:Production results - making it happen: setting the stage, knowing where you are, communicating, involving employees and recognizing achievements...
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