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Japan Vilene - largest Japanese producer.

Being the largest nonwovens supplier in Japan is not without its down sides. In the fiscal year 1992, which ended March 1993, Japan Vilene, Tokyo, Japan, the sixth largest nonwoven roll goods producer, reported corporate sales of $503 million (Y63.8 billion), including nonwoven roll goods sales of $260 million (Y33.0 billion), a 1.8% decrease in overall sales from 1991. The decrease in sales can be attributed to a fall in the nonwovens replacement rate of traditional fabrics that had previously fueled nearly 10% annual growth as well as a poor Japanese economy. With maturing markets, nonwovens have reached a point where they have already displaced the majority of traditional fabrics and are now in a consolidating phase.

A breakdown of corporate sales by division shows $159 million comes from the Apparel Materials Division, a 1.6% increase; $130 million from the Car Material Division, a 5.5% decrease; $45 million from the Medical Material Division, a 5.4% increase and $85.1 million from the Air Conditioning Material Division, a 1.2% decrease. The remaining sales are accounted for by other smaller product lines. Sales decreases in excess of 5% in the automotive and industrial materials markets were the main reason for the overall decline in corporate sales.

Japan Vilene's major market, apparel interlinings, remained stagnant domestically, but showed a marked increase in exports. The company sells its apparel interlinings to China and Southeast Asian countries through a joint concern--Freudenberg Vilene International--founded in Hong Kong in cooperation with the Carl Freudenberg Group. Many Japanese apparel makers are currently moving their facilities to China and other Southeast Asian countries to take advantage of lower wage levels, causing an increase in the demand for apparel interlinings in these areas. The company's annual interlinings exports, which reached 170 million sq. meters in 1992, are projected to be more than 200 million sq. meters in 1993 and 1994.

With the changing nonwovens marketplace, Japan Vilene is changing its policy to place greater emphasis on profit margins and less on sales figures. Because current stagnant domestic markets cannot be expected to recover soon, Japan Vilene has embarked on a plan of improving its profit system. By making efforts to increase productivity and develop creative value-added products, the company is aiming to maintain or increase profit levels even if sales decline.

Part of the plans for increased productivity include a five year upgrade of machinery at the Shiga site to keep it on par with the company's Tokyo factory. By 1997, Japan Vilene plans to replace all older machinery at the facility, increasing the production capacity from 10 million to 15 million sq. meters. Another area under development is the expansion of hydroentangling technology. Currently, Japan Vilene serves the wipe, mask and medical markets with its hydroentangled fabrics. A new project team is targeting new applications for this material.

In an effort to expand markets and find new applications for existing materials, Japan Vilene is examining the low partition fabric market. Designed for interior decoration, the needlepunched nonwoven Japan Vilene is introducing to this market is similar to automotive grade products. Currently, the Japanese interior fabric segment is estimated at 4.5 million sq. meters.

On the new product front, Japan Vilene introduced "Micnowove," a nonwoven white board eraser product, as well as a wipe for clean room applications. The Micnowove eraser material, which uses a microfiber nonwoven material jointly developed by Kanebo, Osaka, Japan and Japan Vilene, to cover a sponge core, picks up felt marker writing from white boards. The clean room wipe, another joint development between Japan Vilene and Kanebo, is adaptable to class 100 rooms. Made from Kanebo's "Belima X" polyester/nylon bicomponent fiber, the spunlaced nonwoven wipes go through extensive processing and stringent packaging procedures to meet class 100 clean room requirements.
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Title Annotation:International Top 30
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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