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Annual review and forecast of the nonwovens industry: the year in review and the year ahead; the experts from around the world give their opinions from their points of view on how the industry reacted to the developments of 1989 and how it will fare as the 1990's take over.


The environment and the disposing of disposables was on almost everyone's minds ... raw material prices, not to mention availability, had suppliers and producers alike concerned ... the coming Europeanization of the nonwovens industry and the on-going globalization of the entire business affected all marketing strategies ... there were some significant shifts in personnel at the top of a number of major roll goods suppliers as these companies attempt to find the people that will guide them into the next decade ... and acquisitions were on the back burner in 1989 but promise to move forward as 1990 progresses.

The next 12 months will bring the two largest trade shows the nonwovens industry has ever experienced into one calendar year ... tightened supply of rayon but greater supply of natural cotton will tip the scales of new product development ... continued niche marketing will mean more of an emphasis on training and good marketing and manufacturing techniques, as well as more specially designed equipment and machinery ... and the increasing power of the big players in the international nonwovens game means the smaller guys have to work twice as hard in the coming months.

The buzzwords of a year ago - maturity, AIDS, consolidation - weren't heard as often in 1989 as the nonwovens business got down to business. There were a number of mergers and buyouts, but mostly in the machinery and supplier end and not involving the roll goods producers. Avtex did finally shut down its rayon supply, but the other rayon producers, as well as the cotton suppliers, announced plans to pick up the slack. There weren't any major trade shows, but there were a number of highly successful specialized conferences dealing with disposability and assorted technologies.

This is the year that was for the nonwovens industry in 1989. The majority of executives who responded to the Nonwovens Industry survey of their reviews and forecasts were pleased with the results of the past 12 months. Most also remained guardedly optimistic about prospects for 1990 and beyond.

But enough of the analysis. Let's let the experts speak for themselves once again.

Bob Axtell, "Tyvek" business director, DuPont, Wilmington, DE, the country's largest supplier of nonwovens roll goods, said the future remains bright for the company's Tyvek nonwoven fabric, which uniquely combines the properties of paper, fabric and film. DuPont is refining its marketing strategies surrounding Tyvek as recent expansions have made short supply situations a thing of the past. "We see continued, long term market expansion and have installed new capacity to offer higher quality products and improved customer service," he said. "New, tailored product offerings will unleash market forces in the 25 countries in which we operate around the world."

John DiLuzio, director of marketing, Veratec, Walpole, MA, said industrial grades and health and personal care products experienced particularly strong growth in a healthy nonwovens business in 1989. On the raw materials side, the cost and availability of rayon fiber was a prominent factor in a number of business areas. "From a process viewpoint," Mr. DiLuzio added, "continued growth of the spunbond process and an increasing number of participants in spunlaced technology added further stimulus to an already highly competitive environment." The next 12 months, he said, will experience modest market growth, pressure on manufacturing costs, higher profile on biodegradability, increased use of cotton fiber and further globalization of the nonwovens industry.

David Lehman, vice president-marketing, Specialty Products Div., Chicopee, New Brunswick, NJ, said that "in view of capacity changes in fiber availability in 1989, the nonwovens industry will need to increase composite technology research to provide alternative fiber compositions." Top priority in 1990, Mr. Lehman said, will be "continued emphasis in research and development for new technologies and converting enhancements which add unique value to base fabrics." In addition, he said, "global strategies for increased utilization of existing resources will play a major role in 1990 and beyond."

Frank Perkins, sales manager, Wayn-Tex, Charlotte, NC, said that "1989 has been a good year for disposable clothing and I see this continuing into 1990." He predicted more emphasis on better protection without loss of comfort to the worker. "I also see more foreign suppliers coming into the U.S. market," said Mr. Perkins, "because our markets are more fully developed. I see the potential of an over supply of material for the marketplace in 1990. At Wayn-Tex we continue to diversify our markets and develop our position as a roll goods supplier."

Migo Nalbantyan, vice president, Reemay, Old Hickory, TN, whose company's only product is specialty nonwoven sheet structures, emphasized that Reemay's strategies are focused on solving specific customer problems in industry and identifying future market needs and then tailoring technologies to meet those needs. "Due to the broad profile of Reemay's applications," Mr. Nalbantyan said, "we believe that the high growth trends within our business will continue at an exceptional rate in 1990, despite any potential downturn in the general economy."

Lee Sullivan, president and CEO, Freudenberg Spunweb, Durham, NC, said his company's year was dominated by the installation of additional capacity in Taiwan, which will come on-stream in 1990. "We see our industry moving more and more to building protected niche markets with corporate resources being totally focused on niches versus the philosophy of being dominated by large share positions in broad commodity markets," Mr. Sullivan said. The decade of the 1990's will see a continued focus on this niche marketing, continued consolidation of smaller players into much larger worldwide companies and a heightened awareness of environmental issues.

Manfred Wennemer, president, Freudenberg Nonwovens, Chelmsford, MA, said that despite no major technological breakthroughs, no significant new product developments, a number of small companies going out of business and a slowdown of mergers and acquisitions in the nonwovens industry, 1989 was a good sales year. However, he feels 1990 will be much more difficult. "With the economy in general slowing down, it will be hard for the nonwovens industry to continue to grow at the current two-digit rate," Mr. Wennemer said. "We will see increased price competition which will lead, in the medium term, to a reduction of the number of competitors and a new wave of acquisitions. Those companies which are able to improve productivity significantly, market new products rapidly, have an international base and have cash available to invest into emerging technologies and R&D will survive and grow stronger."

Ted Kelly, vice president-marketing, Phillips Fibers, Greenville, SC, reported that shipments to the durable nonwovens business were good in 1989, although some of the businesses, especially in the paving and geotextile sectors, continues to be marginal. "The real challenge for the future," Mr. Kelly said, "is to develop higher value added products." Phillips recently introduced just such a product - its "SuperGro" soil erosion control fabric - and is working on a family of fabrics designed for various applications in the solid waste disposal market. Phillips also recently commercialized a fine denier polypropylene staple for the disposables market, initially being used for coverstock. Current capacity is limited, Mr. Kelly said, but expansion plans are underway.

Brian Ewing, president, Bonar Fabrics, Greenville, SC, said that while consolidation within the nonwovens industry slowed somewhat in 1989, "there is little doubt that further structural changes are inevitable, particularly with an international flavor. Any slow-down in general economic activity will fuel such changes." Success in 1990, Mr. Ewing felt, will continue for companies with a sound technological edge and a highly focused approach to market and product development, something the Bonar nonwovens companies, with plants in the U.S. and Europe and a joint venture in Japan, are well placed to accomplish.

Alan Gnann, president, Lydall, Manning Div., Troy, NY, said that externally generated challenges were not enough to keep 1989 from being a very successful year at Manning. The division, he said, was able to position itself to meet these challenges and in the past year several important capital projects were completed to cap off an accelerated three year capital improvement program, which began in 1986 following the acquisition of Manning by Lydall. "We look for an increasingly competitive marketplace in 1990 in the traditional nonwovens markets, while we expect our commercial development program to continue to expand in those areas that demand highly engineered materials to service critical applications," Mr. Gnann added. "Furthermore, we expect to see less upward pressure on raw material costs in 1990 as compared to the past several years."

Richard Sheer, president and chief executive, Crown Textile, New York, NY, reported that Crown's nonwovens business was excellent in 1989. "Our success has come as a result of our expanded marketing initiatives, our investments in people and technology and our proactive business management," he said. Crown had a 50% growth in its industrial business in 1989 and expanded its distribution in womenswear. "While we are cautious about overall business conditions for 1990, we are forecasting additional business for ourselves," Mr. Sheer added, with composites technology a major growth factor.

Robert Bayer, president, American Threshold Industries, Enka, NC, said that market diversification allowed the company to experience healthy sales and earning increases in the past year. "As an indication of our confidence in the future of the nonwovens industry, in 1989 we completed construction of our new 75,000 sq. ft. plant." He stressed niche markets in the future, both in the U.S. and abroad, with innovative new products for the medical, industrial and consumer markets. "I am concerned about raw material price increases," said Mr. Bayer. "Hopefully, 1990 will not signal a round of roll goods price increases, which would result in substantial finished product price increases. Our industry is at a point where, regardless of the many benifits of disposables, we could 'outprice' our end products."

Damon Schroter, senior product manager, Ingersoll-Rand Waterjet Cutting Systems, Baxter Springs, KS, said waterjet cutting technology continues to expand as the most universal cutting tool for the nonwovens industry. "Its acceptance is due to its efficiency and high quality edge cut," Mr. Schroter said. "Still the most economical cutting systems for incontinence products and sanitary goods, waterjet technology has broadened its horizons to meet proliferating roll goods technologies whose many applications are still being explored."

G. Norman Egner, vice president, sales and marketing, Stearns Technical Textiles, Cincinnati, OH, expressed concern about the past rayon shortage, but remained optimistic. "The rayon shortage created serious problems for us during the first half," he said. "This is behind us now and we are prepared should a shortage develop." During 1989 Stearns concentrated on value-added processes, such as laminating, coating and producing additional fullyconverted products. Dr. Egner also stressed the importance of environmental issues, which "will continue to grow in importance. We are one of the largest manufacturers of nonwovens composed of cotton fibers in the U.S. and see growth in this area due to cotton's superior biodegradable properties."

Dennis Mercer, vice president-marketing, international sales, Mercer Corp., Hendersonville, TN, said that "several variations of the deposit of hot melt adhesives have evolved as the creativity within diaper construction continues. Design and cost considerations continue to change, which demand timely response by machinery vendors to the converters," he added. "We expect a 'feature' driven 1990."

John Raterman, general manager-Nonwoven Group, Nordson, Norcross, GA, said the past year "marked the widespread acceptance of hot melt controlled fiberization in the disposables market." Changes in disposable diapers, he said, "such as the downgauging of polyethylene backsheets, broad usage of threaded elastics and standing leg gathers and the inclusion of foam elastic waistbands have continued to fuel demand. This, combined with the recent acquisition of Meltex Corp., postures Nordson to meet the challenges of the coming decade."

Michael Spann, president, Groz Beckert, Charlotte, NC, thought the last year was a pivotal one in the needlepunch sector. "Expenditures on capital equipment and R&D were at record levels," he said. "Product development using new fibers, more sophisticated equipment and unparalleled cooperation was at the highest levels." He said that despite the soft automotive year, 1989 had still been a good year with an estimated 5-10% growth. "The exciting part is the continued transition from low quality to high tech, technically specified products," Mr. Spann said. "Our business is expected to continue to grow at an annual rate of 5-10% over the next half decade, excepting periods of economic recession." Edson Foster, president, Foster Needle, Manitowoc, WI, classified 1989 as "a very tentative year for the U.S. needlepunchers," with fewer new looms entering the country than in any other recent year. For 1990, there are some significant expansions that could have a dramatic impact on the business: Geotextile capacity is expanding, with one totally new entry into the U.S. needlepunched spunbonded geotextile market and two staple fiber geotextile suppliers each adding one new line; carpeting and wall covering will see the largest Belgian needlepunched floorcovering group begin production in the U.S. with between one to three totally new lines; in automotives the question remains when will U.S. producers begin to utilize needled headliners as the Europeans and Japanese do. "Let's hope they will be very soon, as certainly the Japanese and perhaps the European needlepunching firms are open to and actively pursuing technology exchanges," Mr. Foster said. "In summary, the horizon is clear. The red sky at night is the needlepuncher's delight."

Henry Hamrick, technical director, Clupak, New York, NY, said that disposability remains a concern of every aspect of the nonwovens industry. "Our industry's success at engineering and producing nonwoven fabrics has created the problem of how to dispose of an ever-increasing volume of 'disposables,"' Mr. Hamrick said, "This is a problem which must be urgently addressed, not just to save our business, but to protect our environment. As an industry we have the talent, technology and experience to resolve this threat to our economic and environmental well being. The answer lies in our intelligent use of the collective wisdom and creativeness of individuals within this industry. We can and must do it soon."

Joseph LeMin, vice president, Cameron Machine/Somerset Technologies, New Brunswick, NJ, a manufacturer of slitting and rewinding equipment, said that nonwovens continues to be a growing segment of its business. "Users are more than ever making purchasing decisions based on quality machinery incorporating greater degrees of automation," according to Mr. LeMin. "Increased levels of productivity with minimum of manpower is a common demand," thereby fueling the demand for microprocessor control systems.

Dan Wise, president, Wise Industries, Kings Mountain, NC, described 1989 as a period of fine tuning many established nonwovens processes. "I believe 1990 will bring new technology to the industry," he said, "especially in the areas of bonding. I look for the nonwovens market to continue its growth due to the present product development that is being done by many companies."

Jean-Paul Jaussaud, general sales manager-nonwoven machinery, Valmet Paper Machinery, Honeycomb Systems, Biddeford, ME, said that continued growth in the industry resulted in an excellent business year in 1989 and "the outlook for 1990 is very promising for both through-air and hydroentanglement equipment." Honeycomb equipment is continuing as a key component for several upcoming process applications being developed for nonwovens. "This gives us every reason to forecast that not only 1990, but also future years will be highly successful," Mr. Jaussaud said.

Fred Steininger, director-textile industry sector, Exxon Chemical Polymer Group, Houston, TX, said 1989 saw continued growth for uses of polypropylene. "It is becoming apparent," he said, "that polypropylene is not only being used due to its cost advantage, but also as an effective polymer in meeting the emerging end use applications requirements." He projected growth for PP resins, specialty polyethylene copolymers and melt blown technology should be around 8-10%. Mr. Steininger said Exxon will continue its commitment to the nonwovens industry through the opening of the new Textiles and Nonwoven Development Center at the University of Tennessee next year.

Bart Morse, general manager, Natural Fibers Group, Veratec, Walpole, MA, classified 1989 as a year of progress in the cotton bleaching business. "Sales are strong because of increased interest in cotton as a marketable benefit in our customers products," Mr. Morse said. The next 12 months will also bring many important changes. "Our bleaching capacity will be significantly expanded," he added. "At the same time, we expect to see the fruits of our efforts to commercially produce cotton that is processible on high speed nonwovens equipment."

Charles Lapidus, vice president, nonwovens and floor coverings, Cotton, Inc., New York, NY, believed that the nonwovens industry's need to address disposability is creating new opportunities for niche marketing of cotton. "The consumer has demonstrated that cotton is their fiber of choice now and into the 1990's in disposables as well as reusable nonwovens," he said. "Cotton Inc.'s efforts to enhance the quality of kier bleached cotton, combined with increased capacity for new kier bleached fiber, will ensure that the nonwovens industry is properly mobilized to meet this emerging demand."

Greg Ward, director-nonwovens, Alpha Cellulose, Lumberton, NC, reported that the commercialization of the first U.S. continuous cotton fiber bleaching process was completed during 1989. "The improved processibility of bleached cotton made by this process will, we believe, open up significant new product opportunities for roll goods producers and converters during the coming year," he said. "There has been a significant increase in product development using nonwoven technologies, culminating in the commercial introduction of several new cotton nonwovens." Mr. Ward expects 1990 to see increased usage of cotton throughout the nonwovens sector.

David McKinnon, nonwoven business director, Hoechst Celanese, Charlotte, NC, labeled 1989 "a dynamic year" for the U.S. nonwovens industry as some fiber producers realigned their mix by withdrawing from certain segments. "In addition, more European roll goods producers expanded, through acquisitions, their presence in the U.S. market," Mr. McKinnon said. "The year 1990 should see continued growth in the industry, greater stability in fiber supply and a likely increase in the rate of internationalization of the roll goods and converting businesses."

John Blickensderfer, group market manager, Specialty Industrial Polymers, North American Region, Rohm and Haas, Philadelphia, PA, was another with the environment on his mind. "In 1989," he said, "lightweight nonwovens producers began dealing with the environmental impact of disposable products and solid waste management. Design concepts addressing these issues created a major development focus for the year which will extend into 1990 and beyond. New nonwoven designs must incorporate a plan for their future fate in the environment to retain long range viability." Industrial markets, Mr. Blickensderfer felt, suffered from slowing housing construction and the highloft business continued as a bright spot.

Bill Porter, senior marketing representative, Textile Fibers Div., Eastman Chemical Products, Kingsport, TN, said that Eastman polyester staple sales for nonwovens during 1989 have been good. However, the past year was a time of change and transition for the company. "We expect our product transition from Carolina Eastman to Tennessee Eastman to be completed in the first half of 1990," Mr. Porter said. "We will continue to market a broad line of polyester staple for nonwoven products, and we look forward to strengthening our position in this important market in 1990 and beyond."
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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1989
Previous Article:Another quarterly high for fiber shipments.
Next Article:Nonwovens and their importance to nonwovens, textile and paper companies.

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