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Dupont Industrial Products.

2 Du Pont Industrial Products

Fibers Department Wilmington, DE 19898

Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: $600 million U.S. Nonwovens Sales: $499 million Key Personnel: Siegfried Wittauer, vice president and general manager; Robert Axtell, business director-Tyvek; Michael Donnelly, business manager-Sontara; Thomas West, director, Engineering Fiber Systems Div. (Europe) Plants: Richmond, VA (Tyvek); Old Hickory, TN (Sontara); Luxembourg (Tyvek, Typar); Shenzhen, China (Tyvek converting facility) Processes: Spunbonded (Tyvek, Typar), Spunlaced (Sontara) Brand Names: Tyvek, Sontara, Typar (worldwide except U.S.) Notes: Everyone has always viewed Du Pont's nonwovens business as one of the top two or three in terms of international reach. That observation has been reinforced by a number of recent moves designed to expand and solidify its worldwide nonwovens participation.

Perhaps the most visible is the appointment earlier this year of Siegfried Wittauer as head of the worldwide nonwovens operations. The move may have surprised some observers because Mr. Wittauer works out of the company's Geneva, Switzerland office as the managing director of Du Pont's European fibers business. The inclusion of the nonwovens business, which does about 80% of its turnover in the U.S. and has its two main production sites in Virginia and Tennessee, can be taken as a sure sign that Du Pont views its business as global and is intent on operating in that manner.

Mr. Wittauer's position developed when Du Pont split the responsibilities formerly held by John Fallon; the aramids business became a part of the growing composites unit and "Tyvek," "Typar" and "Sontara" were included as part of the fiber unit's responsibilities. Mr. Wittauer agrees it is a sign of the growing global importance of the nonwovens business.

"This company has recognized as a whole, and in the fibers sector especially, that a big chunk of future growth will have to come from global markets, with Europe of course being a part of that," he told NONWOVENS INDUSTRY. "We have the possibility to look at the total nonwovens opportunity using our technology throughout the world. Du Pont has recognized that much of future growth will have to come from around the world and Fibers is no different."

Increased Tyvek Production

Du Pont's nonwovens production is centered in Richmond, VA (Tyvek) and Old Hickory, TN (Sontara), as well as the new Tyvek/Typar plant in Luxembourg. Robert Axtell, Tyvek global business director (working out of Wilmington, DE) reported that the Luxembourg plant is already running at capacity and the expanded European and worldwide marketing efforts for the leading nonwoven fabric in the world have thrived on finally having sufficient capacity for new product and market development. While staffing is sufficient in the U.S. (where 75% of Tyvek is still sold) and Europe (where the growth rate is much higher), new people are constantly being added to the Asian effort to expand that segment.

Mr. Axtell confirmed that Du Pont will be constructing a Tyvek production facility, most likely in Japan, by the mid-1990s. Taht unit, he said, will be sized to the demands of the Asian market, meaning it will most likely be smaller than the two other Tyvek plants. Du Pont already has a small converting operation in Shenzen, China (a special economic zone above Hong Kong) to serve the Asian market. A customer service facility would also be placed in the Far East to enable Du Pont to tailor products to the particular needs of that part of the world.

Tyvek marketing efforts were finally able to expand with the completion of the European plant after years of what amounted to an allocation basis for supply of the fabric. The marketing shift has been dramatic in some areas, subtle in others. "Because we are not sold out anymore, it has allowed us to focus more on tailoring products to specific end uses and regions," Mr. Axtell said. One particular example he gave was the move of Tyvek into the European insulated tile roofing systems market for its membrane capabilities, a market that does not even exist in the U.S.

"The way we look at this business, we want to play in the high tech areas," Mr. Wittauer explained. "We don't play in the traditional dry laid area where our core competencies (polymerization, spinning, laydown and hydroentanglement) would not be utilized."

The Du Pont Sontara hydroentangled nonwoven technology has also benefitted from a capacity expansion to become the other Du Pont nonwoven source focusing on high tech areas. While it still does about 80% of its business in the U.S., the Du Pont master plan calls for worldwide production by the mid-1990s as well. Michael Donnelly, Sontara business manager, told NONWOVENS INDUSTRY that the technology's first foreign manufacturing site will be in either Japan or Europe (Luxembourg) by 1995, with both sites having Sontara production by the mid to late 1990s.

A 150-inch wide production line for Sontara (line three) came on-stream late in 1990, effectively increasing capacity by 50%. The commissioning of that machine allowed line four, which is actually a 50-inch pilot unit, to return to its original role as a developmental line. It is being used to develop the more flexible, next generation of Sontara spunlaced fabrics for the European and Asian expansions. "It is a boost to our business because it allows us to tailor products for customers and regions and we don't lose the economy of working on one of the big lines," Mr. Donnelly said.

One new Sontara product in the home furnishings area is a triple pleated window shade that actually offers "R" factor protection. It is, Mr. Donnelly said, one of the growing number of durable applications for Sontara, in addition to its strong marketing position in the medical disposables segment. Another significant new product is a polyester acrylic, low lint wiping cloth.

The third major Du Pont technology is its Typar nonwoven, which, with production also in Luxembourg, realizes 75% of its sales in Western Europe, with the remainder going to Asia, the Middle East and Africa and a very small portion to the U.S. Its major markets remain carpet backing (about half of its business), roof linings, geotextiles and smaller business in electrical, apparel, furniture and packaging markets.

Typar business director Thomas West, located in Europe, called the Typar product an "environmentally friendly" technology that has benefitted from Du Pont's fiber expertise. "One of the things we are doing is leveraging Du Pont's polymer technology towards recycling and environmental opportunities," he said. "We have recycled Typar within Du Pont for some time."

Nonwoven Synergies At Du Pont

The Typar and Tyvek businesses in Europe are perhaps the first visible examples of the "synergies" the corporation has been highlighting concerning its nonwovens operations. The two, somewhat similar technologies are leveraging mutually applicable process technologies, equipment and product distribution systems. The product portfolios complement each other in a number of end use segments.

"We can leverage within the three Du Pont businesses to obtain an advantage over the competition," Mr. West said. "We have not only our own nonwovens size in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, but we also have the core competencies of the entire Du Pont organization."

Mr. Wittauer admitted that the synergistic opportunities within Du Pont have been mostly out of the view of the rest of the industry. "The benefits initially and primarily have been felt internally," he said. "We have shared knowledge and economies of scale. As for impact on specific markets, we are |still young.'"

Du Pont is undoubtedly among the leaders in the two technologies--spunbonding and hydroentanglement--in which it competes. Even though it has not developed completely new technologies that could complement its current focus, Mr. Wittauer assures the industry that constant evolution is taking place behind Du Pont's research doors. "There is continuous evolvement of what we do," he said, "It is not very visible to the outside world, but there is a significant difference between what Sontara does today and what it did yesterday. The same is true with Tyvek and Typar; future investments will use significantly different technology than even applied in Luxembourg."

He admitted it is very difficult for a company to develop other leading edge technologies when it already has Tyvek and Sontara in its stable. "There is nothing out there that would be a true alternative to what we have," Mr. Wittauer said, "but we intend to continue to lead technological evolution in the nonwovens field."

Some Official Notes

There was plenty of activity at Du Pont in the past year. Among the highlights:

* With overseas business becoming a cornerstone of corporate expansion, it was heartening for Du Pont to be able to report another strong year for its engineering fibers in Europe, with sales of $360 million (582 million DM). The company reported that all technical fiber products contributed to this positive result, including Tyvek, whose sales rose 10%, and "Kevlar" para-aramid fiber, which showed a 13% increase. Sales for the entire operation have grown almost 10% on average from 1985-1990. A $555 million (900 million DM) investment in production facilities during that time, including the Tyvek plant in Luxembourg as well as Typar facilities at the same site, are offered as evidence of the continued commitment to that market.

* Demand for high quality barrier protective apparel, such as Tyvek Pro.Tech, was strong in Europe as well. Du Pont Europe also projects that sales of Sontara products will grow 15-20% this year.

* In the environmental area, Du Pont Canada took a step to help protect its significant stake in the disposables industry by providing a grant of $250,000 to Knowaste Technologies, Mississauga, Ontario, to support research into recycling technologies for disposable personal care products. The grant, announced in late April, will "help provide Knowaste with funds for the continued development and demonstration of technology to recycle disposable diapers." The grant is designed to lead to the start-up of a pilot plant in the Halton region, west of Toronto, by the end of the year. Du Pont Canada produces a number of materials used in the baby and adult diaper and feminine hygiene markets, including "Lycra" XA spandex fiber, "Evlon" polyolefin film, "Plexafil" polyethylene pulp, "Dacron" polyester fiber and Sontara spunlaced fabrics.

* Recognized as one of the top 10 new nonwoven products of the past year by NONWOVENS INDUSTRY was Du Pont's U.S. line of spunlaced and woven thermal protective suits. The suits are designed to protect workers from molten chemicals and high pressure steam, using layers of flame resistant Kevlar and "Nomex" fibers. The heart of the suits is their quilted, inner liner with from five to seven layers of spunlaced Nomex, Kevlar and a vapor barrier material called "Hyperm." The four new designs--a high pressure steam suit, a high temperature breathable suit, a low temperature breathable suit and a thermal suit--are worn in industries ranging from nuclear power to plastics manufacturing.

* Du Pont's Sontara plant in Old Hickory was the recipient earlier this year of the "runner-up" award in Computational Systems' Predictive Maintenance Program of the Year contest. Plants nationwide were given the opportunity to compete in the contest. Predictive maintenance, which resulted in an average cost savings of survey participants of $1.38 million in 1989, is the practice of determining current machinery health and then predicting when maintenance will be required. The Du Pont success story has actually enabled the plant to add capacity without new equipment by simply predicting what needs to be fixed before it breaks.

The 1991-92 Marketing Focus

Four men in influential positions within the Du Pont nonwovens operations sitting around a conference room table have very strong feelings on where the company is headed in the 1990s. But, not surprisingly, their responses sounded much the same chord.

"There will be a very strong move towards globalization," according to Mr. Wittauer.

"There will be a strong commitment to continuous improvements as well as a proactive emphasis on the environment," said Mr. Donnelly.

Added Mr. Axtell: "Increased customer satisfaction is what it will be all about."

"Using global resources wherever the need is there to produce specific products for local application. When it makes sense we will bring that technology and application to other regions," Mr. West contributed.

Finally, Mr. Wittauer concluded: "There are nonwovens businesses and there are nonwovens businesses. We have elected to concentrate in the technology intensive areas of this nonwovens field, where our polymer know-how, our spin-lay-down technology and our global network can make the difference. That's where we will focus our resources and energy."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:company profile
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Freudenberg Nonwovens Group.
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