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If a nonwovens company wants to succeed today, it has to be based on a worldwide marketing strategy. It is that simple, a number of noted industry speakers told a gathering of close to 300 people at INDA-TEC '90 last month.

Globalization, internationalization and other multisyllabic words were the general themes of the four day gathering in Baltimore, MD. An opening day series of papers and panel discussions focused on the impact of the impending 1992 initiative in Western Europe and of the opening of Eastern Europe on the worldwide nonwovens business. Even the range of technical papers during the final three days of concurrent sessions often dealt with technology available around the world and its applications for the domestic nonwovens industry.

At INDA-TEC '90 the award for the best paper presented at INDA-TEC 89 in Philadelphia last year was awarded to Martin Lindemann, of Sequa Chemicals, for his paper "Emulsion Polymers Containing Interpenetrating Polymer Networks as Nonwoven Binders."

INDA announced that it will be returning to resort locations after two years of holding the meeting in northeast cities. INDA-TEC 91 is scheduled for April 9-12 near Orlando, FL. Keynoter On Globalization

Setting the theme for the next few days, Karl Engels, vice president of Hoechst AG, Frankfurt, West Germany, took a trip over the Atlantic to offer the North American nonwovens industry his views on what the industry should do in the face of impending globalization. The first thing, he advised, is to realize the incredible mobility involved in everything from the workforce to brand names to technology.

"All of this indicates that individual needs are the same everywhere, or else there is the illusion that they are," Mr. Engels said. "The time for a global society has arrived."

Mr. Engels pointed out that raw material supply is now global, financial services are available to anyone or any company and "even know-how is more evenly spread now." The access to this information knows no geographical borders any longer. "Some of what was know-how in the past is now common knowledge," he added. An Editor's Viewpoint

With the North American nonwovens industry as a topic, Nonwovens Industry editor Michael Jacobsen, in his talk called "Is The Nonwovens Industry Headed Towards Global Gridlock?," pointed out that "rarely has there been a time when the attention of North American nonwovens companies has focused so sharply on one market as it is now on Europe. Our little industry,' he added, -has certainly not been blind to the opportunities that have presented themselves.'

Roll goods companies, such as DuPont, which expanded its Tyvek production in Luxembourg; Fiberweb North America, whose joint venture in Sweden was so successful that both companies were bought out; Scott Nonwovens, with a significant business in coverstock in Europe; and Dexter Nonwovens, which did about 30% of its business overseas even before it bought Storalene, have set the pace for the rest of the domestic nonwovens producers. Relative latecomers to Europe are Veratec, which has built on the former Kendall strength in Europe, and Reemay, which has just begun. Other leading U.S. roll goods companies, such as Freudenberg Nonwovens, Freudenberg Spunweb, Hoechst Celanese and Bonar Fabrics, are all daughters of European parents and are well aware of the necessity of a global outlook.

Machinery suppliers are also feeling the call of Europe and have responded through the usual joint ventures, acquisitions such as the Nordson purchase of Meltex, licensing agreements or, in the case of Honeycomb and Sandy Hill, by being bought themselves by European companies.

"In the end, it is probably only necessary to look at the moves Procter & Gamble has made in recent months," Mr. Jacobsen said, moves that included expansions and acquisitions in Spain, Portugal and Turkey and a strong move into the U.K. disposable diaper business. "When P&G talks, a good portion of the nonwovens industry listens."

In the long term, globalization and 1992 will mean there will be some significant multinational powers in Europe ready to move to the U.S., much as American companies jumped the ocean to Europe in the past two decades. There will certainly be fewer, larger nonwovens producers as U.S., European and Japanese companies contract because of the need for multinational strength in a world economy

Mr. Jacobsen felt that 1992 -will not radically change the way the North America nonwovens companies do business." Why? "Simply because most of the big companies are already operating globally, which is good news for them but bad news for smaller companies just now considering moving overseas. The vast majority of international nonwovens expansions is already well along." Technologies For Companies That Are Competing Worldwide

"Because this industry is now spread over much of the world, there is a need for recognition of the concept of a world class operation," advised consultant D.K. Smith, Mesa, AZ, in his paper "Technologies for Companies Competing Worldwide.- -This concept, of course, denotes an organization that has the technical, operational, marketing and business functions to compete effectively with comparable product suppliers anywhere in the world.'

This world class organization must field a world class research team, operations group, marketing function and business unit. "The trend towards globalization carries with it a responsibility to function in a world class manner, something our industry has to adopt as a standard.'

Dr. Smith attempted to answer the question "What technologies will be critical for success in the 1990's?" by reviewing a recent five year patent analysis. One observation was that melt blown technology received the greatest patent attention in the past five years by a rather wide margin; it was included in a full 27% of the nonwovens patents issued. This figure is skewed a bit because of the strong effort by Kimberly-Clark to establish a patent estate in this technical area, but in all there were 18 different companies that secured patents in melt blown technology.

The next most frequently patented nonwovens technology classifications were dry form and spunbond, both with slightly more than 11% of the recognized patents. Following in rather close succession after the melt blown category was laminate technology, thermal bond technology and spunlace technology, all at about 8% of the total.

From the current study it is apparent that the interest in an expected growth of the melt blown, spunbond and spunlace technologies are fully warranted," Dr. Smith concluded. Further, combination technologies and stretch bond laminate technologies must be included. Also, there will be further developments for and use of the dry form thermal bond technology."

What does all of this mean?

For worldwide producers of nonwovens, "these results do give some guidance in priorities and resource commitment. These results rather clearly delineate those technologies that will see the greatest development during the current decade."

For product and market development managers, "it reinforces the emphasis that has been given to working closely with customer organizations."

For the regional producers, "this study may provide some guidance in further exploiting their existing technologies and likely will suggest potential directions for future capabilities."

For the nonwovens manufacturer looking to expand its technology overseas, "it suggests that process licensing and similar actions will be a more common and more important activity." Nonwovens In The Far East

It is well known that the Pacific Rim countries have enjoyed phenomenal growth in the past decade. The nonwovens industries in each of the four primary countries-Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China-have grown right along with this general expansion, according to industry consultant Thomas Dunn, of Dunn Enterprises, Winston-Salem, NC.

The increase in per capita GNP in 1986 showed a range of 3.5-8% for Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea and only 1.5% for the U.S. Exports from the U.S. also decreased in that time, while in Japan exports grew 62%, China 75%, Taiwan 100% and Korea 108%. "In the nonwovens industry, in spite of the fact that the Asian countries entered at a much later date than the United States and Europe, the progress made in their efforts to catch up with the existing technology and production have been impressive," Mr. Dunn said.

Published figures list 1985 (the latest reliable data) nonwovens production in the four primary countries at about 2,285 million sq. yards. Japan was the largest producer with 1,453 million sq. yards; Taiwan, 254 million sq. yards; Korea, 330 million sq. yards; and China, 248 million sq. yards. Mr. Dunn also offered his insights into the potential for these nonwovens businesses:

The nonwoven roll goods production of all four major Asian producers is about one-third the production in the U.S.

'All four countries are experiencing rapid growth in nonwovens production. Taiwan doubled its production between 1976 and 1986. China increased its production ten-fold.

*Future growth emphasis for all four countries will be directed towards the more sophisticated technologies such as spunbond, spunlace and melt blown.

*Partly due to the thrifty tradition of the people, more durable nonwovens are produced in Asia than disposables.

*As increased national prosperity augments the disposable income of consumers, spending patterns will change in favor of nonwovens. The Japanese housewife who was very reluctant to buy disposable baby diapers only a few years ago depends on them today The same was true with Chinese women buying sanitary napkins.

*With more than 1.2 billion people, China provides excellent impetus for growth of the nonwovens industry. Recognizing the need to meet both domestic and export requirements, the government is making concentrated efforts to increased production and quality. INDA Welcomes Blackburn As Technical Director INDA-TEC '90 served as a crash course for new technical director William Blackburn (left) in the workings of INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, and its technical committees as president John Mead welcomed him into the fold. Mr. Blackburn had only joined INDA the previous week from his previous position at Abandaco, a converter of nonwovens based in Decatur, AL.

Mr. Blackburn, as technical director, will be responsible for promoting the worldwide technological interests Of the membership; planning, organizing and implementing the technical programs of the association; coordinating technical contributions to the INDA Journal of Nonwovens Research; and serving as a spokesman for the association on technical matters.

Mr. Blackburn replaces interim technical director Eric Attle, who joined INDA earlier this year. Dr. Attle, who had retired last year from Courtaulds Fibers, promises he will stay retired this time.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on INDA's new technical director William Blackburn; Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry annual technical meeting
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Disposing of the disposables.
Next Article:Nordlys celebrates opening of new facility in France.

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