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Looking back at IDEA '90 and ahead into the nonwovens future.

Looking Back At IDEA '90 And Ahead Into The Nonwovens Future

Most of us that attended the IDEA '90 expo were asked "What was most significant?" or "What did you see that dramatized the directions for our future?" These were difficult questions to answer, I was told by numerous people at the expo. When I heard the question and then listened for the answer, I typically heard a pause or a hesitation. Answers varied - from comments about improved products to process innovations and even significant changes within companies - but they were usually flavored with indications that there were no dramatic or exciting changes to be found.

However, there were many interesting innovations, significant improvements in products, advancements in equipment capabilities and stimulating opportunities/sales offered by some of the companies looking for nonwoven materials. I believe the most important observation was to note the overall forward movement of the industry. Grains of sand make mountains and those seemingly small things were numerous and positive; when you add them together we see the nonwovens industry continuing to grow and improve.

We did hear negative comments about financial problems within several companies, projects that did not meet expectations, costs accelerating to the breaking point, people discharged due to cutbacks and other remarks that demonstrate that every industry has its problems. However, the positive indicators far exceed the negatives.

There were new companies and people at IDEA '90, those that had not previously been that interested in non-wovens. As an example, I have been approached by several banks, brokers and investment firms in the past few months requesting information on nonwovens companies that might be possible acquisitions. Some of these have previously specialized in textiles, plastics or companies that had a new product that demonstrated exciting potential.

There are employment, personnel and placement companies entering and attempting to specialize in the nonwovens industry. There are chemical companies, machinery producers and raw material suppliers that have entered our industry recently or are currently evaluating entry here. They are now turning their attention to nonwovens. Why? The simple reason is that they believe the nonwovens industry is a better opportunity for them today and in the foreseeable future.

A Positive Outlook For The Nonwovens Future

The presentations and papers of the speakers overall exhibited a confidence and positive outlook for nonwovens, even though they believe the economic situation in general may not be that bright in the near future. Some suggested that because of many of the markets that non-wovens serve, even in a poor economic environment, nonwovens will be the better business.

Speaking of the environment, it appears that our industry is finally recognizing and beginning to deal with this issue. I believe that the 1990's will see our industry take action in the environmental arena along with many others that have observed, studied, waited for regulations and standards or otherwise procrastinated on this portion of our business that will make or break some products/companies during this decade.

We are all familiar with the business or marketing plan, the product screen, the new product plan or whatever it may be called, that gives the big picture for doing business. It contains information and plans for action regarding raw materials, machinery required, costs and many other parameters. However, until 1990 we had not seen the environment category listed anywhere in these plans. We may have seen yield, waste, manufacturing costs or whatever and thought that we had included it. In the 1990's, it had best have its own section in your business plan or your new product may bury your company with a few mistakes down the road.

Another area of interest noted at the expo was the continuation of our world getting smaller regarding some fundamental portions of our industry. We have seen considerable business done internationally with major items such as machinery, with raw materials that were required from a foreign country because of limited supply, or when labor or conversion costs dictated it. However, we now see companies building business in foreign countries for different reasons. These companies have become skilled and knowledgeable in international trading and can balance the factors that make for profitable marketing. Such factors as knowing the import/export situations, competitive environment in a particular country or location, optimum containerized shipping and providing service to customers in those foreign markets are allowing nonwovens producers to sell selected products to numerous contries today.

There are no substitutes for hard work and creative things and we have many companies in our industry that are equipped with these and other requirements to keep our industry growing. If you want to hear more on this subject, attend the next nonwovens expo.
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Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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