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NWA founder ventures into needlepunch production: establishment of Nonwovens of America broadens wipe manufacturer's scope.

According to president Jeff Slosman, National Wiper Alliance's recent move into needlepunch nonwovens production is a matter of happenstance. A few months ago, the Asheville, NC-based company decided it was time to start looking into securing more manufacturing space, an effort that led it to the Owen facility, owned by Charles D. Owen Manufacturing. The facility is located in Swannanoa, NC, and occupies 23 acres with 500,000 square feet under roof.

Referred to as the "campus," this huge manufacturing site included 22 textile looms, flocking lines and six needle punch lines. Content to stick with its core business, wipes converting, National Wiper Alliance (NWA) originally planned on selling all of this equipment but when an opportunity in the needlepunch blanket market came along, Slosman decided to hold on to the site's newest needleloom, a 5.4 meter airlay line, marking not only his first venture outside of the wipes market but also his entry into nonwovens manufacturing through the creation of a new company called Nonwovens of America (NOA).

"It's really been amazing," Slosman says. "We've never made nonwovens roll goods before so there has been a lot of education. We plan to move into many new markets, some where our wipes are currently used and some where they are not."

These markets include automotives and geotextiles in addition to the existing blanket business the facility was known for. Additionally, Slosman hopes to vertically integrate his two businesses. "Part of our long-term goal is the vertical integration of Nonwo-yens of America materials into National Wiper Alliance converting operations," Slosman says. "The development of needlepunch nonwovens into wipes is key long term strategy for the site."

While Slosman did not speculate on which wipes markets NOA will target, he did explain that the use of needlepunch material in the wipes market has been limited by costs. The higher production costs of needlepunch make it more attractive for durable applications than disposable wipes. One area where needlepunch has made significant inroads in wipes is disposable bath cloths used in the care of bedridden hut this market is already fairly saturated by Nonwoven Solutions and Sage Products.

In the meantime, NOA and NWA will function independently of each other but will remain at the same Swannanoa location. NWA's two smaller Facilities, a production plant in Asheville and a leased warehouse space in Fletcher, NC, will close, moving all operations into one area. The new campus with its nine buildings also allows for the expansion of the converting and distribution services, which NWA has been growing since 1996.

During the past 1.7 years, NWA has grown from a maker of industrial and consumer wipes with only 2,000 square feet of space and two employees to an internationally recognized manufacturer of wipes for a number of markets including aerospace, automotive, industrial and manufacturing, food service and hospitality, medical and healthcare, government and military and janitorial and sanitation as well as retail.

Last year, NWA's business received a significant boost when it received its ISO 9001:2008 certification last year from NSF International Strategic Registrations. "The certification validates the systems in place to assure our customers of consistent products and services," says Slosman adding that the certification has already increased NWA's converting operations exponentially. "It shows people we are serious about quality and consistency."

By Karen Bitz-McIntyre, Editor
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Author:Bitz-McIntyre, Karen
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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