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New name, new plans for FiberTech Group.

While the name of our 12th largest company is new to our Top Companies survey, the company itself is not. FiberTech was created last year when Scott Nonwovens was purchased by The Polymer Group Inc., an InterTech Group company based in N. Charleston, SC. Scott Paper made a decision in 1991 to sell its successful nonwovens business in order to focus its resources on strategic core businesses. The sale was finalized in late October, 1992 and FiberTech joined the large and growing InterTech organization, which reportedly has more than 40 businesses. At the time of the purchase, The InterTech Group also held a 20% interest in Reemay, the 10th largest manufacturer of nonwovens; it has since sold that interest.

As a result of the purchase, the Scott Nonwovens name was changed to FiberTech Group, Inc. and its headquarters were moved from Scott Plaza in Philadelphia, PA to its Landisville, NJ facility. The move was official January 1, 1993.

With new ownership in place, several management changes were initiated. FiberTech is now managed by a team of three people: John Cleaver, vice president-marketing, sales and technology, James Schaeffer vice president-manufacturing and Thomas Phillips, vice president-finance and administration. This form of management is used extensively among the InterTech companies and according to Mr. Cleaver, "The system is working efficiently. The InterTech principals have been very accessible and supportive, but expect us to manage and grow the business," is how Mr. Cleaver described it. "One major change has been with the speed with which decisions are made. Unlike a large corporation, we can get a response on major decisions in a day," he said.

The other big change since the purchase, said Mr. Cleaver, has been the directive from the new owners to grow the business, which he said would have been difficult to do under Scott Paper leadership. "Now we talk about growing the business, both in terms of our base businesses and new markets. We could have had new owners come in, anxious to do new things and not recognize the need to fund upgrades to existing technologies. InterTech has adopted a very balanced approach," he said.

"This is evidenced by the fact that they are so supportive of our program to upgrade our carding capabilities," continued Mr. Cleaver. This project was financed by Scott prior to the sale and for the past two years, the company has been developing capability to offer more uniform and lighter weight products. "We are working hard to assure that we are the favored source of carded fabrics for the absorbent products markets, as well as being aggressive in the development of new technologies and markets," said Mr. Cleaver.

As the company changed hands last year, it also initiated a move into spunbonded nonwovens, a technology that had long been under consideration at Scott Nonwovens. The company joined with Avgol Inc., a spunbonded manufacturer in Holon, Israel to form a joint venture known as FiberGol. A new line targeting lightweight applications was started up in July (Avgol has two other spunbonded lines) and the response from FiberTech customers has been positive, said Mr. Cleaver. "We will be marketing FiberGol fabrics through our existing marketing channels and will, of course, be seeking new opportunities that dovetail our other expanded market strategies. The quality of this material is excellent and the operation very cost effective, so we would hope to be adding a fourth line in the near future."

Investigating new markets and technologies is the philosophy across the board at FiberTech, which is planning to enhance the flexibility of its spunlacing line. "We'd like to be able to target a broader product range," explained Mr. Cleaver. "We need expanded capabilities to capitalize on new opportunities in the medical, industrial and wipe markets."

Likewise, in melt blown technology, expansion is the focus. "We have several developmental programs in the evaluation stage at this time. The results of these programs will determine the configuration of the line or lines that we build," said Mr. Cleaver. "The products currently being tested represent a broad range of properties and applications; we're targeting those markets that prove to have the most potential. We will be expanding melt blown capacity," said Mr. Cleaver. "We are working to determine the required time frame."

FiberTech's core concentration of business today remains in thermal bonded coverstock applications, but Mr. Cleaver does not see a conflict with the new businesses. "Relative to the FiberGol venture, we are not replacing existing business. People who were already buying spunbonded materials have requested that we add this to our line because they would prefer to buy from us if we had the product. As far as the market expansion plans are concerned, we are adding sufficient resources to assure that we grow both our base business as well as the new business," he responded.

In the carded area, the above-mentioned upgrade program, which includes a two-phase uniformity improvement plan, continues. Products from this program are tradenamed "Iso-Lite" hygiene coverstock. "Ultra-DryLoft," another new material targeted at the absorbent products market, provides outstanding fluid transport properties, both in strikethrough after repeated wettings and in dryness. "The concept here is that our customers purchase the fabric in flat form for shipping and converting efficiencies then bulk it into a thick, low density material in their converting operation," Mr. Cleaver said.

When Scott Nonwovens was sold, the nonwovens facility in Neunkirchen, Germany was part of the sale. This facility, has, up to the present, manufactured thermal bonded cover stock fabrics. "The European market continues to present a competitive challenge because of an oversupply situation that has led to very low pricing," said Mr. Cleaver. "We continue to offset this situation by exporting material to markets where there is growing demand and by utilizing some of this capacity to supplement our needs in the U.S."

Mr. Cleaver added that "our plan for Europe is similar to that in the U.S.--expand technology capability and enter new markets while meeting the growing needs of existing customers."

Other news at FiberTech includes the appointment of Shoji Fujita as a marketing representative for FiberTech in the Pacific Rim. Mr. Fujita will be focusing on new markets to support the company's expansion plans.

FiberTech has also formed a subsidiary named Technetics Group and has purchased an 84,000 sq. foot facility in Vineland, NJ. The Technetics Group will be the home for a new manufacturing unit producing a line of unique wiping materials and will also serve as a FiberGol warehouse and shipping facility. It is planned that Technetics will convert niche specialty products targeted at a number of end markets.

"We are serious about creating new products plus entering some new markets," said Mr. Cleaver in summary. With new owners and a freshly established and diverse corporate direction now in place, look for more to come from this company in the future.

FiberTech Group, Inc. P.O. Box 360, Landisville, NJ 08326 609-697-1600; Fax: 609-697-2515 Worldwide Nonwoves Sales: $135 million U.S. Nonwovens Sales: $110 million

Key Personnel: John Cleaver, vice president-marketing, sales and technology; James Schaeffer, vice president-manufacturing; Thomas Phillips, vice president-finance and administration; Gary Holt, director-absorbent products business; Robert Johnson, director-medical/industrial busines; Graham Baker, plant manager-Rogers, AR; Jorg Bahlmann, plant manager-Neunkirchen, Germany; Achim Gunder, director of marketing-Europe

Plants: Rogers, AR; Landisville, NJ; Neukirchen, Germany

Process: Carded--Thermal and Ahsive Bonded, Spunlaced, Spunbonded, Melt Blown, Composites

Brand Names: Dura-Tex, SoftTouch, Softlin, Iso-Lite

Major Market: Absorbent Product Coverstock, Medical, Industrial
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Title Annotation:International Top 30
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:1245
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