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Slaying dragons, nonwovens style.

nonwovens have come a long way in fighting other textile |giants' in many areas; the future holds more dragons, so nonwovens producers must choose their battles carefully

Nonwovens have slain many dragons and even killed giants in many arenas around the world. On occasion, they have also made a mouse out of a mammoth and presently they are entering various areas of the conquerors' domain.

History offers many examples. Some of the more memorable ones or those that have enjoyed the publicity range from one extreme to another. Floor coverings were one of the first major markets to feel the capabilities of the nonwoven some 30 years ago. Many limited use consumer products from diapers to health care have been dominated by nonwovens in more recent years.

The geotextile, filtration, interlining, home furnishing and building/construction industries are some of the newer markets that now think of the nonwoven as the standard product for a particular end use.

If history is an indication of what the future holds for us then we can expect more of the same. We will no doubt see other products and markets yield to nonwovens as the raw materials, processing and marketing improves in our industry.

One of the major questions that most nonwoven producers ask today is, "Should we continue to do more of what we are doing and do it better or should we go after new markets?" This is a complicated question and there are many factors to be considered before arriving at the correct conclusion. However, in either case, the nonwovens. industry will grow and advance if it is to become more dominant in a given market or to begin chipping away at new ones.

It has been said that the single or limited use markets such as diapers, feminine care, health care and wipes are mature and there is little growth or potential here for nonwovens. Yet each year, or sometimes each month, we see a new and different wipe. Some of these have very unique characteristics and some are for an application that did not even exist before.

Replacing another component is another area of growth for nonwovens, such as what we see in feminine care, diapers and other large markets. Even in markets such as apparel interlinings where there has been little or no growth in the U.S. and imports continue to put on the pressure, there can be potential for additional business.

Products can be presented that will offer advantages in areas such as automation of garments; apparel is still a key to success particularly in the U.S. Nonwovens offer the best opportunities to present the materials that will be most suitable for such processes and products.

A similar approach will be taken by nonwovens for other markets where they offer advantages to the coater, laminator or converter of end use products that allow lowering the cost and time required to make a better final product.

Nonwovens Success: The Secret

This brings us to the reasons why this one part of the so-called textile industry is doing so well compared to the more typical woven or knit fabrics. Nonwovens have the ability to meet the needs of many converters and end users better than any other known material. It may be strength versus weight, smooth or abrasive surface, elongation to fit a mold or complete stability. It may be width, thickness, the blend of or type of fibers or cost and availability that answers the needs of the market. The many nonwoven processes and finishing capabilities offer a wider range of materials than any of those that could compete with them.

During the recent issues of this magazine and in the Nonwovens Industry EXECUTIVE REPORT, you have seen market details and statistics giving us a more detailed picture of how nonwovens are continuing their quest for different markets. Conversations and comments from nonwoven producers and users confirm the continued growth of our industry. The major markets and major users are well known to most of us and their activities are somewhat easily observed.

However, there are many end users that do not get the attention of the press or even other suppliers and producers that are consuming millions of yards of nonwovens every year in the U.S. and worldwide.

Markets for nonwovens have become so large and complex it is almost impossible to categorize them. If you look at the list of end uses for nonwovens I listed in the December, 1992 issue of NONWOVENS INDUSTRY, you will find more than 300 different markets/products. Is it any wonder that most nonwoven manufacturers are perplexed as to how to direct their product development and marketing for the future? This is the major reason many small nonwoven manufacturers as well as large ones enlist the assistance of outside resources.

Some companies have selected the marketing path of making products that can be produced with their current or similar equipment and capabilities. This has its obvious advantages but it also may not be the better approach. As an example, a company produces carded webs and has most of its business in coverstock and wipes. It may find that spun-bonds are getting the upper hand in both markets. Does the carded web producer look for other markets and increase its production of carded webs or does it produce another fabric or material for the same markets and customers?

Most marketing situations are complex and many factors must be considered before committing to your long range plan. In the example above, we may find that the carded web producer elects to add some type of finishing or needlepunching to his or her existing carding capabilities to be able to offer new, different and unique products to the same markets he or she has been as serving as well as going after new markets. The key to success and the slaying of the dragon is,understanding both your own capabilities as well as the specifics of the dragon. There are still many dragons out there, so pick the one that fits your sword.

Tom Holliday is a well known consultant to the nonwovens and textile industries whose column on a wide range of nonwovens-related topics appears every other month in NONWOVENS INDUSTRY. Mr Holliday operates his consultancy firm, Thomas M. Holliday & Associates, out of his office at 25 Edgewood Road, Yardley, PA 19067; 215-493-2501.
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Title Annotation:textile industry market
Author:Holliday, Tom
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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