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Stearns Technical Textiles.

Stearns Technical Textiles

100 Williams Street Cincinnati, OH 45215 (513)948-5273; Fax (513)948-5281

Worldwide Nonwovens Sales: $60 million (almost all North America) Key Personnel: Morley Thompson, Sr., president; Morley Thompson, Jr., manufacturing; Charles Mason, purchasing, Tom Grau, research and development; Michael Lutes, Canada; Gene Busby, Consumer; Bob Duke, Health Care; Joe Bierschwal, quality Plants: Cincinnati, OH; Red Bank, OH (distribution and converting); Camden, OH (fabricating for Filters Div.); London, KY (lightweight card and bond nonwovens); Montreal, Canada (heavyweight specialty nonwovens, needled and spray bonded technologies, highloft consumer products); Trenton, Ontario, Canada (lightweight coverstock, fabric softener substrate, thermal bonded); Brampton, Ontario, Canada (highloft, spray bonded for automotive applications); also fusible coating at Cincinnati and London sites. Processes: Thermal Bonded, Needlepunched, Spray Bonded, Resin Bonded, Print Bonded, Highloft Major Markets: Absorbent Products, Fabric Softeners, Filtration, Medical, Automotive, Apparel, Consumer Products Notes: When you've got a winning formula, stick with it seems to be the philosophy at Stearns Technical Textiles, a company that has maintained a competitive edge by concentrating on only one geographic area but a variety of markets and done well by doing so. Stearns is unique in that it is one of the very few U.S. Top Companies that has not made the jump across the seas with production or even distribution facilities and is extremely content to keep it that way.

Describing the company as strictly a North American supplier, Morley Thompson, company president told NONWOVENS INDUSTRY, "We have our plate full right now" and reported no plans for overseas expansion in the foreseeable future.

While not looking to expand internationally, Stearns has done some expansion at home in the past year. The company opened a new plant in Camden, OH and added capacity at its London, KY facility. The Camden plant does mostly fabricating for the company's Filters Div., while the new line in London is a dry laid card and bond line. Lightweight nonwovens are the target of the new line, which has greater width than present lines. "Our business has been up recently," said Mr. Thompson. "We are expanding to keep up with the growth."

Business at Stearns is still divided into three major operating groups. The largest, the Industrial Group, now accounts for about 65% of total sales. The second largest--and fastest growing--area with 25% of sales, is the Consumer Group, which Mr. Thompson reported is "up substantially" this year. Included in this group is the Health Care Div., which has been particularly strong this year as well. The third group, Filter Products, brings in 10% of total sales.

"Our biggest increase this year has been in lightweight nonwovens," reported Mr. Thompson, "but branded products in our batting and stuffing markets also did well." Laundry products and filtration materials have also been good sellers this year, he said, while the automotive market--which only makes up a small percentage of overall business--was a little soft.

Stearns has expanded dramatically in the wet wipe area in the past year, entering major markets it had never before penetrated, as well as expanding its thermal bonded line of products.

Other areas that continue to be important without playing a major role in the roll goods side of the business are its contract converting and kier bleaching capabilities. "Our contract converting business is a growing part of our business, but is done as a service for our larger customers," Mr. Thompson explained. "We are not interested in forward integrating to compete with our customers."

Likewise, the kier bleaching capabilities at Stearns are complementary to the cotton supply from outside of the company. "We are purchasing more from outside suppliers than ever before," said Mr. Thompson. "We are using a lot of cotton, though; our facility here supplements what we can't get on the merchant market."

The North American Market Concept

Stearns is positioned in such a way that the U.S./Canada Free Trade Agreement should affect it positively from all angles. With three plants in Canada as well as several in the U.S., the reduction of tariff barriers between the two countries will aid in production and marketing cooperation among various locations. So far, no real impact has been seen by the company. "We have been more affected by other changes in the industry than by the Free Trade Agreement," said Mr. Thompson. "Long term it will be very important, however. We see goods going back and forth between the two countries; people will start treating North America as one big country." He also said that the recession has not affected Stearns' business as much as other industry changes, such as the reduction of competition in some areas. It also does not hurt that the company sells into approximately 40 different markets, making it almost recession-proof in many ways.

For the future, "more of the same," said Mr. Thompson. The company will remain in the markets it finds so profitable now and work on refining its quality and service in these areas. "Our new theory is to be more responsive to customers needs," he said. "We have instituted a total quality program throughout the company and we want to encourage a focus on quality and service."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Rodman Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:company profile
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:J.W. Suominen Oy.
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