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The top end product manufacturers.

NONWOVENS INDUSTRY attempts to identify the most influential manufacturers and markets for nonwoven materials; diversity defines an industry with as many segments and niches as major players

The nonwovens industry has always been different things to different companies, a constantly changing kaleidoscope of images, determined by the perspective of each individual company. There is always another angle on the market, another niche a product can penetrate by only making a slight modification in width, fiber content or bonding method. The nonwovens industry is actually a collection of different industries, not defined by the word "nonwoven," but by the end use market into which the nonwoven is placed.

Nonwovens compete against other nonwovens, but they also compete against other industries, such as textiles, knits or paper. The answer to "what is a nonwoven?"--an age old question--remains elusive, an issue debated for years with no easy solution.

Those who make a baby diaper or a geotextile or a papermaker felt can certainly define the properties and advantages of their product, in terms of concrete characteristics and in terms of the competition. That, however, is not defining a nonwoven, but rather putting a finger on a very small point on a very large nonwovens map.

In this feature NONWOVENS INDUSTRY attempts to further define the nonwovens industry by defining the end use markets for nonwovens; just as our Top Companies feature in September looks at the roll goods producers, this article is designed to further clarify our business through the converters of the nonwoven roll goods and the areas to which a nonwoven goes once it leaves the manufacturer's warehouse.

The answer, quite simply, is everywhere. Never has a simple definition for such a complex industry proven more elusive. Taking that a step further, there is also no easy way of defining an individual market within the nonwovens industry.

As an example, no one can explain, in 50 words or less, the filtration segment of the nonwovens industry. First of all, there is no single filtration segment. A complex array of products for extremely specific market niches that compete with each other very rarely, if at all, makes up the "filtration segment" of nonwovens.

Nonwoven filters, however, do compete with woven and fiberglass filters, which means that the filtration segment cannot even be put under a nonwovens umbrella. Sometimes, a company makes filtration media and the actual filter cartridges into which the media is placed. Same umbrella, new twist. As one peers deeper into the pleated array of filtration media, markets and segments, it becomes apparent that one umbrella is nowhere near large enough to hold all of these exceptions to the rule.

Then there's the question of when is a nonwoven a nonwoven and when is it a product? The answer here is, not surprisingly, "it depends." In the case of geotextiles, often a nonwoven is both a nonwoven roll good and a final product, ready for use under a road or in a pond. But when it's a filter that is the product, the end product is often unrecognizable from the roll from which it came. Especially in high-tech semiconductor or pharmaceutical applications, the final product is cut, twisted, played with and changed so much that many would have a great deal of trouble identifying it as a nonwoven at all.

Also, some categories actually do not connect what they are manufacturing with the nonwoven that at some point was involved in the manufacture. Papermaker felts, a huge industry for nonwoven needlepunched felts, is not one that regularly thinks of itself as a user of nonwovens. Felts, like the often-debated high loft and fiberglass segments, are often not considered nonwovens by the very companies who make them. Yet they make up one of the largest segments--by volume--in the industry.

The Top End Product Manufacturers--The Reasoning

In order to define the top end product manufacturers of nonwovens, which is the ultimate goal of this research, the terms had to be defined. An end product manufacturer takes a nonwoven roll good and makes a product to sell, through any number of outlets, distributors or marketing arrangements.

Within this framework, the product can be the actual roll good itself--as is--such as in the case of geotextiles, or a product that requires other components, treatments or processing be added to the nonwoven to make an actual product--as in the case of baby diapers or wipes.

A further clarification is necessary for markets like filtration and automotives. Again, picking a point where a line must be drawn, a car is not a nonwoven market. The converter in this case is not Ford or General Motors, but the company that sells the headliner, hoodliner, trunkliner, package shelf or door panel to the automobile manufacturer.

Likewise, the manufacturer of a pool filter or HVAC filter in a home heating system is not the actual nonwovens converter, although here the lines are less clear. These companies sometimes sell filter media to outside sources as well as using it inhouse to develop final filter products for applications such as swimming pool filters.

The lines blur even further. Blood filtration is certainly a major filter market, but it is also a major force in the medical area. Medical nonwovens run the gamut from operating room gowns and scrubs to sheets, pillow cases, shoe covers and a newly developed end use, as sheets for laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures. Face masks are also generally classified under the medical umbrella, although they are actually acting as a filter. Once the face mask is used in a chemical protection application, then it moves into the filtration segment. Or is it protective apparel?

Obviously, end product markets for nonwovens do not fall along easily definable lines. Within the industry, and sometimes within a given segment, it's comparing apples to oranges. There is simply no way to compare sales of geotextiles to baby diapers to automotive products to tampons.

In addition, a great many of the companies involved in this article were very reluctant to provide sales or marketshare information. For these reasons, company sales figures are not included in this article. Many of the companies are publicly owned; however, the division that makes the nonwoven product is hidden under an umbrella of its own, which in turn falls under a larger division in the even bigger parent company. To attempt to break out sales figures for this tiny portion of a multi-billion dollar company would not provide an accurate picture of the market.

The Top End Product Manufacturers--The Candidates

Beyond defining what an end product manufacturer is, there is also the task of defining which markets should be included in the top markets of the nonwovens business. Some of these were logical choices. Baby diapers consume the largest segment of the nonwovens business. Medical and feminine hygiene products are also major markets in everyone's opinion. Baby wipes, with its variety of manufacturers and product choices, is another interesting, highly competitive market.

The durables side was less easy to define. Geotextiles, because of sheer volume (and despite the fact that most end products are also roll goods) are included. It is also for this reason that papermaker felts, an often-overlooked segment, is also included. Filtration, despite the incredible diversity of the business, was grouped as one segment with a variety of branches. The automotive business, a market closer to the consumer because the actual nonwoven material can be seen by the average American, was another logical choice for inclusion.

Again, in this initial attempt at defining the most influential manufacturers, the line had to be drawn many times. In order to keep markets in perspective, major players in each market are limited to the top two or three. Another line was drawn geographically; this survey lists only the U.S. manufacturers of nonwoven products.

Admittedly, this article does not include every major nonwoven market--roofing, adult incontinence and several apparel applications are just a few that come to mind--but it does take into consideration a great many markets and their impact on nonwovens.

Baby Diapers: The Battle Of The Brands

Logically, the place to start is with the most influential market for nonwovens, baby diapers. While there might be some argument to this claim from needle manufacturers and geotextile producers, baby diapers make up a $4 billion market with 16-17 billion diapers produced each year, not a market that can be easily overlooked. Also, recent product innovations--such as upstanding leg cuffs--have dramatically increased the use of nonwoven fabric per diaper.

It is also one of the easier markets to define. In the U.S., two major branded players--Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH and Kimberly-Clark, Dallas, TX--make up 80% of the market (P&G leads with approximately 48% between its "Luvs" and "Pampers" brands.) Both companies have made the headlines more often in the past year than almost any other company in any part of the business.

Procter & Gamble, in particular, has been leading the field with new product introductions and geographical expansions. Much of the news about P&G centered on the recently approved merger with the Italian Finaf group (see December, 1991 NONWOVENS INDUSTRY) and the controversy leading up to this decision. P&G has also made news around the world with its ground-breaking moves into Eastern Europe and South America, through the establishment of a consumer products division and several joint ventures in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the former Soviet Union and Argentina.

Closer to home in the U.S., Procter & Gamble introduced nationally its "Pampers Phases" and "Luvs Phases" baby diapers with multiple sizes and features to fit a growing baby's development. The company is also hard at work on compostable diaper testing; a prototype 100% compostable diaper is currently in test market in two U.S. locations. P&G hopes to have the product for sale--at least on a limited basis--sometime this year.

Kimberly-Clark, not to be outdone, also introduced a "phases" type product when it debuted its "Huggies Baby Steps" products last fall. Skipping the test market stage, it introduced the five-size line in place of its existing Huggies line. K-C also manufactures "Huggies Pull-Ups" disposable training pants, which as yet are unchallenged in the market by a P&G product.

On the private label side, many of the smaller converters are having an extremely hard time keeping up with innovations by the branded leaders. Most are still adding last year's "bells and whistles" of standing leg cuffs, foam waistbands and gender specific offerings to their product line. For a great deal of the economy producers, phases-type products are still in the planning stage.

However, several producers are managing to keep up with the leaders and jump on the phases bandwagon. Among these are Weyerhaeuser, Pope & Talbot and newly-formed Arquest, formerly Chicopee's baby diaper division.

The largest of these, Weyerhaeuser, Tacoma, WA (with an estimated 60% of the private label market), recently unveiled a line of phases products called "Ultra in Stages." The line is available in five sizes, although the company reports there is no direct correlation to each specific P&G or K-C phases product; all sizes have improved fit with a narrower crotch and stages 3-5 have wider tapes and landing zones. The new diapers will have a leakguard nonwoven in pink or blue and a pink or blue soft-stretch waistband, as well as improved superabsorbent placement. The Ultra in Stages products began shipping last month.

Number two player (with approximately 35% of the private label market) Pope & Talbot, Portland, OR, also introduced a phases line, which should be available this month. P&T's line includes two infant sizes, one crawler, one toddler and two walkers, eliminating the newborn size currently made by P&G.

Arquest, which should probably be listed as an "up and comer" among the private label producers, also introduced a "Baby Strides" phases line last fall. The company, which was formed last June as a result of a leveraged management buyout of Chicopee's baby diaper division, is quickly moving up in the ranks in the absorbent products market.

Feminine Hygiene: Another Absorbent Market

Related to the baby diaper market is the feminine hygiene industry, where complementary products and machinery mean similar companies' involvement in the business. Procter & Gamble, with its "Always" line and Kimberly-Clark, with "New Freedom," "Kotex" and "Lightdays" pads, are both major players in this market, which represents $1.4 billion at the retail level.

The largest U.S. player, however, with about 27% of the market, is Johnson & Johnson's Personal Products Division, New Brunswick, NJ, which manufactures the "Carefree," "Stayfree" and "Sure & Natural" product lines. J&J made news this year with its introduction of a unique product. "Stayfree Ultra Plus" ultra thin pads with a sphagnum moss core. Introduced first in Canada last March as "Sure & Natural Prima," the company began U.S. distribution last September. The Stay free Ultra Plus product--positioned in the maxi pad category--is unique because of the ultra-thin shape and product core, which utilizes a sphagnum moss absorbent material.

J&J is also active overseas, promoting its "Vespre Silhouettes Plus" feminine hygiene products in the U.K. market.

Number two player K-C, with approximately 26% of the market, announced plans last November to build a $90 million feminine care products plant at its Neenah, WI facility. Expected to open late this year, the plant will manufacture Kotex and New Freedom product lines. K-C also introduced a new pad last summer that featured elastic side protectors to prevent leakage. The "Kotex Natural Curved Maxi" is actually a two-pad construction with a larger, outer pad and a smaller, inner pad for a thicker middle section.

P&G, which holds third place in the feminine hygiene market with a 24% share, has, like in the baby diaper market, been more active in Europe than in the U.S. It recently launched its Always line into the U.K., Belgium, Germany and France; product was expected to be on the shelves last month.

The other important--and often overlooked--segment of the feminine hygiene market for nonwovens is the tampon market, which represents approximately 38% of the overall feminine hygiene market. Two companies--Tambrands and Playtex--dominate the business in the U.S. with a combined 90% of the tampon business.

Market leader Tambrands, White Plains, NY, which holds close to 60% of the market, has been manufacturing "Tampax" tampons for more than 55 years. Last summer, it introduced "Compak" tampons with a patented plastic applicator that is one third shorter than the standard applicator yet contains a full-size tampon. Tambrands also targeted the environmentally-conscious consumer with its "Tampax Comfort Shaped Flushable Applicator" tampons, introduced last April. The new product has a comfortable rounded applicator and is still made of cardboard.

Playtex, Stamford, CT, followed suit with its introduction in May of "Playtex" tampons with a cardboard applicator. The new "Ultimates" tampons, were available last summer. Playtex has approximately 31% of the tampon market; tampons make up about 52% of Playtex's company sales.

Baby Wipes: A Competitive Consumer Industry

The market for baby wipes, again related enough to the baby diaper market that wipes are sometimes line extensions of baby diaper products, is defined by brand loyalty, price consciousness and perceived quality. The market has a high cost of goods sold and in economic hard times, is a very competitive market.

Baby wipes are mostly cellulose-based, although premium positioned products use more cloth-like fibers. The U.S. market for 1991 was about $297 million and the future of the industry looks good with the current baby boom in the U.S. Wipes are available for the most part in tubs or canisters, with tubs rapidly growing in marketshare, especially with the new developments in refill packs for "flat pack" tubs.

The largest baby wipe supplier is a new name in the absorbent product categories discussed thus far. The Wipes Division of Scott Paper, Philadelphia, PA, holds the lead with 37% of the U.S. market; its baby wipe products sold $131 million in 1991. Scott also manufactures dry industrial wipes and personal care consumer wipes. The company makes all its own roll goods for its wipe products and is operated completely independently from Scott Nonwovens.

Scott sells "Baby Fresh" wipes in flat pack tubs at the premium end of the market; these are promoted as big, thick wipes that can be unfolded with one hand. In the economy segment, Scott's offering is "Wash-A-Bye Baby," a product available in canisters and promoted as "not too thick, not too thin--just right!" In an interesting line extension, Scott also sells "Sofkins for Kids," a product positioned as "personal cleaning cloths" for bigger kids. The cloths are alcohol-free, hypoallergenic and flushable.

The second largest supplier in the wipes market is private label supplier Nice-Pak, Orangeburg, NY, which has showed tremendous initiative in competing with the larger branded producers. It manufactures wipes in tubs and canisters and also provides refill packs for its flat pack products. The products are hypoallergenic and alcohol free and are also available in smaller travel packs.

In terms of unit sales, L&F Products' "Chubs" and "Diaperene" products are major contenders, although in terms of sales the two combined only hold 16% of the market, putting them third overall. The main difference between Chubs and Diaperene is the positioning in the market. Both have brand loyalty and are available in canisters; Chubs is also available in tubs. Diaperene is considered the economy version, while Chubs is the thicker, premium product. The company also makes household and cleaning wipe products.

Number four player J&J holds approximately 11% of the market with its "Johnson's Baby Wash Cloths," sold primarily in flat tubs. Promotions for the product claim "For gentle cleaning--soft, thick and cushiony." The product undoubtedly capitalizes on the brand name recognition associated with Johnson's longstanding line of baby care products.

Worth a mention in the baby wipe segment, despite its current small (2-3%) market share is "Huggies Baby Wipes," a line extension from Kimberly-Clark introduced in the past year. The product is still only available in certain areas of the country--the east-central and northeast regions of the U.S. have not yet received product--but it is already taking marketshare away from some of the bigger players. Again, brand name recognition is surely a major factor in this particular baby wipe's growth; K-C is expected to be a major competitor to Scott in the premium tray pack market.

Medical Nonwovens: A Recession-Proof Industry?

One of the end use areas for nonwovens that has withstood the ups and downs of the current economic hard times and concern over "disposing of disposables" is the medical nonwovens industry, where the life-threatening impact of AIDS and other contagious diseases has put worker protection above economic and environmental concerns. The $1.5 billion medical nonwovens roll goods segment goes to end product manufacturers that produce a range of products for use in the operating room, on medical personnel and patients and in myriad, other uses throughout the hospital.

Largest among the end product manufacturers in the medical area is Baxter Healthcare, McGaw Park, IL, a division of Baxter International. The Hospital Group of Baxter Healthcare (which includes the Converters/Custom Sterile Division) makes up about 50.3% of total Baxter sales, the largest single unit at the company. Also included in this segment, however, are urological products, surgical instruments, intravenous solutions and other medical products.

In the nonwoven area, the "Converters" unit of the division manufacturers drapes and gowns, shoe covers and other scrub apparel. The "Custom Sterile" division produces pre-packed sterile kits for hospitals; these packages include drapes, gowns, tubing, towels, gauze, sutures, blades, syringes and other necessary supplies and include Baxter's (or other manufacturers') nonwoven products. Baxter Healthcare A Division of Baxter International 1300 Waukegan Road McGaw Park, IL 60085 (708) 473-3200 Manufacturing Facilities: Deerfield, IL; El Paso, TX Markets: surgical drapes, gowns and accessories

Second largest in the medical arena is Johnson & Johnson Medical, which is made up of the former J&J subsidiary Surgikos, manufacturer of "Barrier" drapes, gowns, head coverings and masks, and J&J Patient Care, a manufacturer of wound care and dressings. The Arlington, TX company uses its huge parent company connections to purchase a substantial amount of roll goods from sister company Chicopee. Johnson & Johnson Medical 2500 Arbrook Boulevard, P.O. Box 130 Arlington, TX 76004-0130 (817) 467-0211 Manufacturing Facilities: Arlington, TX; El Paso, TX; Sherman, TX; Clearwater, FL. Markets: hospital drapes, gowns and accessories, bandages and wound dressings

Disposables giant Kimberly-Clark appears again as a major converter of medical products. With its patented spunbonded/melt blown/spunbonded (SMS) composite achieving widespread success, the company continues to expand into new and different markets. It recently introduced an "Evolution 3" SMS ignition resistant fabric for laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures; the drape keeps instruments out of the operative field and provides a 12 x 13 inch fenestration for ease of use.

K-C manufactures "Evolution" and Evolution 3 drape and gown products, "SpunGuard" and "KimGuard" sterile wrap and "Control" x-ray and cover gowns. It obtains all its roll goods from its own Nonwovens Division.

Two other significant end product manufacturers in the medical area are Boundary Healthcare and White Knight Healthcare. Boundary, Columbus, MS, manufacturers nonwoven medical apparel for the operating room; this includes procedural drapes and packs and surgical and isolation gowns. It has manufacturing facilities at its Columbus headquarters and additional capacity at a plant in the Dominican Republic.

White Knight Healthcare, Asheville, NC, manufacturers a line of disposable surgical and medical apparel, including gowns and drapes, headwear, shoe covers, masks, underpads and pillow cases. The company was acquired last December from parent company WorkWear Corp. by a group of private investors; the company remains at its Asheville site, with manufacturing in Childersburg, AL, Douglas, AZ and Mexico.

Geotextiles: Products=Roll Goods=High Volume

Moving to the durables side of nonwovens--or at least to the geotextiles segment--means adjusting the mindset from small components of a baby diaper or sanitary protection product to the large, sprawling rolls of nonwovens that are used in a host of geotechnical applications. The geotextiles market--sometimes called geosynthetics or divided further into geomembranes--is one of those areas where nonwovens not only compete against themselves but also against other woven products as well. For the most part, nonwovens have fared well, using cost and performance to maintain two-thirds of total U.S. yardage.

Domestic consumption of nonwoven geotextiles is estimated at 325 million square yards, approximately 60% of total worldwide square yards. The five major markets for geotextiles are soil stabilization, asphalt overlay, drainage, pond underlining and erosion control.

Not surprisingly, the big names among geotextile manufacturers are also the big names among roll goods producers; both of the top end product manufacturers in this category are also among the top roll goods companies profiled in our Top Nonwoven Roll Goods Companies feature last September.

The largest, number 14 among the roll goods suppliers, is Phillips Fibers, Greenville, SC. The company, which has been known for decades as a high volume producer of needlepunched geotextiles (it has been involved in geotextiles since 1966, which it claims is longer than any other domestic supplier), continues to build on this reputation while also addressing smaller niche outgrowths of huge geotextiles applications.

Products at Phillips include "Petromat" paving fabric and companion product "Petrotac" patching and bridge deck material, "Supac" fabrics designed for various soil stabilization, drainage and separation functions, "SuperGro," a landscape fabric to help prevent soil erosion and promote plant growth, "Fi-Con," a polypropylene fiber additive for concrete to reduce shrinkage cracks and "Fabrisoil," a unique product designed to cover the working face of a landfill.

Amoco Fabrics and Fibers, Atlanta, GA, competes in both the woven and nonwoven geotextile segments. The number two player in the market, Amoco manufactures nonwovens with a variety of properties for specific applications in erosion control, drainage, asphalt overlay/paving and railroad stabilization. Its products have also found application in waste-related industries such as hazardous waste sites and sanitary landfills.

Another company that had been primarily a supplier of woven geotextiles but is now involved more heavily in the nonwoven geotextile market is Exxon Chemical, Houston, TX, which, through its joint venture agreement last March with Reemay, Old Hickory, TN, has begun marketing Reemay's "Typar" ("Terram" or "Tekton" outside the U.S.) nonwoven geotextile.

Papermaker Felts: Nonwoven Or Not?

Within the nonwovens industry, there are several particular segments that may or may not be considered under the industry umbrella. Suppliers to the segment and manufacturers of end products may define the market--and their actual product--differently. One such market is papermaker felts. The felt market has generally come to be accepted as part of the nonwovens business, though; it makes up a large market in many areas for needlepunched roll goods suppliers and for this reason, the market for papermaker felts, because of sheer volume, has been judged an influential one for nonwovens.

The product in question is the press fabric or felt used in the papermaking process. The felt is used after the paper is formed in a wet process and before the drying step; the felt--actually a nonwoven/woven composite--aids in dewatering the paper as it rolls along the machinery on its way to drying.

The material used to be a completely woven substrate, but when the first needled felts were developed in the late 1950's-early 1960's, the nonwoven lent strength to the material and added to its durability as paper machines changed in speed, width and diameter.

In the U.S., two companies, Albany International and Porritts and Spencer, dominate. The number one player, the Press Fabrics Division of Albany International, East Greenbush, NY, holds approximately 20% of the market. It buys the fibers and cards its own product, then needlepunches it to a woven base. Albany has 10 manufacturing facilities for its press fabrics worldwide.

Porritts & Spencer, which has two distinct (geographical) divisions in Wilson, NC and Frankfort, KY, is a subsidiary of the huge Scapa Group plc, an English company that manufactures roll coverings, fabrics and other supplies for the paper industry. P&S, which falls under the Engineered Fabrics Division of Scapa, holds about 16% of the market. Its product is also a composite; it cards a nonwoven batt and needles it to a woven base cloth.

Automotives: Two Industries Meet

Two distinct industries diverge under the automotive umbrella. In defining this market, once again, the lines between needlepunched nonwovens, tufted floorcovering or headliners and, in some cases, roll goods or some combination thereof, are distinctly blurred.

Several of the major players in this market--Masland Industries, Collins & Aikman and JPS Automotive--consider themselves carpet manufacturers with a sideline in automotive trim or accessories. Furthermore, these manufacturers make tufted and needled products and see no reason to divide sales along nonwoven lines.

Two other companies--Gates Formed-Fibre Products and Troy Mills--diverge from the other extreme. Both of these companies produce as well as convert roll goods. Foss Manufacturing is another company that does both, but it considers itself primarily a roll goods producer at this point.

In terms of the "big three" carpet manufacturers, varying sources say either Collins & Aikman or Masland is the largest automotive end product manufacturer. Masland, Carlisle, PA, is a major force at Ford Motor Company and manufactures both automotive carpet and trim. According to Carpet & Rug Industry, sales for the Automotive Products Division (which also includes two international joint venture agreements) were about $130 million in 1990. Of this, 35% is needlepunched products and 65% is tufted.

C&A, Abermarle, NC, is a more diversified producer and works with both Chrysler and GM; it is one of the oldest textile manufacturers in the country and will celebrate is 150th anniversary next year. C&A makes both tufted and needlepunched floorcovering and trim as well as floor mats. It also does work for Toyota's U.S. operations; last year it won Toyota's USA Quality Award. C&A also announced last September that it was building a new automotive trim plant in Salisbury, NC; the new 100,000 foot facility will replace a 40,000 sq. foot plant in Faith, NC. The plant is expected to be in operation early this year.

On the other end of the spectrum, in the noman's land where nonwovens roll goods manufacturers become converters, is Gates Formed-Fibre Products, Auburn, ME. The majority of Gates' sales are in end product manufacture, not roll goods; it claims to be the world leader in trunk liners and it also does interior trim, door panels and molded products. Its patented "Con-Form" molded products, made of nonwoven blends of thermoplastic fibers, have found use in a variety of areas due to their light weight, aesthetics and durability.

Gates has made a name for itself because of its success in dealing with the Japanese; it won the Maine "1990 Exporter of the Year" award.

Also new at Gates is its "Tara-Lock," process, for which a patent was just issued in January. Tara-Lock is a technology for providing locking fiber construction for beard resistance in nonwoven velour applications; it also aids in uniformity, is lightweight and easily molded.

The line between the roll goods and converted products business at Troy Mills, Troy, NH, divides about evenly. Troy manufactures interior trim and moldable products and considers itself one of the top five nonwoven automotive product suppliers. The company manufactures all its own roll goods and works only with nonwovens. Specific product applications include luggage compartments, package trays, seats, door panels, wheelhouse covers and underlayments.

Filtration: Diversity At Its Finest

In an industry whose very existence is defined by diversity, no particular segment better reflects this than filtration. Another market where nonwovens compete against each other as well as against other technologies, it is without a doubt the most difficult single market to describe in general terms.

Overlooking the fact that many filters contain only one small part that is nonwoven (such as Fram's automotive oil filter) or are actually a hybrid of several different technologies (as in some of Donaldson's products), many companies manufacture woven and nonwoven or glass and synthetic fiber products. The question of where to draw the line surfaces again and in this case, the answer varies from application to application.

Just as it impossible to compare one filter technology to another, it is also impractical to attempt to compare one filter market to another. High end clean room air filtration applications with minute technical specifications certainly cannot be grouped with a low-end household HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) filter. Even within the liquid and dry segments of the market, too many specific niches and applications have developed to make comparisons difficult.

As many companies as niches exist in filtration and it is impossible to pinpoint the top two, three or five companies. The segment has many companies--among them, Pall, Farr, Menardi Criswell, Snow Filtration and American Felt and Filter--that are important in the filtration industry but involved in varying degrees with nonwovens. These are the companies that also make glass products or roll goods or actual filter hardware, making them all important companies within each particular segment, but limited in actual nonwovens product manufacture.

The most visible company to consumers and business alike, although with a relatively low profile, is 3M, St. Paul, MN, the huge conglomerate involved in literally thousands of markets. In filtration, a major 3M product is its electrostatically charged air filtration media "Filtrete" for a range of uses in the electronics, medical, health care, automotive, aerospace, computer and occupational safety industries.

While Filtrete is the company's only trademarked filtration product, the company manufactures myriad other materials in both air and liquid filtration that bear the 3M brand name. On the liquid side, 3M filters are found in almost every imaginable application; waste water, oil and gas, food and beverage and cosmetic filtration are only a few of the end markets in which it is involved.

3M makes all its own roll goods and sells everything it makes to the

converted products division; nothing is available on the merchant market. The Filtration Products Project is a stand-alone segment at the company; it had been part of the company's Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division, but its tremendous potential earned it its own department. The company has two manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and a host of others around the world.

A major competitor to 3M in the electret filter area--and the first to introduce its electrostatically charged "Microdon" nonwoven--is Freudenberg, Chelmsford, MA, which has vertically integrated beyond roll goods into filter fabrication. It announced plans last year to invest $2 million at its Hopkinsville, KY converting facility.

American Air Filter, Louisville, KY, a division of Schneider General, Dallas, TX, is involved in both glass and synthetic fiber nonwovens for filtration applications. Without including glass (which makes up an estimated 80% of AAF's business), the nonwovens capabilities at AAF are still large. The company is the world's largest producer of air filtration materials and makes every kind of HVAC filter. In air filtration, however, AAF also makes equipment (fans and blowers) and finished filters in addition to filter media and it sells more actual filters than media.

Another vertically integrated company is Donaldson, Minneapolis, MN, which manufactures oil and gas filters as well as air filters and also makes the cartridges into which the filters are placed. About one third of total sales comes from selling the filters separately. The company is the premiere player in the heavy duty filter market and is also involved in agricultural, construction, military and truck and bus filtration applications. Its strength is currently air filtration, but it is working on getting more heavily into liquid filtration and exhaust filtration applications. Donaldson makes a small portion of its own roll goods.

Procter & Gamble One Procter & Gamble Plaza Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513)983-1100 Manufacturing Facilities: Modesto, CA; Mehoopany, PA; Cape Girardeau, MO; Albany, GA Markets: disposable baby diapers, feminine hygiene

Kimberly-Clark P.O. Box 619100 Dallas, TX 75261-9100 (214)830-1200 Manufacturing Facilities: Conway, AK; New Milford, CT; Neenah, WI (planned late 1992)--feminine hygiene; Maumelle, AR--wipes; Corinth, MS; Lexington, NC; Tuscon, AZ--medical Markets: disposable baby diapers, feminine hygiene, medical products

Weyerhaeuser Company Tacoma, WA 98477 (206)924-2345 Manufacturing Facilities: Brampton, Ontario, Can.; Bowling Green, KY; Macon, GA; Waco, TX; Harmony, PA; La Puente, CA Markets: disposable baby diapers

Pope & Talbot 1500 S.W. First Avenue Portland, OR 97201 (503)228-9161 Manufacturing Facilities: Oneonta, NY; Shenandoah, GA; Maryville, MO; Eau Claire, WI; Porterville, CA Markets: disposable baby diapers

Johnson & Johnson Personal Products Division Van Liew Avenue Milltown, NJ 08850 (908)524-0400 Markets: wipes, feminine hygiene

Tambrands Inc. 777 Westchester Avenue White Plains, NY 10604 (914)696-6000 Manufacturing Facilities: Palmer, MA; Auburn, ME; Claremount, NH; Rutland, VT Markets: tampons

Playtex FP Group 700 Fairfield Avenue Stamford, CT 06904 (203)356-8000 Manufacturing Facilities: Dover, DE Markets: tampons

L&F Products 225 Summit Avenue Montvale, NJ 07645-1575 (201)573-5700 Manufacturing Facilities: Sydney, OH; other converting locations Markets: baby wipes

Nice-Pak Products Two Nice-Pak Park Orangeburg, NY 10968-1376 (914)365-1700 Manufacturing Facilities: Orangeburg, NY; Moorseville, IN Markets: baby wipes

Scott Paper Company Wipes Division Scott Plaza II Philadelphia, PA 19113 (215)522-5000 Manufacturing Facilities: Delaware Markets: baby wipes

Baxter Healthcare A Division of Baxter International 1300 Waukegan Road McGaw Park, IL 60085 (708)473-3200 Manufacturing Facilities: Deerfield, IL; El Paso, TX Markets: surgical drapes, gowns and accessories

Johnson & Johnson Medical 2500 Arbrook Boulevard, P.O. Box 130 Arlington, TX 76004-0130 (817)467-0211 Manufacturing Facilities: Arlington, TX; El Paso, TX; Sherman, TX; Clearwater, FL. Markets: hospital drapes, gowns and accessories, bandages and wound dressings

Phillips Fibers P.O. Box 66 Greenville, SC 29602 (803)242-6600 Manufacturing Facilities: Seneca, SC Markets: geotextiles, carpet backings, underlayments, roofing Amoco Fabrics and Fibers Company Amoco Fabrics and Fibers Company 900 Circle 75 Parkway, Suite 300 Atlanta, GA 30339 (404)984-4444 Manufacturing Facilities: Hazlehurst, GA; Nashville, GA Markets: geotextiles

Albany International Press Fabric Division 253 Troy Road Rensselaer, NY 12144 (518)285-4100 Manufacturing Facilities: East Greenbush, NY; St. Stephen, SC Markets: papermaker felts

Porritts & Spencer A Division of the Scapa Group Eastern Division: P.O. Box 1411, Wilson, NC 27893; (919)291-3800 Western Division: P.O. Box 755, Frankfort, KY 40601; (502)695-5864 Manufacturing Facilities: Wilson and Frankfort Markets: papermaker felts

Collins & Aikman Automotive Division 313 Bethany Road Albermarle, NC 28001 (704)983-8330 Manufacturing Facilities: Old Fort, NC; Salisbury, SC; Troy, NC Markets: automotive flooring and trim, floor mats

Masland Industries 50 Spring Road Carlisle, PA 17013 (717)249-1866 Manufacturing Facilities: Manteca, CA; Lebanon, OH; Hemosillo and Toluca, Mexico Markets: automotive carpet and trim

Gates Formed-Fibre Products A Division of Gates Corporation Washington Street, P.O. Box 1300 Auburn, ME 04211-1300 (207)784-1118 Manufacturing Facilities: Auburn, ME; Eastport, ME Markets: automotive trunk liners and trim

Troy Mills 18 Monadnock Street Troy, NH 03465-1000 (603)242-7711 Manufacturing Facilities: Troy, NH; Harrisville, WV Markets: automotive products

3M Filtration Products 3M Center Building 76-1W St. Paul, MN 55144-1000 (612)733-1110 Markets: filter media, diaper closures, respiratory protection, industrial absorbent wipes, face masks

American Air Filter 215 Central Avenue Louisville, KY 40208 (502)637-0011 Manufacturing Facilities: seven U.S. facilities Markets: HVAC filters, air filtration products

Donaldson Company 1400 West 94th St. Minneapolis, MN 55440 (612)887-3131 Manufacturing Facilities: Minneapolis, MN; Cresco, IA; Frankfort, IN; Stevens Point, WI; Dixon, IL Markets: air and liquid filtration media and products
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Title Annotation:nonwoven materials
Author:Noonan, Ellen
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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