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Three technologies drive growth at DuPont.

Benefitting from its global nature, which has of late been a major

concentration DuPont, the second largest nonwovens ny in the world, had a relatively successful i annual sales increasing 10% to $731 million. Of this, the U.S. made up approximately 70%. Growth varied according to individual markets. "Among our total enterprise," said Siegfried Wittauer, vice president and general manager, "market conditions evolved differently around the globe."

Specifically, he said, the U.S. has not been as strong as expected, while Europe has been significantly weaker than anticipated and the Far East has been in the middle. "We were hoping for double digit growth for 1993; we won't quite make it, although we will grow," he said. "From an earnings/cost standpoint, however, there are ways and means to compensate."

"As far as our business activity," continued Mr. Wittauer, "we are still following the same strategy, we are simply becoming more sophisticated in implementing this. We are fundamentally on course."

DuPont's strategies are outlined as concentrating on technology intensive products and processes, leveraging globally, evolving or pioneering technology across the product portfolio and down the value chain, staying ahead of change and funding aggressively from strong cash generation. Mr. Wittauer commented on these strategies. "We do not want to concentrate on commodity fields," he said. "We place a high value on leveraging our technology and knowhow. We must also work down the value chain and help customers take advantage of the technology. We are also concentrating on staying ahead of change--that includes technological, societal and environmental change--to remain a leader.

"Finally," he said, "we invest more than 5% of revenue on R&D and 10% on asset evolution." A major portion of R&D is used to upgrade current technology as well as to branch out into new areas; the cash is generated within the business.

An example of this technology evolution is in the "Sontara" hydroentangled business, where the company is pushing the evolution of air laid and hydroentangled technology. "It is key for all businesses to stay on the leading edge," said Thomas West, business manager-Sontara. "We are also putting a strong portion of R&D reinvestment beyond what we have today. Both are critical."

At this year's Techtextil conference in Frankfurt, Germany, DuPont's business manager-Typar W. Donald Johnson gave the keynote address about technical textiles and the driving forces in that industry. He discussed three forces of change: more sophisticated human needs, a new awareness of environmental responsibility and increasing global competition. DuPont is responding to these forces across its spectrum of markets and technologies.

"In terms of more sophisticated human needs," said Mr. West, "this is a force that drives our business both internally and in our interaction with the marketplace. We have been spending time analyzing our processes and how they are managed, as well as looking at the marketplace and analyzing how needs are changing."

As an example in Sontara, Mr. West said that OSHA's 1992 ruling on bloodborne pathogens has impacted its medical business. "Concentration on bloodborne pathogen control is occurring worldwide, based on a combination of the OSHA ruling plus the concern over AIDS and hepatitis control. It is moving into emergency response, dentistry and funeral home trades, but it is no longer |one size fits all.'" said Mr. West. "We must be able to specialize. We will grow based on our ability to clearly engineer products for specific needs."

Mr. West also commented on the need to educate customers about this legislation. "We as an industry must be very careful not to take for granted that the marketplace is well informed about the issues of reusable versus disposable garments," he said. "We must be sure people are making well informed decisions. It is important that the nonwovens industry steps up to the challenge and gets the facts to the key constituents in the market. There has been a lot of publicity for reusables; we must not remain silent."

Tyvek his also proven itself in responding to human needs as well as environmental needs. "Last year we began producing for certain applications Tyvek that included 25% post-consumer HDPE," said Michael Donnelly, business manager-Tyvek. "Effective June 1 of this year, all Tyvek shipped for any consumer envelope in the U.S. contains 25% post consumer waste. This is the first time to our knowledge that plastic has been recycled to make a higher value product," he added.

"The other side of that," continued Mr. Donnelly, "is that the consumer now needs to be able to do something with the envelope after it is used. It must be easy to recycle the envelope as well," he said. DuPont has developed a recycling pouch, also made of Tyvek, complete with a mailing label for returning used envelopes to be recycled. This was originally introduced for the envelope segment of the business, but Mr. Donnelly reports that DuPont would like to extend it to other segments as well.

The DuPont executives interviewed were unanimous; their market-focused, asset-centered management concept, which is overlaid with a pragmatic synergistic portfolio management process, is key to their present and future success. With this management concept, each asset manager has the total multifunctional "tool box" at his or her disposal and holds total profit and loss responsibility for his or her asset, i.e. Tyvek, Typar, Sontara. Technology and marketplace leveraging is accomplished through networking among the assets. The networking, not an automatic, is sponsored by the leadership group. "We try to honor people who strike a good proactive balance between asset devotion and enterprise loyalty," said Mr. Wittauer. "In doing so, we are starting to generate hybrid products from the three assets in combination."

Yyvek/Typar combinations for roof lining and hydroentangled flash spun substrates for apparel are two such examples. "We are looking into related and alternative nonwovens technologies to round out our nonwovens offerings," concluded Mr. Wittauer. "Synergizing and leveraging between our three businesses is also key to efficient market positioning in emerging regions outside the U.S. where the largest growth opportunity exists."

One way the company sees to increase its global presence is through marketing alliances. The most significant of these was its agreement with Reemay, finalized last fall, for the marketing of primary carpet backings. "We have increased our |capacity' in the primary carpet backing market around the world overnight," said Mr. Wittauer. "We are very happy with the arrangement and are looking for other such opportunities worldwide."

Tyvek, Sontara Update

In concrete terms, DuPont has gone far towards achieving its global goals. In the Tyvek arena, the service center in Utsunomiya, Japan is complete. Opened last spring, it can perform a variety of operations including slitting, printing and applications development for new and current markets. Plans for the Tyvek manufacturing line are also on schedule, said Mr. Donnelly. "We have developed a new Tyvek process in the last year and this new technology will be installed in Japan. Project teams are in place and the additional capacity will extend our current markets." He said that the new technology simplifies the process yet allows a wider variety of properties. The new line is expected to be finished in late 1995 or early 1996.

In other Tyvek news, Luxembourg and Richmond are running well, with room to grow. Mr. Donnelly said this is also being taken into consideration with the new plant, which will be constructed with the economy and capacity needs in mind. DuPont currently sells about one third of its Tyvek material outside the U.S.

Sontara has taken a similar approach in its investment plans, having also developed a second generation hydroentangling and special fiber/fabric engineering technology. DuPont has made the long-awaited decision to invest in a new facility, which will also be located in Utsunomiya. "Our project team has been manned and design of the new facility will begin shortly," said Mr. West. "The new technology--which, like the Tyvek technology, simplifies the process--will offer much greater product flexibility. We expect to see new product capabilities," said Mr. West.

Construction on the line is planned to begin in late 1994. Mr. West reported that the Asia Pacific market has been a rapidly growing one for DuPont. "Hydroentangled fabric appears to offer some unique capabilities that are well received in this region," said Mr. West. An example is coated substrates for artificial leather, which has been centered in this geographic area.

The next step on Sontara's path will be an expansion in Europe, which Mr. West said is still planned once the Japanese line is up and running. "We'll take the same approach there," he said, "determining what unique capabilities we can bring to that market." Sontara has had a much larger growth rate--in excess of 25%--outside North America in recent years and the company reports that opportunities in Europe and Asia Pacific are very important to the future business.

Despite the Sontara expansion decision, Mr. West said that DuPont has also made significant inroads on increasing capacity of existing equipment and has countered increased capacity demands with more efficient use of current lines.

"We also concentrate on |people processes' within non-wovens," said Mr. West. "We continue to try new things and push the knowledge of the technology and the products. In Sontara we are in the unique position of having the whole business integrated in Old Hickory, TN," he said. "We are able to utilize focused teams for specific market segments from all of our various functions--marketing, R&D and operations--to shorten the cycle time to bring ideas to the marketplace."

Tyvek is structured similarly, said Mr. Donnelly. "Work goes on around the globe but we do not put any one market segment team in charge of the market. Each segment leader is responsible for a geographic region. We then have beautiful network systems to share and develop from one another."

He gave as an example chemical protective apparel, which shares a global data base. "Information is available instantly throughout the world," said Donnelly. "There is a real strength in that, having a global pool of ideas; more is learned back and forth." Asia and Europe have a lot to do with each other in converting apparel products, he said. "Many European customers are having their garments fabricated in Asia," said Mr. Donnelly. "A large part of Tyvek comes from Asia to Europe; it is a sharing of resources across two regions."

In the housing industry for Tyvek, housing starts have been flat. The key to growth, said Mr. Donnelly, is increased demand for house wrap at the consumer level. "While we are well known at the distributor level, we are not as well known to consumers across the U.S. We have therefore started an active program to go directly to the consumer. We will roll this out nationally next year."

He said the European market is completely different because it is based on masonry, which does not benefit from house wrap. One product that has done well in Europe is a Tyvek/Typar roof lining substrate. "Even though the European housing market is hurting, this has been a growth area for us," said Mr. Donnelly.

In Eastern Europe, the market is stagnant at best, said Mr. Wittauer. "Business activity is declining and at this point it is still a situation to observe. It will still be several years before the opportunity develops," he said. Germany is different, continued Mr. Wittauer. "Here there has been an infusion of capital from Western Germany. We can attain quite a bit of activity through West German contacts. It is still a slow evolutionary process, though," he said.

New Products In All Technologies

The past year proved to be active in terms of new products at DuPont. One product is a Tyvek car cover that Mr. Donnelly said fills a void between very low end inexpensive covers and high end, very heavy covers. The fabric is lightweight and has a soft structure but can withstand the elements.

A new product in the Japanese market is "MulchSheet," a fruit growing fabric that holds ground moisture around fruit trees. It also functions as a protectant during monsoon season, causing rain to run off the cover. MulchSheet also reflects the sunlight and causes the fruit to ripen faster. Finally, it disorients a particular insect that has historically attacked orange trees. It is structurally engineered to conform to the earth, is stable in sunlight and can be used more than one season.

"Recycle Man," introduced at last June's Techtextil show, is a protective apparel garment that is 100% recyclable. With the tagline "More than workwear...fully recyclable workwear," Tyvek Recycle Man offers the strength of regular workwear with the flexibility of a disposable garment, while providing a guarantee that the used garment--including buttons and sewing thread--will be recycled.

Also new is Tyvek Recycle Man Plus, which uses the Tyvek flash spinning process then hydroentangles the garment for increased softness, drape and breathability Both products are available directly from DuPont and target general workwear applications.

A new product in the Sontara area is "CritiClean," its first nonwoven fabric designed for the clean room industry. Criti-Clean targets electronic and pharmaceutical clean rooms and has low particle count and low fiber shedding. "We'll be introducing a whole family of products specifically engineered for clean room applications through the next year," said Mr. West, adding that a similar product is already available in Europe and Japan. "We also plan to expand this into other areas such as the food industry, where the technology lends itself to engineered products for certain unmet needs."

Another new area for Sontara is in apparel interlinings, where its wind and waterproof fabric properties offer an economic way to produce a breathable membrane with water resistant capabilities. A new product now in test market in four or five different applications, "Comformax IB," will hopefully be included in next year's apparel lines. The Sontara material is also being used in combination with Tyvek for fine fiber applications with special product attributes. Comformax is lightweight, has excellent opacity and conforms easily to any design or fabric weight.

Zemdrain has been another area of growth at DuPont. "While it has been a tough job to get the trade to recognize the true benefits of this product," said Mr. Wittauer, "we are happy with the progress thus far." Zemdrain is used as a liner inside the forms used for pouring concrete and provides drainage and filtration. "Me value of this product is very high and this is demonstrated more and more as we penetrate construction sites."

In the Typar area, DuPont is actively working in the automotive industry, working on developments in carpet backing for tufted carpets. It has a program underway to test Typar-based carpet backing materials for molded tufted carpet. It is currently in evaluation stages with this product.

DuPont is in the final stages of ISO certification with its Sontara plant and expects the Old Hickory site to be certified this fall. Its Typar and Tyvek facilities are already certified; the Typar facility achieved certification several years ago and was one of the first in the industry to complete the ISO process. The company said that this is key to selling outside the U.S., particularly in Europe and that it is also gaining recognition in Japan. "It's also true," said Mr. West, "that the discipline that the ISO certification requires throughout the plant is a valuable tool to improving quality. Whether or not we are selling outside the U.S., we have improved our quality systems."

Mr. Wittauer concurred. "It's not only quality," he said. "It's a benefit to economics as well." He added that raw material suppliers and contract manufacturers are also involved in the process, providing both cost and quality benefits.

Despite DuPont's respectable sales increase, Mr. Wittauer said, "We are somewhat concerned about the very slow pace of the U.S. recovery and the difficulties in Europe. We are very careful about our costs to safeguard against slower than promised recovery."
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Title Annotation:International Top 30
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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