spunlace nonwoven suppliers
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World Nonwoven factory TOP 10


2008 spunlace nonwoven&Spunlace wipes Sales: $1.45 billion

Key Personnel

Management board: Bruce Olson, president and CEO; Rene Wollerg, CFO; Thomas Reibelt, CTO.

Worldwide Divisions: Heino Freudenberg, managing director interlinings; Jorg Sievert and Andreas Kreuter, managing directors of filter (as of Jan 1, 2009: Managing Directors Freuden berg Filtration Technologies); Thomas Reibelt, managing director Spunlaid; Juan Charlos Borchardt, managing director Southern Hemisphere; Helmut Beck, managing director industrial Nonwovens


Weinheim, Germany; Neuenburg, Germany; Kaiserslautern, Germany; Greetland, U.K.; Swindon U.K.; Littleborough/UK; Colmar, France; Barcelona, Spain; St. Omero, Italy; Cape Town, South Africa; San Martin/Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jacarei, Brazil; Suzhou, China; Changchun, China; Nantong, China; Yang Mei Tao-Yuan, Taiwan; Tayuan, Taiwan; Durham, NC; Hopkinsville, KY; Pyungtaek, South Korea; Chennai, India


Drylaid staple fiber, wetlaid, spunbonded, meltblown, electrostatic spun microfiber, needlepunched, thermal bonded, chemical bonded, water entanglement

ISO Status

All locations are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified; locations serving the automotive industry are QS 9000 certified; 21 out of 23 plants are OSHAS 18001 certified

Brand Names

Vilene, Viledon, Vilmed, micronAir, Vlieseline, Vildona, Fliselina, Lutradur, Lutrasil, Evolon, Comfortemp, Vitech, Celestia, Soundtex

Major Markets

Apparel interlinings, filtration, medical, protective clothing, automotive interior, electrical insulation, electrical specialties, home furnishings, industrial wipes, hygiene, shoe components, coating substrates, carpet backings, landscape fabrics, geotextiles, agriculture, furniture and bedding and industrial nonwoven specialties

The global economic crisis is in reality just the latest, albeit very serious, challenge confronting the Nonwovens Industry, according to Freudenberg Nonwovens. Many segments of the industry had been experiencing significant pressure on operating margins since the 2006-2007 timeframe brought on by rising raw material and energy costs which, despite generally strong volume growth, were difficult to pass on in the form of higher pricing due to excess production capacity.

The collapse in the demand for nonwovens, which began during the second half of 2008 and greatly accelerated during the first quarter of 2009, created an even more urgent need for restructuring, portfolio management and cost control measures. Fortunately, Freudenberg Nonwovens had defined and begun implementing many of these measures during 2008 following the completion of its strategic planning process earlier in the year. This, to some extent, has helped Freudenberg get ahead of the curve in responding to the 20-25% decline in sales which it has experienced during the first half of 2009. This sharp decline in sales, which has been more or less experienced across the diverse portfolio of segments in which Freudenberg is active, does appear to have reached a "stable" bottom during the last few months.

"It is much too early to predict when we will actually begin to see a sustainable recovery in demand," said Bruce Olson, CEO and president of Freudenberg Nonwovens. "Nevertheless, I am confident that Freudenberg Nonwovens will emerge from the current economic crisis as a stronger and more focused producer, given the adjustments we are making to both our business portfolio and cost structure."

Reacting to the lower demand for nonwovens in the U.S., Freudenberg has moth-balled a polyester production line in Durham, NC in response to a significant decline in demand from its automotive customers. In Europe, FV has taken the decision to consolidate polyester capacity onto a newer and larger production line by shutting down an older and less efficient line. A commoditized segment of the polypropylene hygiene market is under review and potential adjustments to production capacity and cost structures at Freudenberg's facility in Kaiserslautern, Germany are being analyzed. With regard to FV's global spunlaid production capacity footprint, it is worth mentioning the significant investment Freudenberg made to increase polyester capacity at its Taiwan Spunlaid joint venture. This new line, PT 2, came onstream during the second half of 2007 and is helping Freudenberg to drive the profitable growth of its Asian-Pacific business that is taking place despite the current global economic crisis.

"With regard to spunlaid technology, we will continue to invest to lower production costs and improve both the uniformity and performance our polyester product line," Mr. Olson explained. "As an example, we have developed a new spinning process in Asia for bicomponent polyester fibers, which allows us to change the surface appearance of our products in a way that will open up a number of new applications for our spunlaid polyester products."

In addition, Freudenberg is working hard to incorporate higher and higher quantities of PCR (post-consumer recycled) polyester flakes into its products to meet the growing demand for "green," sustainable Nonwovens. A good example of this is Lutradur Eco product line that has been recently launched in the U.S. and has qualified for LEEDS points. Last but not least, FV will continue to invest in the development of new fine-fiber and microfilament technologies that can significantly increase the market for our spunlaid products.

"We have made a significant investment to convert one of our polypropylene spunlaid lines in Kaiserslautern into a line capable of producing a wide range of fine-fibre products that we currently have under development" said Mr. Olson. The interest in the Evolon microfilament technology continues to grow to the point where the company will likely need to consider an investment to expand its production capacity during the next 12-18 months.

As noted above, consequent portfolio management has played an important role in making certain that Freudenberg Nonwovens will emerge from the current economic crisis as a stronger and more-focused supplier to the Nonwovens industry. The first part of this process was to identify those businesses within the portfolio which could not be restructured quickly or were cost-effective enough to meet the profitability targets we have set for ourselves in order to divest or close these businesses as quickly as possible. A good example of this was the company's decision to close at the end of the first quarter of 2009, the staple-fiber production facility in Durham, NC, which had been stagnating and declining in profitability for several years.

However, portfolio management involves much more than just the divestment and/or closure of non-performing businesses. It also entails identifying those businesses within the portfolio that offer good chances for future profitable growth and making certain that adequate resources are being invested in a focused way to help nurture and scale up these businesses. Fine-fiber and microfilament spunlaid products are good examples of such businesses. In addition, Freudenberg sees good chances to expand the supply of staple fiber products to meet the growing demand in the automotive interiors, personal hygiene, medical, battery separator and electro-cable market segments.

"We also expect to continue investing to move downstream by adding more and more value to our base products through finishing and converting" Mr. Olson concluded. "This already plays an important role in our supply of products to the battery industry. A more recent example is the investment we made in a new facility in Littleborough, U.K. to support production of our adsorptives line which are products finished with activated-carbon technology that find use in medical and a variety of technical applications."

At the beginning of 2009, Freudenberg spun off its filter division into a separate business group within the Freudenberg Group of companies, called Freudenberg Filtration Technologies. This decision evolved from Freudenberg's business model, which favors small entrepreneurial companies.



Wilmington, DE


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $1.4 billion

Key Personnel

Thomas Powell, vice president and general manager of DuPont Protection Technologies; Nigel Budden, global market leader, DuPont Protection Technologies; Roger K. Siemionko, global technology leader, DuPont Protection Technologies


Richmond, VA (Tyvek), Old Hickory, TN (spunlace, Suprel, Softesse), Luxembourg (Tyvek, Typar), Asturias, Spain (spunlace) Shenzhen, China (Tyvek and Spunlace converting facility), Seoul, Korea (HMT), Brazil J/V (Spunlace)

ISO Status

All plants are ISO 9002 certified, Luxembourg facility is also 9001 certified


Flashspun (Tyvek), spunbond (Typar), spunlace, Advanced Composite Technology, Hybrid Membrane Technology

Brand Names

Tyvek, Tychem, Sontara, Suprel, Softesse, ComforMax, Typar

Major Markets

Construction, healthcare, protective apparel, industrial filtration, absorbents, home furnishings, envelopes, geotextiles, graphics, packaging, footwear, automotive

DuPont Nonwovens has merged with its sister units Advanced Fiber Systems and DuPont Personal Protection to form a new business unit, DuPont Protection Technologies. Formed in July, the new organization groups together technologies and products that protect lives, the environment and critical processes worldwide. Thomas Powell, who had been serving as vice president and general manager of DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems, is leading the organization as vice president and general manager.

Barry Granger, former vice president and general manager of DuPont Nonwovens, has been named vice president and general manager of government marketing and affairs, responsible for accelerating business growth in the public sector with a focus on the U.S. economic stimulus package and other policy programs.

"We are tremendously excited about the opportunities created for our people and our customers by combining these businesses," said Mr. Powell. "We believe we will be able to quickly simplify internal processes, increase the speed of decision-making and more fully leverage our large investments in research and development across market segments. These changes will lead to more rapid innovation and improve our responsiveness to customers."

Mr. Powell emphasized that DuPont Protection Technologies will continue to operate its existing manufacturing and research facilities around the world and that there are no plans to close or combine any sites as a result of the restructuring. He also stressed that the business remains committed to the current business strategies and market segments.

"It's really about growth and efficiency," he added. "We have a lot of overlap between the businesses. For example, our Industrial Protection segment makes garments using Kevlar, Nomex and Tyvek. We looked at the missions of Nonwovens and Advanced Fiber Systems, and they were both focused on protecting the environment, protecting lives and protecting critical processes. Through the merger, we have leveraged the large investment in research and development, and there are a lot more synergies we can take advantage of by pulling them together."

Initially, the synergies are strongest on the garment side, but DuPont believes that further technology synergies will quickly be obvious. While the center of gravity for the businesses is at the same facility--DuPont's Richmond, VA site--they have historically operated independently of one another.

"We want to be leaner and faster in the eyes of our customers," said Nigel Budden, global market leader of DuPont Protection Technologies. "This brings us together in a manner that enables customers to more easily recognize who we are. The new strategic business unit has a strong focus on regional execution to get a lot closer to the day to day ins and outs of dealing with our customers."

No stranger to nonwovens, Mr. Budden was the global busi ness director for DuPont's Sontara business unit prior to the organizational change. He described 2008 as a growth year until the fourth quarter when the dynamics changed completely and the company saw a weakening across many of its businesses. These sales have yet to rebound, but executives are cautiously optimistic that they have reached a bottom.

With a huge presence in the construction market with its Tyvek flashspun nonwovens, DuPont reacted quickly to the global economic downturn, initiating two rounds of restructuring lay-offs-one in December 2008 and another in May 2009. DuPont has adjusted its capacity levels to meet global demand. On the spunlace side, this has meant the idling of a straight fiber spunlace line in Old Hickory, TN, which was targeted largely at the wipes market. In flashspun, output has been reduced, but so far no lines have been permanently closed. The goal, executives say, is to protect as many jobs as possible for when the market comes back.

Also prepping the company for the economy's return to life is a continued focus on research and development, much of which revolves around protective barrier applications like Tyvek construction materials and medical packaging grades, Sontara and Suprel medical gowns and DuPont's Hybrid Membrane Technology (HMT) and its role in filtration and energy storage applications.

"Flexible barrier protection is the sweet spot of our technology scope," said Roger Siemionko, global technology leader for DuPont Protection Technologies. "We are able to offer a whole range from Tyvek to HMT to meet a number of needs. We are working very hard at ex tending the range of our battier offerings by expanding the capabilities of those base technologies to give us different technologies."

HMT, which was purchased from a South Korean company in 2005, bridges the gap between a nonwoven and a membrane and has seen significant attention in the gas turbine and liquid coalescing markets. More recently, attention has been paid in the lithium ion battery market, Dr. Siemionko added. HMT is being made in Korea and is being targeted globally.

Meanwhile, Tyvek, DuPont's original nonwovens technology developed more than four decades ago, continues to be improved, making it not only more protective but also more breathable. This has opened up new opportunities for Tyvek in construction, despite weakness in that market, and in protective apparel.

On the new market front, use of Tyvek is growing in the agriculture field and is making inroads in the lighting market where its high reflectivity can increase lighting efficiency by 50%.

In April, DuPont introduced DuPont Tyvek Vivia, a coated material for wide-format printing. Tyvek Vivia is a recyclable solution that is excellent for printing graphics, resists creases for a more polished look and offers superior durability for indoor and outdoor banner and sign applications.

In other news, DuPont, together with Waste Management, has launched a national mail-in recycling program to capture banners, envelopes and other items printed on DuPont Tyvek. This provides a method for printers and other large volume users of printed products who are looking for a responsible and simple alternative to adding Tyvek to the nation's landfills.

Meanwhile on the spunlace side, DuPont's medical garment business, containing Soffesse spunlaced materials, garments made with Advanced Composite Technology and Acturel film offerings, remained strong throughout 2008 thanks to strength in the medical business. While spunlaced nonwovens have been challenged by spunmelt in the medical arena, DuPont has been able to fight back with its ACT, which combines the strength of polyester with the softness of polyethylene in one garment. "ACT is a bicomponent material and as such it is definitely positioned at the high end of the garment industry in general, but the value proposition is its ability to offer high levels of protection and comfort," said Mr. Budden.

Moving forward, executives expect DuPont's nonwovens offerings to continue to benefit and expand from a continued stream of research and development efforts. "If you look at the newly created DuPont Protection Technologies, it is a high investment area for the company, meaning that moving forward, nonwovens won't be starved for resources," Mr. Powell said. "There is a lot of fundamental work going on related to DuPont nonwovens. We are definitely looking at routes to fine fiber technology-say, below one micron--in addition to what we are doing with HMT. This should give us access to markets outside of where we are today."



Dallas, TX


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $1.3 billion

Partnership Products and K-C Professional Headquarters Roswell, GA 30076 Telephone: 770-587-8000

Key Personnel

Thomas Falk, chairman and CEO; Jan Spencer, president, K-C Professional & Other; Richard Thorne, vice president, K-C Professional North America; Stephanie Rossignol, director, K-C Professional Wipers and Partnership Products; Bob Stargel, vice president, Nonwovens Operations and Technology


Corinth, MS, Balfour, NC, Lexington, NC, LaGrange, GA, Neenah, WI

ISO Status

Certification achieved in Berkeley, NC, Lexington, NC, LaGrange, GA and Barton (UK); other facilities in progress


Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, BCW, hydroentangled and Coform

Brand Names

Blockit protective fabric, Cyclean filtration media, Dustop protective fabric, Evolution 4 protective fabric, Intrepid filtration media, Noah protective fabric and Powerloft filtration media

Major Markets

Filtration, acoustics, hygiene, industrial, medical, packaging, protective, sorbents, textile linings and wet wipes

Kimberly-Clark is holding its own in 2009 while managing in a challenging business environment. At $4.7 billion for the second quarter, corporate-wide sales were down 5.6%, net selling prices climbed 5% and sales volumes declined by 2%. According to the company, its teams delivered solid organic sales growth over the past year, brought innovative new and improved products to market, enhanced the competitive position of its brands, deepened its relationships with key customers and maintained a strong financial position.

Within Kimberly-Clark's multi-billion dollar corporation, the company's Global Nonwovens Unit is responsible for producing the nonwoven roll goods that target external markets as well as KC's consumer, B2B and medical products businesses. Thanks to these highly engineered fabrics, leading brands such as Huggies disposable diapers and Pull-Ups training pants, Depend adult incontinence products and Kotex feminine sanitary protection items have earned household recognition across the globe.

Many of the absorbent and specialty materials sold externally are supplied by K-C's Global Nonwovens team and are used in air filtration, liquid contaminant removal, automotive protection and residential and institutional cleaning.

The Partnership Products business reported essentially flat sales in 2008. Stephanie Rossignol, director, K-C Professional Wipers and Partnership Products said that applications involving safety, cleanliness, health and hygiene had a fairly strong showing. "Although Partnership Products had declines in some industrial segments, we saw growth in consumer and health care applications."

Fueling growth for K-C is an emphasis on sustainability with the launch of several Earth-friendly products. "We are very focused on sustainability, especially in our consumer products," Ms. Rossignol said.

One new offering boasting these benefits is the Scott Naturals brand, a family of bath tissues, paper towels, napkins and flushable wipes. Scott Naturals flushable wipes are made from fibers derived from 100% sustainable resources and natural aloe vera to leave consumers feeling fresh and clean. Meanwhile, the bath tissue includes 40% recycled fiber, towels 60% and napkins 80%.

Another new green offering in the consumer products area from K-C is Huggies Pure & Natural super premium diapers. They include natural, organic materials and ingredients to provide gentle protection for new babies, as well as initial steps toward environmental improvements, without sacrificing performance.

The new Huggies Pure & Natural diaper is hypoallergenic, latex-and fragrance-free and features a breathable outer cover that includes organic cotton. The liner includes natural aloe and vitamin E and materials from renewable sources, and the product's outer packaging is sourced from 20% post-consumer recycled materials. The new diaper is offered in six sizes, from newborn to size five.

Kimberly Clark Filtration has also shown its commitment to the environment with the introduction of a green filtration media that delivers MERV 13 performance for LEED Certified buildings. The media was developed in response to the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) standards for ASHRAE 52.2, MERV 13 filtration performance in LEED new construction and major renovation projects. The new media, Intrepid-513H, can be used in two- and four-inch pleated filters that are suited for virtually any commercial HVAC system. Before this media was introduced, most two and four-inch pleated filters were limited to MERV 8 or MERV 11 performance, which provides less efficient capture of airborne particles than MERV 13 filters. Moreover, MERV 13 could only be achieved by pocket or rigid pleat-type filters, which were designated to run at high airflow pressures, beyond the capability of many existing air handling systems.

In the adult incontinence market, K-C is also making strides to ward innovation and market leadership. The company recently unveiled its first gender-specific line of absorbent underwear for adults, Depend Underwear for Men and Depend Underwear for Women. First announced in December 2008, the innovative line consists of all-new, distinct male and female designs tailored to better address the unique body shapes of men and women. The product line delivers enhanced discretion and superior fit and protection.

On the acquisition front, early this year K C locked in a deal to purchase the remainder of its Andes region subsidiary for an undisclosed amount. Based in Bogota, Colombiana Kimberly Colpapel manufactures tissue, personal care and professional products at its nine manufacturing facilities. K-C already owned 69% of the subsidiary and bought the rest from Compania

Colombiana de Inversiones S.A. The acquisition is expected to slightly increase the subsidiary's annual profit and allow for greater growth in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Another recent acquisition came from K-C Professional and tapped Jackson Safety Products, a privately held company headquartered in Fenton, MO. The company supplies welding safety products, personal protective equipment and work zone safety products. The acquisition is described as consistent with K C's global strategy to accelerate growth of high-margin workplace solutions. The move is expected to enable K-C to focus resources more effectively by increasing sales and marketing manpower to support growth in safety while at the same time dedicating other teams that will help sustain K-C's leadership position and grow its traditional washroom and wiper businesses.

Going forward, developing and emerging markets are also on K-C's radar with double-digit growth reported in these regions during the second quarter of 2009. Currently just 30% of the company's sales are outside of North America and Western Europe and K-C has strong prospects for the BRICIT countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia and Turkey).

Another core focus is a concentrated effort on transforming into a legendary marketer by developing and executing commercial ideas and programs that enable K C and its many brands to reach customers and consumers with the right message and product in the right environment, all the time. While its latest innovations will be supported by continued strong marketing efforts, the way K-C has approached marketing has evolved during the past five years. Whereas five years ago, 60% of its advertising budgets went to network television commercials, now only 40% is geared toward television with more targeted spending on new and emerging channels such as digital and online media.

Looking toward the future, R&D investments and strong brands remain key goals for Kimberly-Clark. "We are committed to taking the right steps to continue to grow and deliver innovative solutions that meet our customers' and consumers' needs," said Ms. Rossignol. "We continue to deliver in this area and strongly believe we are positioned for long-term, sustainable growth."



Helsinki, Finland


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $1.3 billion

Key Personnel

Jan Lang, president and CEO; Risto Anttonen, deputy of the president and CEO, senior vice president, Advanced Nonwovens (interim); Jean-Marie Becket, senior vice president, home & personal nonwovens; Tomi Bjornman, senior vice president, filtration; Laura Raitio, vice president of glass and industrial nonwovens; Gustav Adlercreutz, senior vice president, legal affairs, general counsel; Diego Borello, senior vice president, purchasing and sustainability; Claudio Ermondi, senior vice president, Innovations & Technology; Seppo Parvi, chief financial officer; Rami Raulas, senior vice president, sales and marketing; Daniele Borlatto, senior vice president, release & label papers; Patrick Jeambar, senior vice president, Technical Papers


Needlepunch, resin bonded, spunlaced, nanofiber, spunmelt/spunbond, wetlaid, wetlaid/Hydraspun, wetlaid/spunlace composite, composite nonwovens, wetlaid/Trinitex, SPC, Caustic Entanglement, film based composites, process enhancements,

Plant Locations

Alicante, Spain, Barcelona, Spain, Bethune, SC, Bishopville, Brignoud, France, Carbonate, Italy, Chimside, U.K., Cressa, Italy, Green Bay, WI, Groesbeck, TX, Hyun Poong, Korea, Karhula, Finland, Louveira, Brazil, Madisonville, KY, Malmedy, Belgium, Mikkeli, Finland, Mozzate, Italy, Mr. Holly Springs, PA, Paulinia, Brazil, Sassoferrato, Italy, Stalldalen, Sweden, Tampere, Finland, Taylorville, Turin, Italy, Tver, Russia, Windsor Locks, CT, Wuxi, China

Major Markets

Wipes, filtration, industrial (Medical, Food Packaging, Wallcover, Building, Automotive)

Sales in Ahlstrom's FiberComposites division increased 4.9% to reach $1.38 billion (987.4 million [euro]) last year thanks to organic growth as well as the integration of acquired businesses. At the same time, operating profits decreased mainly due to low demand in the fourth quarter, overall weak performance in wipes and additional costs related to ramp-ups and the integration of acquisitions.

In 2008, the operating environment of the FiberComposites segment was characterized by the rapid change in the global economy. In the beginning of the year, demand for most of Ahlstrom's nonwoven products was still strong, especially in high growth segments like the windmill industry. By the fourth quarter, demand decreased across all business areas, especially in filtration due to the global decline in the automotives and construction industries. Demand remained brisk in medical and food applications.

In response to these challenges, Ahlstrom announced in April 2009 it would initiate a further restructuring program with the aim of gaining annual cost reductions of 50 million [euro] with a full effect in 2010. When announced, it was reported that these measures could impact up to 400-500 employees globally and would extend throughout Ahlstrom's global businesses.

Even before this, Ahlstrom was streamlining its business. In July 2008, the company divided its nonwovens division into two parts--Home & Personal Nonwovens, covering mainly Ahlstrom's wipes business--and Advanced Nonwovens, incorporating food, medical and industrial nonwovens. According to executives, the high rate of investment and subsequent growth of Ahlstrom's wipes business, which included former Fiberweb, Green Bay Nonwovens and Orlandi spunlace businesses as well as capital investment in Connecticut and Brazil, had required a special focus on its resources. Most of the effort was put on maximizing efficiency of the global wipes manufacturing platform, adapting it to a slowing market growth and some overcapacity.

A first step toward this goal came in January when Ahlstrom announced it would restructure its Italian spunlace business in response to weakened demand for wipes. The measures, including the shutdown of its Gallarate plant as well as a single production line in Cressa Italy, affected 48 employees.

"The planned actions will consolidate Ahlstrom wipes manufacturing organization in Europe into fewer, more efficient sites. This will additionally allow focusing the organization even more on quality and service. We will not exit any market segment or discontinue products; we'll continue serving customers as usual despite the restructuring actions," said Marco Martinez, communications director for Ahlstrom's nonwovens business.

A second effort was announced in June, when Ahlstrom decided to shut down one of its spunlace lines in Bethune, SC and move the products previously made on the line to Green Bay, WI.

Despite the slowdown, sustainability remains a priority both in Ahlstrom's wipes business and throughout its product lines.

"We see a growing interest for more sustainable products coming from consumers, end-users and converters. While all the players in the value-chain are getting more environmentally conscious, there is also an increasing number of specific regulations, which is pushing this process," said Mr. Martinez who called sustainability in both its products and processes one of Ahlstrom's key priorities.

This commitment is shown in Ahlstrom's new line in Chimside, Scotland, which enables the company to make environmentally sound products, for the infusion beverage as well as other markets, based on biodegradable and compostable materials.

"In some applications, certain environmental or sustainability requirements have become a market standard, even long before the recent sustainability hype," Mr. Martinez said. "In some cases, combinations of environmental and performance benefits could enable end users or brand owners to differentiate, enter or create new premium market segments, gaining competitive advantage and getting economic benefits even if the material cost per unit was higher."

Within medical and food nonwovens, demand continues to be strong for Ahlstrom which currently has two major growth investment projects in progress there.The new line in Chimside, Scotland, based on spunmelt nonwovens, will primarily serve the growing infusion products market with next generation products used, for example, in tea bags. This unique production line is able to process renewable and compostable plant-based fibers. This has led to the launch of new, environmentally friendly premium tea bag material, which conforms to EN13432 norms for biodegradability and compostability.

A second, longer term investment project within Ahlstrom's Advanced Nonwovens division is ongoing in India, where Ahlstrom is establishing a new medical nonwovens plant in the Mundra Special Economic Zone in Gujarat. Operations are estimated to start in the first quarter of 2010 and the new plant will make a full range of SMS fabrics for medical applications such as drapes, gowns, facemask and sterile barrier systems.

Another important industrial market for Ahlstrom is wall coverings, where the company sees a clear movement to higher end wall coverings led by an increased designer interest in home decoration. Additionally, growing market demand for sustainable substrates is driven by the number of eco conscious manufacturers and consumers.

Recently launched EasyLife mid-tier nonwovens responds to these trends. Made from a mix of natural and synthetic fibers and complementing the existing ranges of papers and EasyLife high-tier nonwoven substrates, this product is suitable in applications as backings as well as in facings for direct printing, the new materials will combine benefits of paper and nonwoven substrates to deliver excellent printability, optimum design performance and efficient processability.

Also important to Ahlstrom is its filtration division, which has also been the subject of a great deal of investment in recent years. With a long history in the engine filtration market, where it once supplied mainly wetlaid nonwovens media, Ahlstrom decided a few years ago to expand it role into other filtration areas. What followed was a string of investments starting with Hollinnee LLC, giving it access to the HVAC market, continued with Lantor, which added needlepunching capabilities, Fibermark's absorbent materials business and HRS Textiles to enhance its place in air filtration and ended with Sassoferrato, Italy-based Fabriano Filter Media, a maker of micro-glass filter medial, which gave Ahlstrom exposure to high efficiency air filtration markets.

Ahlstrom has also made a number of capital investments in its filtration business, most recently two sister needle punch lines, mainly for dust filtration, in Bethune, SC and Wuxi, China, to help round out its newly acquired business. However, more recent attention has been paid to rationalizing and optimizing these assets. Recent efforts have included the closure of sites in Darlington, SC and Bellingham, MA in early 2008. Lines from these sites were moved to Groesbeck, TX and Bethune, SC, respectively. A liquid filtration converting operation once located in Mt. Holly Springs, PA has also moved to Bethune.

According to Jerome Barrillon, vice president of sales, liquid filtration, filtration has been defensive against weakened economies. While the OEM segment of this business has suffered in the wake of automotive industry problems, success has been seen in the aftermarket business as consumers are more careful about taking care of existing vehicles. The same can be said in Ahlstrom's HVAC business, which was hurt by the recent construction slowdown but at the same time has benefitted from consumer interest in protecting their assets.

New technology continues to also be important to Ahlstrom's filtration business. This includes Ahlstrom's Disruptor product--esigned specifically for improving the quality of water through particulate filtration properties produced by both electro adsorption and mechanical filtration. Improved taste and odor qualities are provided through the addition of powdered activated carbon (PAC).


Polymer Group Inc.

Charlotte, NC


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $1.15 billion

Key Personnel

Veronica Hagen, chief executive officer; Robert Kocourek, chief financial officer; Mike Hale, chief operating officer; Bob Dale, vice president of research and development; Jonathan Bourget, senior vice president and general manager, Europe; Rolando Dominguez, vice president, general manager, Latin America; Daniel Guerrero, vice president and general manager, U.S.; Richard Gillespie, vice president and general manager, Canada; Wuling Zhang, vice president and general manager, Asia; Charlie Saine, vice president, global procurement; John Heironimus, vice president and chief marketing officer and chief sustainability officer; Dennis Norman, vice president, strategy and corporate development


Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, OR; Clearfield, UT; Guntown, MS; Kingman, KS; Magog, Quebec; North Bay, Ontario; Cuijk, The Netherlands; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Call, Colombia

ISO Status

Benson, NC; North Little Rock, AR; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Nanhai, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and Cuijk, The Netherlands are ISO 9002 certified


Spunbonded, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace, other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems

Brand Names

Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Amira, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Duralace, Du rapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Isolite, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Matline, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Multi-Strike, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Quat-Safe, Provia, Reticulon, Reforel, Softlin, SoftTouch, Spinlace, SuperSoft, TopSwell, Thermoform, Thermospost Ultra Dryloft, Titan, Ultra-Ply, Xiora

Despite the tough global economic climate, nonwovens producer PGI ended 2008 a much stronger company than it was a year-anda-half ago with sales at a record high, according to Veronica (Ronee) Hagen, chief executive officer.

"These are the toughest economic conditions I've ever seen," said Ms. Hagen. "The challenges have us doing business in a cognitive fog. We don't have a lot of the information we used to rely on when we wanted to make decisions--there is so much volatility in terms of raw materials, global demand and currency fluctuations."

Against this difficult backdrop, Ms. Hagen is proud to say that PGI is stronger than it was 18 months ago and well positioned for what will likely be an extended tough economic situation. This is partly credited to PGI's good business sense but the defensive nature of the hygiene market has also played a role.

Currently, PGI's nonwovens business is split between twothirds single-use sales--hygiene, wipes and medical applications--and one-third industrial markets.

"We are pleased we are in a non-cyclical business," Ms. Hagen said. "Two-thirds of our business is single-use and that's been a positive thing for us. We have a diversified market portfolio in our businesses and this extends globally. We don't have too much exposure to any one region or market."

Sales were up 8.1% for PGI in 2008, a trend not expected to continue this year primarily due to lower selling prices resulting from lower raw material costs. Additionally, the company expects declines in its industrial business volumes, namely U.S. automo tive products and construction, to not be offset by gains in its disposables business.

"We don't expect the same level of growth in 2009 because it would require higher raw material prices in our disposables businesses, which is not expected," said Dennis Norman, vice president of strategy and corporate development. "Industrial is also going to be off considerably."

In addition to higher raw material prices, PGI's nonwovens sales were boosted last year by the continued ramp-up of a new line in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the continued roll out of its Spinlace continuous filament technology and some new industrial applications. More recently PGI's sales have been benefitting from the completion of a state-of-the-art spunbond line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which came onstream in May ahead of schedule.

The $50 million plant expansion increased PGI's capacity by approximately 15,000 metric tons to meet ongoing demand for the company's nonwoven materials used in hygiene and disposable medical applications.

PGI's new Reifenhauser Reicofil 4 line features the latest technology and produces high quality, lightweight, strong fabrics for use in fine denier barrier materials used in diapers and medical garments. In addition to serving customers in Mexico and the U.8., the new line is also a gateway for PGI to supply its products to Central America and the Caribbean.

These new lines have secured PGI's role as the world's largest manufacturer of spunmelt nonwovens in the Americas. With capacity spread out between North Carolina, Virginia, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, PGI has a sizable hygiene business, serving multinational and private label diaper and hygiene manufacturers. Mr. Norman said he characterizes the North American hygiene market as healthy, for now. "If all of the new lines previously announced come in, the industry could start seeing some problems with overcapacity," he said.

Outside of North America, PGI has a large spunmelt line as well as a medical gown converting operation in China, which has contributed to the company's leadership position in the Chinese medical gown market.

"In 2008, we were able to leapfrog into a number one position in all of the (medical) markets we participate in," said Mr. Nor man. "These include gowns and drapes, head covers and shoe covers. The medical market has an existing supply chain and the fact that we are in China and that we are vertically integrated gives us the ability to deliver."

According to Ms. Hagen, cost effectiveness and flexibility has allowed spunmelt to dominate many markets and this is why the company has invested so heavily in the technology during the past couple of years. "Markets tend to migrate to the best technology. Spunmelt is a very cost effective technology and it would be great if it could satisfy all of the market needs. Right now it can't, but Spinlace is a good example of how this technology is expanding to meet new market needs," she said.

By Spinlace, Ms. Hagen is referring to the company's continuous filament technology, which was launched in April 2007 and is al ready being used by multinational wipes manufacturers including a major consumer goods manufacturer that chose the material for its disinfectant wipes relaunch last year. The Spinlace process provides added strength, absorbency, texturizing and other performance characteristics that enhance the cleaning in the wipes.

PGI created Spinlace to bridge the gap between value and performance in wipes. By eliminating the carded manufacturing steps, PGI is combining continuous filament, pulp and its proprietary Apex imaging technology to achieve the performance attributes customers want at competitive prices.

"Wipes is a good example of a market where value has eroded," said Cliff Bridges, global marketing and HR communications director. "The cost everyone was willing to pay came down creating a gap between performance and price. Spinlace helped bridge this gap by offering superior performance in a more efficient manner."

In addition to these expansions, PGI has focused on streamlining its business, exiting businesses that strategically don't make sense, and consolidating plants and machinery to improve its cost performance. The latest of these efforts came in June when the company announced a plan to close its North Little Rock, AR facility by early next year--making the site the fourth PGI site to close in three years. Under the plan, PGI will consolidate certain manufacturing operations into its Benson, NC plant and phase out operations of its North Little Rock facility by the end of March 2010 and relocate portions of its hydroentanglement and fusible fiber businesses to increase efficiency, reduce costs and maintain its high quality levels. These activities will involve upgrading the capabilities of both the hydroentanglement and fusible fiber manufacturing bases at PGI in order to meet developing market needs through capitalization of in-house intellectual properties.

According to Mr. Bridges, this facility was very industrial-oriented and as such was hit quite hard by the economic crisis. "It is well aligned with our Benson operation so it made sense to shut it down when we were looking at streamlining," he said.

PGI closed sites in Rogers, AR and Gainesville, GA in 2007 and in Landisville, NJ in mid 2008.

PGI is also reexamining its business portfolio to consider what businesses continue to make sense for it in this new economy. Despite the fact it had invested in its automotives business in the U.S. as recently as 2008, earlier this year, PGI made the decision to exit the automotives market--except for its business in the automotive wipes category. "Volume in the industry was cut in half and our business model just didn't make sense any more," Mr. Bridges explained. "There would have to be a really compelling argument for us to re-enter that market. We are now selling the assets we used to make those products."

Also hurting has been the construction market, particularly the housewrap segment, but bedding, particularly in the FR arena, continues to perform well as does filtration, where PGI's presence is small but competitive in certain niche markets.

Moving forward, PGI sees great opportunity to partner more closely with its customers and create greater value through its sustainability initiatives.

"We are committed to achieving leadership in sustainability in our industry," Ms. Hagen said. "We see this as not only an essential matter of corporate responsibility, but also an important area of collaboration with our key customers and suppliers. Our commitment to sustainability is a reflection of our values and integral part of the PGI brand. The world's leading companies have embraced the sustainability challenge as a core operating principle and PGI will be no exception as a leading global nonwovens company."



London, U.K.


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $947 million

Key Personnel

Daniel Dayan, CEO; Dan Abrams, CFO; Ian Barnes, president, Consumer Fabrics; Derek Chan, president Asia/Pacific: John Juric, president, Americas Industrial division; Paul Glover, Managing Director Terrain; Hans Jorg Oberberg, president, European Industrial division


Green Bay, WI; Old Hickory, TN; Simpsonville, SC; Tianjin, China; Biesheim, France; Aschersleben, Germany; Berlin, Germany; Trezzano Rosa, Italy; Pontypool, U.K.; Norrkoping, Sweden; Port Elizabeth, South Africa (JV); Peine, Germany; Terno d'Isola, Italy;


Chemical bonded, thermal bonded, meltblown, bicomponent spunbond, airlaid, air through bonded, spunbond, composites

Major Markets

Construction and ground contact, consumer care, filtration, baby and adult diapers, hygiene, medical and protective markets, industrial specialties, femcare

Reporting a decrease of 3% was Fiberweb whose 2008 sales were 512 [pounds sterling] million due largely to softness in its industrial markets. "Hygiene is a pretty defensive market," said CEO Daniel Dayan. "There can be some lower usages or also some trade down from mid-tier brands to lower-tier ones, but much of the softness we saw was in our industrial markets, particularly those that have to do with construction."

During the same time, earnings tripled, a continuance of a turnaround begun during the second half of 2007.

A key component of this plan was the shuttering of older spunmelt lines, first in the U.S., and more recently in Europe when Fiberweb said it would shut down an older line in Norrkoping, Sweden and cut output at sites in Peine, Germany and Biesheim, France as its high speed, state-of-the-art spunmelt line at its Trezzano Rosa, Italy site was completed. These measures were expected to keep Fiberweb's spunbond capacity in Europe broadly constant while increasing its average capacity per line by around 50% compared to first half 2008.

These moves follow the closure of two spunmelt lines in Washougal, WA as well as an SMS line, a spunbond line and a portion of a pilot line in Simpsonville, SC in mid 2007 as well as the shutdown of a Toronto line earlier that year.

"The old BBA did not invest efficiently in spunmelt but since 2006 we have worked piece by piece to reinvest," Mr. Dayan said.

These latest efforts in Europe will lessen the Fiberweb workforce by about 120 but newer, more efficient lines in Sweden and Italy will allow the company's European spunmelt capacity to remain level.

These streamlining measures had been planned since Fiber-web gained independence from its parent company, The BBA Group, three years ago.

"We haven't done anything directly in response to the economic crisis," Mr. Dayan explained. "What we have done is continue the structuring efforts started in 2006. The only result is that we may have accelerated some of those efforts in response to the crisis."

Characterizing the European market as too crowded and too fragmented, Mr. Dayan blames current conditions on over-investment in the past. "To remain competitive, the smaller players had to invest in more modern machinery or get out of the market. Too many companies opted to invest."

In North America, Fiberweb's solution to fragmentation is a joint venture partnership. This summer, the company's board approved a plan to form a joint venture with Brazilian producer Fitesa--a company with firm plans to invest in North America--about combining the two companies' American hygiene businesses, including Fitesa's planned North American investment, its recently heavily invested Brazilian operation and Fiberweb's facilities in Washougal, WA and Queretaro, Mexico.

"We see this as a clever way to enable consolidation when it's hard to get financing," Mr. Dayan said. "It gives us access to South America at a great cost base and investment in North America at half the price, while giving Fitesa efficient access to North America, technology and global customers."

The new joint venture company is set to be the second largest maker of spunmelt nonwovens in the Americas. Fiberweb's spun melt assets outside of the Americas as well as its nonwovens technologies beyond spunmelt were not impacted by the venture.

Another technology that continues to be important to Fiberweb is airlaid. As China's largest producer of airlaid nonwovens with two lines in Tianjin, China, Fiberweb continues to be committed to this market despite a recent decision to close a fairly new line at its Korma, Italy site. The line, which was ordered with the intent to go after some feminine hygiene business formerly supplied by older Fiberweb technology. When the customer decided to change its product to aiflaid, Fiberweb opted to invest in a new line to serve it. Unfortunately, the new line was unable to achieve the economies necessary for its customers for a number of reasons.

Beyond hygiene, the three main industrial areas important to Fiberweb are filtration, specialty construction and graphic arts. While filtration and graphic arts are performing relatively well, specialty construction has been hit hard by the global economic crisis, particularly in North America where housing starts are down significantly.

Still bullish about filtration, however, Fiberweb recently announced a plan to help boost its position in this market. The company is in the process of adding meltblown capacity in Biesheim, France, which has contained a meltblown operation for 18 years, to significantly increase its capacity for air filtration media used in facemasks, respirators and HVAC applications.

The new line is expected to be complete in January 2010. Already Fiberweb has received commitments from several key customers that require increased amounts of the filter media.

During the past couple of years, Fiberweb has undertaken a strategic review of its global nonwovens business, which some could say boasts one of the most diverse range of technologies and markets in the industry. This process led to the sales of a global spunlace business and its share of joint ventures including an elastics technology group, a Saudi spunmelt maker and a Brazilian geotextiles manufacturer, continued investment in core technologies and a serious reduction in its number of employees.

"Under BBA, the company became too diverse and unfocused," Mr. Dayan said.

That's not to say of course, that Fiberweb, isn't interested in acquiring new businesses or forming new partnerships, as evidenced by its recent agreement with Fitesa. "In principal, joint ventures can be an appropriate way of doing business," Mr. Dayan said. "But, they need to be with compatible partners who share a strategy and recognize that both sides bring something to the table.

Focusing on its strengths, in fact, has allowed Fiberweb to do nearly the same with a whole lot less. Despite a number of division sales and plant shutdowns, nonwovens sales have decreased just 40 million [pounds sterling] in the past couple of years while its workforce has dropped dramatically from 3300 to 1900 people. While growth may not be a reality in today's economic climate it's not too obscure of a concept for Fiberweb. "It's a bit of a luxury to talk about growth at this point, but we are instead focusing on being strong as possible for when recovery arrives. We want to get our hygiene business right and we will continue to focus on filtration and specialty items."


Johns Manville

Denver, CO


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $670 million

Key Personnel

Bob Wamboldt, vice president & general manager, Engineered Products North America (EPNA) Ermo Henze, vice president & general manager, Engineered Products Europe/Asia (EPEA); Ken Forden, director of sales and marketing EPNA; Christian Hassmann, segment manager, filtration & separation and marketing manager, Nonwovens EPEA; Stefan Mohr, segment manager, Waterproofing EPEA; Anne Schafer, segment manager, construction & industrial EPEA


Waterville, OH; Defiance, OH; Richland, MS; Spartanburg, SC; Etowah, TN; Bobingen, Berlin, Wertheim, Karlstein and Steinach, Germany; Shanghai and Louyang, China; Trnava, Slovakia;

ISO Status

Spartanburg, SC and Defiance, OH ISO 9002 certified; Bobingen and Berlin, Germany ISO 9001 certified; Waterville, OH ISO 9002 certified; Etowah, TN ISO 9002 certified; Richland, MS ISO 9001 certified


Airlaid (glass and synthetic), wetlaid, meltblown, spunlaid needling, composite

Brand Names

Assurance, Dura-Glass, Delta-Aire, DynaWick, DynaWeb, DynaTech, Micro-Aire, MicroLith, microlith, ecoMat, DuraGlass, DuraSpun, SpunFil, CombiFil, ComforTex, UniTex, ForTex, Illuma White, StabilStrand, DuraBase and Gorilla Wrap, StableGrip

Major Markets

Roofing substrates, air and liquid filtration, sorbents, battery separators, geotexfiles, flooring substrates and racers for building products, wind energy, nonwovens for engineered wood composites

With a new regional structure in place, leading roll goods producer Johns Manville (JM) is focusing on keeping costs under control in a difficult economic environment. The company is organized into four regional segments--Insulation Systems, Roofing Systems and Engineered Products North America (EPNA) and Engineered Products Europe/Asia (EPEA)."The new regional structure has increased decision-making speed and keeps the focus on critical customer issues that drive continuous improvement," explained Bob Wambodt vice president and general manager, Engineered Products North America, and Enno Henze, vice president and general manager, Engineered Products Europe/Asia.

Like most manufacturers, JM's business has been impacted by tough economic conditions on both the North American and European fronts. After a very strong start into 2008 with record sales in the building and construction markets as well as in the filtration and separation segment, the company saw a significant slowdown in the fourth quarter caused by the global economic crisis, particularly in Europe. Due to its broad portfolio of products and markets, JM reports that its results have been pretty stable so far.

JM remains sharply focused on polyester spunbond and glass fiber nonwovens for building and industrial applications. According to Mr. Henze, the company is launching several new products and continues to concentrate on product and application development." Many cost control cuts have been made, but reducing our focus on product innovation has not been considered," he remarked.

In the area of filtration, JM has extended its polyester spunbond range to include a new "heavyweight" variation of its SpunFil product. The 260 gsm filter media for industrial air applications increases the stiffness, stability and filter efficiency significantly. The filtration portfolio has also been enlarged with energy efficient media for air pollution control and gas turbines.

Also new is StabilStrand; an innovative product family composed of glass fiber nonwovens and unique binder systems such as b-stage melamine. StabilStrand is designed for use as a surface layer as well as an underlayer for engineered wood materials.

Other filtration products from JM include CombiFil Premium, SpunFil EasyPleat and Micro-Strand XE. CombiFil Premium combines the advantages of both polyester spunbond and microglass and provides a filtration product that has consistent mechanical filtration efficiency up to HEPA, low-pressure drop with high dust holding capacity and requires no additional reinforcements.

SpunFil EasyPleat is a calendered polyester spunbond made with JM's new BC-technology. It has high air permeability and features a high stiffness even at low area weights of between 60 and 120 gsm. The product enables high pleating machine speeds while continuing to achieve sharp and precise pleats.

Micro-Strand XP microfiber is used in manufacturing microglass papers used in HEPA, ULPA and ASHRAE tilters. The glass microfiber meets the rigid health testing standards established by the European Union for fiber exoneration.

Another filtration-related innovation from JM is its Assurance nonwoven composite media made of natural and synthetic fibers. Used to produce a superior mechanical air tilter, the media also enable production of self-supporting air filters that reduce costs, increase manufacturing productivity and avoid safety liabilities associated with expanded-metal filter structures.

For building applications, JM offers DuraSpun XTR, a glass thread reinforced spunbond composite providing best-in-class dimensional stability to bituminous waterproofing membranes; Illuma White, a precoated glass fiber nonwoven for high quality ceiling tiles and the glass fiber nonwoven DHY Forte an innovative product for impact sound attenuation.

In agricultural and landscape markets, JM sells its lightweight 100-120 gsm DuraSpun nonwovens and is underway with efforts to become a larger player in this sector. The fabric allows moisture to pass but reduces weed growth, and--like all of JM's agricultural offerings--is 100% polyester spunbond.

"We are looking to increase our volumes in this area," reported Mr. Wamboldt, "and are working on plant and process improvements at our Spartanburg facility that will allow us to make DuraSpun lighter and thinner. The 120 gsm limit is not normally light enough for landscape applications and we are producing some products now at about 90-95 gsm or 2.7 osy. This will make us more competitive."

In the area of crop protection, the company sells fabric to cover crops to prevent damage from frost; in the erosion control field, JM supplies a distributor that sells into the golf course market where its 013140 lab tic has been accepted as the product of choice for use under sand traps.

JM's Silt Fence offers high efficiency filtration for protecting rivers, creeks and streams while reducing soil erosion on development projects. The product was co-developed by JM and Silt-Saver and is being distributed by Silt-Saver. Currently, Silt Saver is making state-by-state efforts to replace existing woven polypropylene products in North America.

When it comes to capacity expansion, JM has plans to significantly upgrade a specialty glass mat line in Waterville, OH. "The global economic slowdown has clearly impacted overall market demand but JM continues to invest to meet future needs," added Mr. Wamboldt.

Also in North America, the company's glass mat line in Etowah, TN is running 24 hours per day/seven days a week and meeting its business case targets. The company describes the facility as an extremely cost-efficient operation with two large furnaces and 70% of its customers nearby.

In China, where JM operates two facilities, in Shanghai and Louyang respectively, the company continues to service roofing, specialty and geotextiles markets in Asia and the Middle East from its state-of the-art spunbond lines.

JM has five plants in Germany, where a recent highlight was its receipt of the prestigious "Top 100" seal by the Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien (Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration). JM was ranked among the "Top 100" most innovative German mid sized companies. During a ceremony in Konigswinter's "Gastehaus Petersberg," Lothar Spath, former prime minister of Baden Wurttemberg and mentor of the program, presented the prestigious "Top 100" seal to Johns Manville executives Werner Groh, technology leader, and Christian Hassmann, marketing leader.

This is the first time JM has participated in the 17-year-old program. To qualify for this honor, JM participated in a strict two-step process managed by the University that ultimately recognized the company for its culture of innovation that encompassed "innovation promoting top-management," "innovation climate," "innovation processes and organization," "innovation marketing" and "innovation success."

"Our innovation is supported by more than 220 patents, 40 of which were awarded in the past three years," explained Dr. Groh. "Our business team of 950 employees uses Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing tools and processes, which strengthens our credibility among our customers and other partners. We have a well-established innovation process and we believe there is no better way to overcome the challenges of a difficult economic environment."



Aalborg, Denmark


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $295 million

Key Personnel

Mikael Staal Axelsen, CEO, Fibertex Personal Care; Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens; Ole Houmann, CFO; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, purchasing director


Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic

ISO Status

DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management


Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermal bonded, spunbond/meltblown, technical air lay

Brand Names

Fibertex, Fibertex Nonwovens, Flexback, Formtex, Compoflex, Multigeo, Superflor, Weedseal, Fiberforce, Fibergreen, Fibertex patio, Fibertex universal, Fiberacoustic, TWO-in ONE, Comfort-back, Matchback, Woodback, Q-Match, Making the perfect match, FibertexCOMFORT, FibertexElite, FibertexDual, FibertexPRINT

Major Markets

Industrial textiles--primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, acoustics, furniture and bedding, filtration; technical textiles-building and construction, composites, do-it-yourself, horticulture; hygiene--applications within baby diapers, femcare and adult incontinence.

The big news at Danish roll goods producer Fibertex last year was the appointment of joint CEOs to oversee the company's two divisions--Fibertex Personal Care and Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens. The two divisions, although operating separately, had until last year, been overseen by one company CEO and led by two general managers--Jorgen Bech Madsen on the industrial side and Mikael Staal Axelsen within personal care--who are now acting at joint CEOs.

The change had little effect in the day-to-day running of the business. "Fibertex has always operated as two independent companies so we cleared up the organization and changed the corporate structure to integrate the organization into two businesses," said Mr. Madsen. "We are now leaner and more focused and the two groups still share a number of departments such as IT and finance."

Amidst this change, total sales were flat at $295 million (DKK 1590 million) for the company last year as gains in the company's personal care division offset declines on the industrial side of its business. Profits, meanwhile increased from DKK13.9 million to DKK36.2 million thanks to a drop in raw material prices as well as increased efficiencies in the group's Malaysian spunmelt operation.

The Personal Care division's sales exceeded DKK 1 billion last year, just more than a decade after its establishment. The division operates three spunmelt lines in Fibertex as well as two at its Malaysian facility. Its share of the global nonwoven hygiene market has been reported at 7%.

According to Mr. Axelsen, this side of Fibertex's business continues to be impacted by oversupply in the European spunmelt market, a situation that's expected to continue for the next three to four years; however, efforts toward diversification as well as operational efficiencies have enabled Fibertex to retain a competitive edge in the market, even in the midst of the economic crisis.

"The overcapacity was already there before the crisis hit. We really saw its impact in developing regions," Mr. Axelsen continued. "However, we have a good marketing profile in that we can offer our customers a range of materials from value added products to strait commodity items."

One of these value adds is the production of printed nonwovens. Through a joint venture with Innowo Print, Fibertex last year established a factory to print on lightweight nonwovens in up to six colors, allowing customers to empower their brands with im ages and designs. Other capabilities include high barrier nonwovens and bicomponent materials.

"Specialty hygiene opens some doors but the big volumes are still in the commodity areas."

Fibertex's Malaysian business still predominantly sells to multi national companies that are present in that area. "The local players are supplying the local diaper market," Mr. Axelsen said. "We find that we better match professional customers."

Meanwhile, Fibertex's Industrial business--with key markets ranging from automotives, geotextiles, filtration, construction and carpet backings--has been hit hard by the economic crisis; however this impact was softened somewhat by an optimization plan put in place before the crisis hit. This plan included a DKK130 million investment in new state-of-the-art equipment lessened raw material consumption, price increases and staff reductions.

Begun in fall 2007, the plan included the start-up of two pro duction lines, one in Aalborg, Denmark, and one in the Czech Re public--which use fewer raw materials; price increases; the shutdown of older production lines including an entire older factory in the Czech Republic; streamlined production process; innovation and product development.

"We now have two modern, state-of-the-art facilities in Denmark and the Czech Republic," Mr. Madsen said. "We didn't know when we did it that there was going to be an economic crisis, but we are glad we did it because it allowed us to shake out all of our fat."

As a result of the economic crisis, Fibertex's automotive business was down significantly during the last quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. While things have started to gradually improve, the market is still behind expectations. "There is a lot of uncertainty, but we are focusing on what's next. There have been a lot of research and development efforts and we hope to launch a number of new products out of our Czech Republic site once things turn around," said Mr. Madsen.

Citing features like acoustical performance and lower weights, he added that nonwovens are ideal for automotives and he expects them to be offered on a much broader platform to the automotive market post recovery.

Fibertex's operation will be better positioned once the automotive market recovers. As part of the optimization effort, converting operations were moved out of Denmark to the Czech Republic, bringing more labor-intensive operations to lower wage areas to trim production costs.

Meanwhile, construction is finally at a level where Fibertex expected it to be. While some activity is seasonal, more has to do with a push from governments to spend money on infrastructure improvements.

As things continue to improve, filtration is expected to emerge as an important growth market for Fibertex, which so far does not have a large presence there. Some of this growth will stem from Fibertex's interest in nanofilter technology, which is currently being made on a pilot line. "It will take some time before this is truly a market focus," Mr. Madsen explained.



Tel Aviv, Israel


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $254 million

Key Personnel

Shuki Goldwasser, chairman; Nir Peleg, CEO; Achai Bonneh, director of technology


Tel Aviv, Israel; Mocksville, NC; Jingmen City, Hubei Province, China; Uzlovaya, Russia

ISO Status

ISO 9002 Certified


Spunbonded, meltblown, hydroentangled spunlaid

Brand Names

Zebra, Avspun, Avsoft

Major Markets

Hygiene, Medical, Construction, Agriculture, Furniture, Upholstery

With 85% of its output continuing to target hygiene markets, Avgol's strategy centers on consistently delivering top quality, low basis weight spunmelt products around the world. The company is riding out the economic turbulence by keeping its head down and focusing squarely on its core capabilities. "We continue to grow with our major customers, providing them with better, lower weight versions of the products we've been making all along," stated Dennis Durkin. "We have expanded to the point that we are now able to quickly deliver our products in all comers of the world."

In light of current worldwide economic hurdles, Avgol is pleased with its $254 million in sales in 2008, a 7% bump up from the previous year. "Resin prices are a huge factor when it comes to revenue, and it makes it difficult to judge what kind of year a company had strictly based on sales figures. For instance, our 2009 sales may actually decrease, but there's a good chance that we'll have an even better year than in 2008." Meanwhile, Mr. Durkin described 2008 as a year where producers were faced with the worst resin pricing in history.

In terms of current challenges, excess global hygiene capacity tops the list for Avgol. Some excess capacity stems from First Quality's acquisition of Covidien last year, but other recent examples of spunmelt installations include a new multibeam Reicofil machine in Hazleton, PA from First Quality as well as PGI's new state-of-the-art spunbond line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Concerns of overcapacity are being exacerbated by announced investments by Fitesa and Companhia Providencia, which so far have not come to fruition.

"Frankly, we were scratching our heads and wondering what Fitesa and Providencia were seeing that we weren't," remarked Mr. Durkin. "The fact is there's excess capacity and plenty of people out there selling. In South America, companies are trying to justify their potential investments here in North America. At least in North America, spunmelt is a relatively difficult market right now that could get even more challenging as new investments from either Fitesa or Providencia come online."

In addition to these challenges, Avgol is still regrouping its customer mix following First Quality's purchase of Covidien, which sent a tidal wave through the spunmelt chain last year. "It's no secret that this had a dramatic effect on our business," he said. "We recovered from most of it by late 2008 by adding new customers to fill most of that gap. We still have global system capacity." Prior to the purchase, Covidien's business represented approximately 30-35% of Avgol's worldwide revenue.

Outside of North America, Avgol has been in the process of expanding and has set its sights on both China and Russia as markets with growth potential. The company announced in January that it will add a second Reifenhauser polypropylene line in Jingmen in Hubei Province, 1000 miles west of Shanghai, with an annual capacity of 15,000 tons. The facility is jointly owned by Avgol and China's Hubei Gold Dragon Nonwoven Fabric Co. Ltd., which produces SMS fabrics at the Jingmen site. Avgol has also increased its stake in the Chinese joint venture from 50% to 70%.

"The new line is coming along well and will be running, as expected, in the second quarter of 2010," reported Mr. Durkin. "Preparations are being made and we're already taking delivery of equipment. We're optimistic about growth in this region and about the support we've received from global and regional customers who are pushing us to expand into increasingly lower weight materials." Mr. Durkin added that producers with Reicofil equipment may have difficulty competing in China on certain high weight, low tech applications now, but he expects this to change as demand becomes more sophisticated and the need for higher performing, lower cost materials increase.

"This will change how the market in China looks," he predicted. "As big players come in and set up shop, needs will change and we'll see continued growth of low basis weights. We're be ginning to see this in hygiene already and the medical market is growing as well. There's an increasing need for higher quality medical grade materials."

As for Avgol's recent strides in the Russian market, the company's new line is up and running and supplying commercial grade materials to local customers. Based in Uzlovaya, which is in the Tula region of Russia and 200 km south of Moscow, the new line boasts a capacity of 10,000 metric tons of SMMS material and serves hygiene and industrial applications. "Russia is actually starting to do well and the plant has just recently come pretty close to capacity. We have no current plans to expand in Russia, but I wouldn't be surprised to see plans develop in the next 18-24 months. This is a great potential market for us but we'll take our cue from the local customer base about adding capacity," Mr. Durkin continued.

In Israel, where Avgol is headquartered, the company's five spunmelt lines continue to service local customers as well as some markets in Europe and the Middle East. "The lines in Israel represent about 30% of our business and are doing fine. We have no plans to expand capacity at this time. We've continually upgraded the lines as they have aged and the older, original lines are being put to good use targeting a variety of higher end industrial applications," he offered.

At Avgol's Mocksville, NC facility, plans are moving along to add capabilities to two of its three spunmelt lines, a move that will bump annual capacity by 3500 tons and expand the company's product range for its existing customer base. "There are two phases of this project, one of which happened in June and the other is scheduled for September. I can't give any specifics, but these changes will provide us with the ability to make products we couldn't make before. We'll be producing enhanced new products at our customers' requests." Although the products will initially target hygiene applications, Mr. Durkin indicated that they could spill over into other areas.

In closing, Mr. Durkin highlighted the company's ongoing commitment to the spunmelt market." We will continue to concentrate on better products for a variety of hygiene applications where our technologies are best suited. We don't know where our recent upgrades will bring us, but for now, we'll focus on our core lightweight offerings. Our 8-13 gsm products have fueled our growth and we're now 'Taking Our Innovation Around the World.'"


First Quality Nonwovens

Great Neck, NY


2008 Nonwovens Sales: $250 million


Hazleton, PA; McElhattan, PA




Hygiene, medical

First Quality Nonwovens continues to invest in both its nonwovens and its packaged goods business with plans for a new diaper plant as well as its first foray into spunlacing making headlines in recent months. Formed in 1996, First Quality Nonwovens has steadily invested in its nonwovens business to make it what it is today, one of the world's largest suppliers of spunmelt nonwovens for medical and hygiene applications. Based in Great Neck, NY, the company has nonwovens operations in Hazleton and McElhattan, PA, which largely serve its massive private label businesses.

According to industry insiders, the current output of tightlipped, privately held First Quality Nonwovens is in the 90,000100,000 ton range, making its sales in the $250 million range. About 18 months ago, First Quality made an ambitious purchase within the private label diaper market when it bought Covidien's retail Products Business (formerly Tyco), making it a forward integrated nonwovens supplier and converter.

First Quality had already produced private label feminine hygiene items, adult diapers, wipes and consumer paper products prior to this purchase and had announced earlier in 2007 plans to enter the private label diaper market.

At the time of the acquisition, the company indicated that ownership of Covidien provided it with a more diversified product portfolio and a full range of adult incontinence, feminine hygiene, wet and dry wipes and baby diaper products and would enable First Quality to enhance its relationships with retail customers by offering broader, more innovative product lines and greater value.

The deal was valued at $335 million. Covidien's retail products business--once known as Tyco Healthcare--had sales of $744 million in fiscal 2007.

First Quality is already expanding this business. In July, a report regarding First Quality's approval to construct a one-million-square-foot diaper manufacturing facility in Granville, PA was published on the Pennsylvania governor's official website. The new construction is expected to create 500 jobs in the area within the next five years.

In other investment news, First Quality began making spunlaced nonwovens this spring on a 3.6-meter-wide Rieter hydroentanglement line, which will reportedly feed the company's private label baby wipes business. Until the new line started up, First Quality had concentrated its nonwovens business on spunmelt technology. The company's most recent spunmelt investment--its eighth line--was added in late 2008. 

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