Location: Tokyo, Japan
Sales: $194 million
Description: Key Personnel
Yutaka Tanaka, president; Takayuki Ono, managing director; Yoshiaki Mizutani, director; Mitsuo Kanno, director
Resin bonded, needlepunched, thermal bonded, wetlaid, spunlaced, melt blown, tackspun
Apparel interlinings, apparel insulations, air filters, plasterbases, automotive mats and headliners, battery electrode separators
It was a tough year for Japan’s largest roll goods producer Japan Vilene, Tokyo, Japan. Not only did the company’s sales decrease more than 10% due to weakened demand and negative currency rates, Japan Vilene reported lower results in all of its key segments—apparel interlinings, air filtration, automotives and battery separators.
Apparel interlinings, a market that has faced increased challenges from foreign competition in Japan, has traditionally been Japan Vilene’s core business. In 2001, however, apparel interlinings sales continued their descent, begun a few years ago, decreasing 15% to ¥8.1 billion compared to ¥9.6 billion in 2000. This continued contraction can be blamed chiefly on the apparel industry’s move beyond Japan. While Japan Vilene was not immediately affected by this trend because it was able to ship its materials to foreign producers, more recently apparel companies in areas such as China, Korea and Taiwan have begun to rely more on nonwoven materials produced locally. To offset some of this lost business, Japan Vilene is reportedly promoting productivity and reducing costs by altering the types of nonwovens it uses and making production facilities more efficient.
Looking toward Japan Vilene’s automotives business, sales of automotive mats and headliners, comprising nonwoven material, have decreased on the heels of decreased car production in Japan. This trend has subsequently driven down sales to the automotives industry 8% to ¥15.4 billion. Unlike the apparel industry, however, the slowing automotives market is a recent trend; 2001 was the first year it reported a decrease.
Coming off of a year of solid growth in 2000, the company’s air filtration business also reported a slowdown with sales decreasing 5% to ¥9.6 billion due partly to a slowdown in demand for air conditioner units. Nevertheless, executives do remain somewhat bullish about this segment. A great deal of potential lies in automotive interior filtration applications, which is becoming a popular trend in the Japanese automotives industry.
Turning toward the industrial materials segment, sales declined 12%, caused mainly by decreased demand for its core products, battery separators. Still, executives hope future growth will come in the form of batteries for hybrid electric vehicles.
Industrial material sales have decreased due to the influence of a recession in the information and technology segments. This is mainly being seen in the battery separator market, as demand for the separator has decreased in proportion to the decreased production of the battery. Still, the use of batteries in hybrid electric wheel chairs is increasing, which should boost sales to some degree.
Looking globally, sales outside of Japan continue to outpace the company’s domestic operations. Accounting for 17% of the company’s total sales, domestic sales increased 2.9%. At ¥5.8 billion, North America continues to be Japan Vilene’s largest foreign market.