Sales: $150 million
Description: Key Personnel
Stephen Foss, president and CEO, David Rowell, executive vice president and COO, Kevin Sexton, senior vice president and CFO
Hampton, NH, Pulversheim, France
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 certification (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; post finishing, die cutting, embossing
Foss; Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies; SoleMates: Enviromat; Geomat; FossFibre; FossFelt, Stratos; Whispertex; Masterwear; FossForm; Kunin Felt; Rainbow Felt; Confetti Felt: Kreative Kanvas; Fosscloth; Softherm; Fossdust; Fossflow; Ozite; Elevations: Showtime; Safari Felt; Mite-Kill; Bac-Kill; Wonderflex; Glitterfelt; Fluorescent Felt; Fosshape
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution died PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers); automotives (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, trim fabrics); decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings), retail; technical
Foss Manufacturing, Hampton, NH, has continued to make identifying new applications for nonwovens a key part of its growth strategy. Whether these new applications are borrowed from traditional markets for wovens, knits or vinyls or are completely new products, Foss believes in pursuing these non-traditional market spaces in multiple industries as a way of diversifying its customer base. “We have also continued to focus on technology as a specialty fiber producer,” explained company president Stephen Foss.
Strictly a needlepunch producer, Foss has generally targeted technology-driven markets rather than commodities. For instance, in the automotives market, Foss has created new fabrics for “b-surface” seatings. Research and development efforts centered on expanding this product range are ongoing and executives indicated that new products will follow. Additionally, in the decorative market, the company has launched a new program for exhibits and displays. This features two products called Premier and Regal, which are reportedly being met with great reception.
These new products join other innovations for a variety of markets developed by Foss. In 2001, the company applied technology originally developed for automotives and footwear to the theater and entertainment industry. The result was Wonderflex Thermoformable composites for props in which weight and reusability are necessary; and Fosshape, a heat-activated or thermoformable needlepunched nonwoven for ornamental effects in scenery, costumes and headpieces. Other niche areas for Foss include the equestrian and home grilling markets.
In addition to niche markets, Foss has been growing through global expansion. Foss Manufacturing Europe, the company’s Pulversheim, France facility came onstream in spring 2001. Capable of producing 6000 square meters of material annually, the facility moved to a 24-hour/seven day schedule in early 2003. Executives expect that continued growth will necessitate expansion within the next two years.
“(The European site) gives us the ability to serve our automotives customers seamlessly, be it in North America, Europe or Australia,” Mr. Foss explained. “As well, having a truly European company gives us an edge in the European market.”
Australia is also becoming increasingly important to Foss, particularly in the retail, marines and automotive original equipment manufacturing segment. While no plans have yet been made to establish a manufacturing site there—the company operates sales and distribution networks in the country—executives admit that such a move is not far off.
Beyond these regions, Foss is reportedly equipped to serve any customer in the world. For instance, efforts are currently underway in Brazil and South Africa.
Whether diversification relates to end use market or global reach, it is the core strategy behind Foss Manufacturing’s success. The company will continue to rely on this in the future. “We believe that (a differentiated customer base) is key to success,” Mr. Foss said. “We also see that experiences in one industry, whereby we find a solution to one customer’s problem, can easily translate to another industry.”
In addition to needlepunch, Foss also operates a sizable fiber business. In this area, one recent interest has been antimicrobials through its Fosshield technology. Foss is also making strides is in fire retardant fibers. Stringent regulations centered around flammability of furniture and home textiles in California, measures which are expected to spread to other U.S. areas, have generated interest in materials proven to withstand flames. Foss is both selling these fibers and using them in its own products.
Looking ahead, Foss’ main goal will be helping its customers grow. Whether that customer is an automotives supplier, a furniture company or, further downstream, such as an individual, the diversity of this customer base will continue to provide Foss with a competitive edge in multiple markets and locations.