Location: Arnhem, The Netherlands
Sales: $184 million
Description: Key Personnel
Jan van Boldrik, CEO; Axel Poscher, vice president; Bart Austin, president Colbond Inc.; Randy Cook, director sales and marketing flooring; Harry Verbakel, director sales and marketing automotive; Rob Noppen, director sales and marketing construction industry; Blair Rawes, director sales and marketing civil engineering; Joe Luna, director sales and marketing building and industrial applications
Emmen and Arnhem, The Netherlands; Obernburg, Germany; Asheville, NC
All European plants ISO 9001:2000 certified; U.S. plant QS 9000 certified; ISO 9001 by end of 2006 under preparation
Chemical bonded, thermal bonded and specialties
Colback, Colfors, Enkamat, Enkadrain, Colbonddrain, Enkagrid, Enka-Spacer, Enka-Vent
Flooring, automotive, construction industry, civil engineering, building and various industrial applications
2005 held mixed blessingS for Colbond, Arnhem, The Netherlands. While the company achieved a double-digit growth rate in nonwovens, raw material costs continued to impact the company’s results.
Although Colbond partially compensated for these price hikes through efficiency increases, higher sales prices were necessary, the most recent of which occurred early this year. Amidst these increases, the company continues to focus on efficiency and is working on a number of solutions aimed at mitigating the impact of rising raw material costs to customers. “We haven’t seen any change so far in this situation other than that raw material price levels are increasingly influenced by a range of short-term factors, several of which are not directly related to our nonwovens business,” commented Jan van Boldrik, Colbond CEO. He predicted that this growing uncertainty of raw material price developments would further increase the volatility of market dynamics.
Outside of raw material price woes, another key piece of recent news for Colbond is its sale to London, U.K.-based specialty materials group Low & Bonar. Low & Bonar considers the acquisition a major step forward in its strategy of driving organic and acquisitive growth in its core markets. The firm, which also has operations in China, France and Germany, expects the acquisition to be earnings-enhancing by November 2007.
The new owner will offer increased market access for Colbond products through the Chinese sales infrastructure of Low & Bonar while Colbond’s U.S. infrastructure will offer access to new market opportunities. Low & Bonar operates two divisions—yarns and fabrics and floors with Colbond operating within the yarns and fabrics division.
“We are very pleased with this acquisition,” stated Mr. van Boldrik. “The strategy of Colbond and the approach of the yarns and fabrics operation of Low & Bonar complement one another to a great extent. Both companies supply specialty products for niche applications and have a clear focus on their core competencies. We expect our current and future customers to benefit from the integration of Colbond in the enlarged group. Most obvious, of course, is the continued focus on high quality products and services and the drive for process development in line with customer demands. But also the now-increased worldwide presence of Colbond as a member of Low & Bonar will represent a major advantage for our customers and partners in our markets.”
From a market perspective, Colbond describes growth in high-quality durable nonwovens as positive but somewhat limited during the past several years, but it foresees this trend changing in the medium-term. “Thanks to the unique bicomponent composition of Colback nonwovens and the flexibility of our process, we are able to serve market segments with challenging demands for backing materials and reinforcements,” Mr. van Boldrik said. “We differentiate ourselves from other nonwovens manufacturers by means of high-grade specialty products.”
In terms of manufacturing output, plans are in the works to increase capacity for bicomponent filaments and corresponding nonwovens production. This expansion is in line with Colbond’s strategy to further reinforce its position in the worldwide flooring, automotive and construction markets. A new bicomponent nonwovens technology is expected to play a major role in this capacity increase, which will allow Colbond to further improve the value-added features of its products and services.
Additionally, Colbond is planning to increase its capacity for 3-D mats and composites, both in the U.S. and Europe through continuous debottlenecking and upgrades to existing production equipment. Colbond’s Asheville, NC site alone will increase its nonwovens capacity by more than 10% in the third quarter of 2006 as a result of these efforts.
For Colbond, capital investments are essential to retaining long-term growth and anticipating new market demands in terms of technologies, lead times and volume. The company’s strategy requires that growth be facilitated by capacity increases be backed up by continual customer orientation, a clear focus on the further development of added-value solutions and a company-wide drive for continuous product and process innovation.
“To maintain these qualities, Colbond safeguards its dedication to supplying high-grade specialty products,” explained Mr. van Boldrik. “Our in-house technology and extensive manufacturing expertise in the spinning, fleecing and extrusion of various synthetic materials enables us to tailor products in line with specific customer demands and forms the basis for sustained growth.”
When it comes to new products, Colbond has had a busy year, rolling out several key innovations across its five core markets—flooring, automotive, construction, civil engineering and building and industrial applications. In the flooring area, Colbond has unveiled a 70 gpsm primary backing, a secondary backing for tiles and post-consumer recycled content nonwovens as well as new composite backing materials. In the automotive market, Colbond is building marketshare for Colback Pro in Europe and Easy Tuft in NAFTA and Asia. In the construction sector, the company has successfully introduced its Colfors product range, which is positioned as a mainstream product that complements its premium Colback brand.
In the civil engineering segment, this year Colbond plans to launch a new soil consolidation product, which will replace Colbonddrain, its current prefabricated vertical drain. The composite is based on an innovative extrusion and shaping technology, which allows the use of various types of polymers and nonwoven filters. Consisting of a plastic core fully bonded to a nonwoven filter, the new Colbonddrain product is designed to provide extremely high discharge capacities and result in short settlement times.
In the U.S., new types of rain screen drains for use with housewrap products are currently being developed. The unique 3-D monofilament matrix (Enkamat) provides a continuous space for drying, channels for drainage, a thermal break and pressure equalization, allowing moisture to escape quickly before it damages the sidewall materials.
Launched last year, Colback Pro (a thermally bonded spunlaid nonwoven made from PET/ PP bicomponent filaments) is performing well in the automotive industry as a backing material for various molded carpet platforms at leading European car manufacturers. “The recently launched SMR product line made with post-consumer recycled materials put us at the forefront in the sustainability race, a position that we intend to keep,” offered Mr. van Boldrik.
“Colbond has a powerful portfolio of activities at its disposal. The strategic goals of our company cannot be achieved without the high quality, efforts and teamwork of our individual employees. As sound human resources management assures an appropriate workforce and development of our human capital, it is a major key to the success of our company. I am proud to meet the challenges we will face in the coming years together with this highly motivated workforce,” heconcluded.