Location: Osaka, Japan
Sales: $72 million
Description: Key Personnel
Nobuaki Sumita, president, Kuraray Kuraflex
Okayama, Saijo and Ibaragi
Resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlaced, meltblown steam jet
Coverstock, wipes, medical and household materials
Kuraray consists of three nonwovens companies—Kuraray Kuraflex, Kuraray Saijo and Kuraray Ibaragi. With an annual capacity of 10,500 tons, Kuraray Kuraflex is the core of the group and produces thermal bonded, spunlaced and resin bonded nonwovens. Meanwhile, Kuraray Saijo manufactures 1800 tons of meltblown nonwovens per year and Kuraray Ibaragi makes 3500 tons of spunlaced materials annually.
A recent technology development for the company is the steam jet method, a process it will use to create new products that are being unveiled in the market next month. New steam jet equipment with a 1000 ton-per-year capacity has been added. Originally developed by Mitsubishi Rayon Engineering, the system bonds fibers through the use of high-pressure nozzles.
According to Kuraray, it is the first company in the world to industrialize this method. Kuraray expects to reach a ¥1 billion sales target with the new materials, which will be priced at ¥200-¥2000 per square meter. The new nonwovens will be promoted as value-added, next generation substrates.
Kuraray faces challenging conditions in its existing markets, where it continues to focus on producing nonwovens for diaper coverstock and wipes applications. In the wipes area, Kuraray competes against low cost products from China while competition in the coverstock segment reportedly has also been growing. In response, Kuraray Kuraflex is attempting to procure raw materials from sources outside of Japan and also plans to increase the productivity of its nonwovens facilities. The company will also expand the end use possibilities for certain specialized materials to include industrial applications such as commercial filters or automotive materials. Overall, Kuraray is looking to shift its focus to product areas with high added value.