Location: DENVER, CO
Sales: $670 million
Description: Key Personnel
Dion Persson, senior vice president, engineered products group; Ken Forden, NA nonwovens and Enno Henze, EU nonwovens; Bob Wambolt NA Fibers; PO Fibers EU
Waterville, OH; Defiance, OH; Richland, MS; Spartanburg, SC, Etowah, TN; Bobingen, Berlin, Wertheim, Karlstein and Steinach, Germany; Shanghai, China; Trnava, Slovakia;: Louyang, China
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, calendered, melt blown, spunbonded, needlepunched, thermal bonded
Assurance, Microlith, DuraGlass, Delta-Aire, DynaWick, DynaWeb, Micro-Aire, MicroLith, Ecomat, DuraSpun, and Combimat, DuraBase and Gorilla Wrap, StableGrip, StableStrand
Roofing substrates, air and liquid filtration, sorbents, battery separators, geotextiles, flooring substrates and facers for building products
Celebrating its 150th year in business in 2008 is Johns Manville (JM), a leading manufacturer of building and engineered materials headquartered in Denver, CO. A Berkshire Hathaway company, JM has been in business since 1858 and boasts corporate-wide sales in excess of $2 billion. The company employs about 7800 people and operates 41 manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and China.
Now restructured into four regional segments, JM operates European Union fibers and fabrics and North American fibers and fabrics groups. The company continues to operate through its two strategic business units—Engineered Products and Building Materials.
On the North American front, JM’s new glass mat line in Etowah, TN is up and running and the company expects to meet its first-year production goal. The expansion makes the facility an extremely cost-efficient operation with two large furnaces and 70% of its customers nearby.
JM operates two similar lines in Ohio and has a significant presence in Europe. Late in 2007 the company expanded capacity at its Defiance, OH facility for its Micro-Aire duct boards. “This capacity expansion is up and running and we continue to assess additional investments,” commented Ken Forden, North American nonwovens manager for JM.
Mr. Forden also pointed to recent declines in the North American housing market and said that the company has taken significant actions across the organization to mitigate the impact wherever possible. “Like many in our industry, JM is feeling the effects of this market slowdown as well as rising energy, transportation and raw materials costs.” he said. “We will continue to focus on delivering on our commitments to customers and ensuring their success for the long-term. As a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies, we have the added advantage of an owner who understands the cyclicality of our business.”
In response to dramatic hikes in energy costs and raw material prices, this summer JM increased its prices for filter media products. Depending on the composition of the specific product, the percentage of the increase will be negotiated individually.
A similar situation is underway in the glass mat and spunbond sectors, where JM levied a 7% price increase for its polyester spunbond and glass mat waterproofing carriers this summer. “The European economy is encountering severe headwinds due to dramatically increasing costs for petrochemical products, transportation and for energy—whether it is oil, gas or electricity,” said Enno Henze, business leader EU nonwovens. “Since the production of glass and PET mat is a very energy intensive process that consumes a significant amount of petrochemicals, JM has been heavily affected by this cost inflation.”
In China, JM operates a nonwoven spunbond mat production line in Luoyang in the Henan province. The state-of-the-art line underscores JM’s commitment to its roofing, specialty and geotextiles customers and serves demand for spunbond mat products in Asia and the Middle East.
In terms of new products, JM recently Introduced a suite of building and filtration products and continues to focus on and develop new products that deliver productivity improvements to customers. “Our efforts to mitigate the unprecedented cost inflation have not affected our commitment to invest in research and development,” said Mr. Forden.
Within its filtration product line, JM launched three new products: CombiFil Premium, SpunFil EasyPleat and Micro-Strand XP. 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. As a result, it is easy to process and provides an extremely long filter life with low energy usage. It allows filter producers to manufacture pleated filters utilizing new dimensions of high dust-holding capacity combined with high stiffness and low pressure drop.
SpunFil EasyPleat is a calendered polyester spunbond nonwovens made with JM’s new BC-technology. It has high air permeability and features a very high stiffness even at low-area weights of between 60 and 120 gpsm. The product enables high pleating machine speeds while continuing to achieve sharp and precise pleats.
Micro-Strand XP microfiber is a new material for use in manufacturing microglass paper used in HEPA, ULPA and ASHRAE filters. The new glass microfiber meets the rigid health testing standards established by the European Union for fiber exoneration. Made up of fibers that are approximately one micron in diameter, tests have proven that Micro-Strand XP is rapidly cleared from the lungs if accidentally inhaled, making it ideal for even the most stringent of regulatory environments.
Additionally, JM introduced three new products for the building applications market: DuraSpun XTR, a glass thread reinforced spunbond composite providing best-in-class dimensional stability to bituminous waterproofing membranes; Illuma White, a pre-coated glass fiber nonwoven for high-quality ceiling tiles; and the glass fiber nonwoven DHY Forte, an innovative product for impact sound attenuation.
Another recent innovation from JM is its Assurance nonwoven composite media made of natural and synthetic fibers. Used to produce a superior mechanical air filter, the media also enables production of self-supporting air filters that reduce costs, increase manufacturing productivity and avoid safety liabilities associated with expanded-metal filter structures.
“Assurance’s Self-Supporting Pleat technology allows filtration manufacturers to reduce costs and increase productivity by simplifying their manufacturing processes by eliminating the use of expanded metal,” stated Dion Persson, senior vice president, engineered products group. “This cost savings is a win for our customers in terms of increasing their profitability and continues the tradition of innovation that Johns Manville is known for in the filtration industry.”
In response to customers’ needs as well as rising energy, transportation and raw materials costs across the industry and the world, JM launched a new product, DuraCore, which reduces the amount of asphalt on a roofing mat by 10%. “With the price of asphalt directly tied to crude oil, not only does it deliver a significant cost savings to our customers, they are building more green and sustainable structures,” Ken Forden, business leader North American Nonwovens.
Moving forward, JM is committed to investing in its employees, research and new product development, manufacturing facilities and assets. “From new product development, energy efficiency and sustainability, JM continues to look at all opportunities to deliver productivity improvements to customers,” Mr. Persson stated.
The company's strategy is to continue to invest in new technology and deliver world-class products to customers. “One of the many advantages to being a Berkshire Hathaway company is that we are here to serve the nonwovens industry for the long term,” he said. “As we celebrate our 150th anniversary in business, we look forward to continuing to invest in our facilities and our assets to ensure the long-term growth and success of our customers for the next 150 years. Capital investment is important to any growth strategy and we have access to funds to invest through our parent company.”
Part of JM's expansion strategy is to continue to grow its nonwovens business and position itself as a leader in the marketplace while continuing to look for new and innovative ways to deliver top-notch solutions and services. And for JM, innovation means environmental awareness. “We have long been committed to the sustainability of our products and operations from sourcing to manufacturing and throughout the entire product life cycle,” said Mr. Persson. “Our goal is to be a leader in the manufacturing of environmentally responsible engineered and building products while raising awareness of the beneficial impact these materials have on the energy efficiency and indoor air quality of a home or building.”