Sales: $98 Million
Hof/Saale, Germany (eswegee Vliesstoff), Mittweida, Germany (Techtex), Lincolnton, NC (Hof Textiles, Inc.)
Harald Stini, managing director; Rudolf Schlotter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex and Global sales director eswegee, technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint
Ranking number 36 this year is eswegee Vliesstoff group, Hof/Saale, Germany, which enjoyed solid 6% growth in 2007, driving sales to $98 million. One recent thrust at the company has been continuing to build its portfolio of industrial spunlace applications based on its new Zetajet nonwovens, which are produced on a new line and plant in Reichenbach, Germany. The total investment was reported to be €25 million. Located between the company’s Hof/
Saale and Mittweida plants, the 12,000 square meter greenfield plant came onstream in January 2007. Materials made on the spunlace line target automotive, filtration and other specialty end uses.
Overall, eswegee enjoyed another good year in its industrial markets and continued to see success in acoustic automotive applications. Despite ongoing uncertainty in raw material pricing and continued pressure on suppliers, eswegee is enjoying its close relationship with car makers such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW and other OEMs whose sales are growing steadily. “This is a nice position for the future,” observed global sales director Detlev Käppel.
The company’s industrial business, which is achieving double-digit growth rates, split between its U.S. base, eswegee Hof’s and Techtex Mittweida’s facility in Germany. Four key technologies are used exclusively in Mittweida to produce industrial products—Malivlies, Maliwatt, Multiknit and Zetajet. One especially active product segment has been foam replacement products. “OEMs recognize the advantages of nonwovens over foam—better comfort, climate control and air permeability,” said Techtex managing director Detlev Käppel. “BMW began, the others followed and these products are now accepted. We’re harvesting the advantages of our efforts now and we’re hopeful that this success will continue.”
In the area of interlinings, which continues to represent a core focus for eswegee, the picture is a familiar one. “Interlinings is still a difficult market,” noted Harald Stini, managing director eswegee. “It reached rock bottom and has stabilized, but there was a substantial drop in sales. It’s levelled off now.” While volumes in Europe remained the same, the company reports that sales in the Eastern hemisphere and Asia were good. Another positive area of growth has been Eastern Europe, where the domestic market is growing as the average income grows.
Mr. Stini added that some customers—frustrated with the complexity of logistics from Asian suppliers—are reverting to Egypt and other countries in North Africa. “The hype over China being paradise is slowly fading as customers realize the disadvantages associated with products sourced from Asia. The customer base in Europe may slowly return and this is a reason to be optimistic. “But overall the pressure is still there.” He added that “demand for high quality and sensitivity to fashion as well as shipping issues are major factors that may partly swing the market back to Europe.”
At its Techtex facility in Mittweida, the company plans to upgrade its stitchbonding capabilities and add capacity in 2008-2009. “We already committed to some upgrades at the end of 2007 and this progress will continue into next year,” commented Mr. Käppel. He added that a decision has been made to increase capacity for Maliwatt and Multiknit/Kunit products.
As for Lincolnton, NC-based Hof Textiles, the business continues to play a leading role in North America as a supplier of automotive engine compartment components. The company’s nonwoven-based automotive acoustic parts provide effective noise reduction for a wide frequency range, superior appearance and excellent processability for a variety of different molding processes. “Innovation and growth are supported by numerous investments in new technology and capacity expansions to constantly increase the value of Hof’s nonwovens for our customers and the North American automotive industry,” noted Lothar Hackler, president of Hof Textiles.
In India, the company’s joint venture with Mumbai-based manufacturer Supreme Nonwovens continues to progress well. Established in 2006, the business supplies both interlinings and industrial products in Asia. “We complement each other well and the new technologies from eswegee are a benefit,” stated Mohan Kavrie, Supreme’s managing director. “This partnership exposes us to the European and U.S. market.”
He added that the joint venture has a diversified focus, offering all standard nonwoven technologies except spunbond—needlepunched, spunlace, stitchbonded, hot air thermal bonded, highloft and wet and dry chemical bonding. “The Indian market is still small and we are a leader,” said Mr. Kavrie. “So far, there are not a lot of outsiders doing business in India; we expect it mostly to be joint ventures for the near future. It is unlikely that a foreigner without an Indian partner would be successful in India, but at the same time, it is difficult for Indian companies to grow without foreign partners,” he said.
Looking ahead, the partners plan to remain focused on the Indian market for many years to come. “Our key advantage is technology as we offer a lot of systems. We can produce the entire process from fiber to finished good—all in India. We hope together to explore other application sectors as well as other geographical areas.