Sales: $295 Million
Description: Key Personnel
Mikael Staal Axelsen, CEO, Fibertex Personal Care; Jorgen Bech Madsen, CEO, Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens; Ole Houmann, CFO; Kenneth Mynster Dolmer, purchasing director
Two in Aalborg; one in Malaysia, two in the Czech Republic
DS/EN ISO 9001 Quality management 1991:2000; DS/ISO 14001 Environmental management 2001; DS 2403 Energy management
Drylaid, carded, needlepunched, thermal bonded, spunbond/meltblown, technical air-lay
Fibertex, Fibertex Nonwovens, Flexback, Formtex, Compoflex, Multigeo, Superflor, Weedseal, Fiberforce, Fibergreen, Fibertex patio, Fibertex universal, Fiberacoustic, TWO-in-ONE, Comfortback, Matchback, Woodback, Q-Match, Making the perfect match, FibertexCOMFORT, FibertexElite, FibertexDual, FibertexPRINT
Industrial textiles—primary and secondary carpet backings, automotive, acoustics, furniture and bedding, filtration; technical textiles—building and construction, composites, do-it-yourself, horticulture; hygiene—applications within baby diapers, femcare and adult incontinence.
The big news at Danish roll goods producer Fibertex last year was the appointment of joint CEOs to oversee the company’s two divisions— Fibertex Personal Care and Fibertex Industrial Nonwovens. The two divisions, although operating separately, had until last year, been overseen by one company CEO and led by two general managers— Jorgen Bech Madsen on the industrial side and Mikael Staal Axelsen within personal care—who are now acting at joint CEOs.
The change had little effect in the day-to-day running of the business. “Fibertex has always operated as two independent companies so we cleared up the organization and changed the corporate structure to integrate the organization into two businesses,” said Mr. Madsen. “We are now leaner and more focused and the two groups still share a number of departments such as IT and finance.”
Amidst this change, total sales were flat at $295 million (DKK 1590 million) for the company last year as gains in the company’s personal care division offset declines on the industrial side of its business. Profits, meanwhile increased from DKK13.9 million to DKK36.2 million thanks to a drop in raw material prices as well as increased efficiencies in the group’s Malaysian spunmelt operation.
The Personal Care division’s sales exceeded DKK 1 billion last year, just more than a decade after its establishment. The division operates three spunmelt lines in Fibertex as well as two at its Malaysian facility. Its share of the global nonwoven hygiene market has been reported at 7%.
According to Mr. Axelsen, this side of Fibertex’s business continues to be impacted by oversupply in the European spunmelt market, a situation that’s expected to continue for the next three to four years; however, efforts toward diversification as well as operational efficiencies have enabled Fibertex to retain a competitive edge in the market, even in the midst of the economic crisis.
“The overcapacity was already there before the crisis hit. We really saw its impact in developing regions,” Mr. Axelsen continued. “However, we have a good marketing profile in that we can offer our customers a range of materials from value added products to strait commodity items.”
One of these value adds is the production of printed nonwovens. Through a joint venture with Innowo Print, Fibertex last year established a factory to print on lightweight nonwovens in up to six colors, allowing customers to empower their brands with images and designs. Other capabilities include high barrier nonwovens and bicomponent materials.
“Specialty hygiene opens some doors but the big volumes are still in the commodity areas.”
Fibertex’s Malaysian business still predominantly sells to multinational companies that are present in that area. “The local players are supplying the local diaper market,” Mr. Axelsen said. “We find that we better match professional customers.”
Meanwhile, Fibertex’s Industrial business—with key markets ranging from automotives, geotextiles, filtration, construction and carpet backings—has been hit hard by the economic crisis; however this impact was softened somewhat by an optimization plan put in place before the crisis hit. This plan included a DKK130 million investment in new state-of-the-art equipment, lessened raw material consumption, price increases and staff reductions.
Begun in fall 2007, the plan included the start-up of two production lines, one in Aalborg, Denmark, and one in the Czech Republic— which use fewer raw materials; price increases; the shutdown of older production lines including an entire older factory in the Czech Republic; streamlined production process; innovation and product development.
“We now have two modern, state-of-the-art facilities in Denmark and the Czech Republic,” Mr. Madsen said. “We didn’t know when we did it that there was going to be an economic crisis, but we are glad we did it because it allowed us to shake out all of our fat.”
As a result of the economic crisis, Fibertex’s automotive business was down significantly during the last quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. While things have started to gradually improve, the market is still behind expectations. “There is a lot of uncertainty, but we are focusing on what’s next. There have been a lot of research and development efforts and we hope to launch a number of new products out of our Czech Republic site once things turn around,” said Mr. Madsen.
Citing features like acoustical performance and lower weights, he added that nonwovens are ideal for automotives and he expects them to be offered on a much broader platform to the automotive market post recovery.
Fibertex’s operation will be better positioned once the automotive market recovers. As part of the optimization effort, converting operations were moved out of Denmark to the Czech Republic, bringing more labor-intensive operations to lower wage areas to trim production costs.
Meanwhile, construction is finally at a level where Fibertex expected it to be. While some activity is seasonal, more has to do with a push from governments to spend money on infrastructure improvements.
As things continue to improve, filtration is expected to emerge as an important growth market for Fibertex, which so far does not have a large presence there. Some of this growth will stem from Fibertex’s interest in nanofilter technology, which is currently being made on a pilot line. “It will take some time before this is truly a market focus,” Mr. Madsen explained.