Location: Hof/Saale, Germany
Sales: $98 million
Description: Key Personnel
Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex and Global sales director eswegee, technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.
Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany, Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC
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
Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, interlinings
While sales were certainly impacted by the global economic picture at Textilegruppe Hof, executives admit that the severity of the downturn was exagerated by customer fears in the automotives business. “Nobody wanted any inventory so sales dropped dramatically—almost 50% of sales were lost,” said global sales director Detlev Käppel. “But, once the inventories were depleted, sometime after February or March, things started to pick up and this trend has continued. We had never seen a drop happen so fast but we were extremely surprised by how fast it started turning around.”
In fact, the turnaround happened so quickly, Hof had trouble filling its orders as raw materials were difficult to come by.
For its part, Hof used the downturn to reassess its business and think about new investment. In the U.S., where the company operates out of Lincolnton, NC, the focus was on the modification of materials for acoustical insulation once only sold in Europe, while in Germany, Hof used the time to fix a couple of things and prepare for growth.
“We are not the most versatile company making automotive scrim for acoustical insulation in North America,” Mr. Käppel explained.
This versatility has proven to be particularly advantageous during the recovery period when Hof has been able to gain marketshare, filling orders left by at least one former competitor that was forced to leave the business during the difficult times. And, sales are expected to be boosted further in North America as BMW expands in Spartanburg, SC and Volkswagen comes to Chatanooga, TN.
Among its larurels are products that adhere to highly specific flammability regulations currently enforced in Japan and soon to be enacted in the U.S. as well as the ability to make high stretch acoustical materials offering exceptional coverage in automotives.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Hof continues to benefit from its new spunlace line, which Mr. Käppel describes as completely different from what is generally considered spunlace. “These materials are good for automotives because they feature such great sound absorption,” he said. “It is allowing us to offer new products and new technologies.”
The goal of entering spunlace, Mr. Käppel added was not to displace other technologies but to expand into new roles. Beyond automotives, the new technology is showing some gains in roofing, where it is compensating for a slower-than-expected start in automotives.
When it comes to stitchbonding, Hof’s four stitchbonded technologies (Malivlies, Maliwatt, Kunit and Multiknit), make it a market leader in terms of product diversity and individual “tailor-made” solutions. In this business, the company has focused on investing to expand its capacity for specific product groups, reduce costs and enhance quality to its customers.
Meanwhile, a subject of much focus is India, where Textilgruppe Hof owns a 45% share of a joint venture with Supreme Nonwoven Industries. All market segments—filtration, automotive and interlinings—showed upward trends throughout most of the year. Fortunately, the business was only slightly impacted by global financial troubles, a situation that mirrors the overall economy in India. “We are expecting to see strong domestic growth in the next couple of years,” Mr. Käppel said. “We are looking at double-digit growth every year.”
Throughout all of its businesses—in all markets and all regions—Hof continues to benefit from its diversity as well as its ability to respond swiftly to changes in market directions. “We have such a great portfolio, really better than we have ever had before,” Mr. Käppel explained. “That’s what our customers want and this has really allowed us to have an overall great performance even in these difficult conditions.”