2011 Nonwovens Sales: $1.2 billion
Key Personnel: Veronica Hagen, president and CEO; Dennis Norman, executive vice president and CFO; Mike Hale, senior vice president, global supply chain; Scott Tracey, senior vice president, general manager, Americas; Jean-Marc Galvez, senior vice president, general manager, Europe; Leon Chang, senior vice president, general manager, Asia; Mary Tomasello, senior vice president, global human resources and employee communications; James Infinger, senior vice president, chief information officer; Daniel Rikard, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary and ethics compliance officer
Plants: Benson, NC; Mooresville, NC; Waynesboro, VA; Clackamas, OR; North Bay, Ontario, Canada; The Netherlands; Tarragona, Spain; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bailleul, France; Nanhai, China; Suzhou, China; Cali, Colombia
Processes: Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, composites, through air bonded, adhesive bonded, resin bonded, thermal bonded, spunlace, airlaid, apertured film, film laminates, sonic laminated, extruded polyolefins, thermal laminated, Apex, Spinlace and other proprietary fabric forming, surfacing and binding systems
Brands: Apex, Agriban, Agribon, Arium, Aquapex, Bonlinn, Bonsec, Chicopee, Chicopee Cares, Chix, Chux, Comfortlace, Comfortsilk, Durapex, Dura-Tex, Freeswell, Keybak, Kiara, Masslin, Medisoft, Medisoft Ultra, Poly-Breathe, Poly-Safe, Reticulon, Soft-Touch, Spinlace, TopSwell
The latest news from Polymer Group, Inc. (PGI) is a substantial organization redesign that realigns and repositions the company to leverage the benefits of its global footprint, aligning resources and capabilities with future growth opportunities. This new operating model is designed to better serve PGI’s customers, the company says.
One of the major components of the redesign is the creation of a Global Business Development (GBD) unit, which will be the growth engine of PGI. “The GBD will harness the strength of a consolidated approach that brings together its segment leadership, research and development team, sales and marketing operations and strategic planning personnel,” says Veronica (Ronee) Hagen, CEO.
Another key change within the redesign is the consolidation of PGI’s former U.S. and Latin America regions into a combined Americas region, which will be led by Scott Tracey. This will enable PGI to compete more effectively, while leveraging the strength of both regions to ensure better customer alignment.
Included in the Americas division are PGI sites in Cali, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Waynesboro, VA; Mooresville, NC; and Benson, NC, while the Clackamas, OR, and North Bay, Ontario, sites are part of the Fabrene business.
PGI also created a new Global Supply Chain unit as part of its organizational redesign. This new group will further integrate PGI’s strong global procurement team into the operational strategy of the business and to work even closer with its partners. The company will gain further efficiencies through a focused and standardized approach to operations across the supply chain.
During the past several years, PGI has been ambitious in its spunmelt expansion strategy. In the Americas, this has meant new lines in Mooresville and Waynesboro, as well as significant expansion at all three of its sites in Latin America. The most recent addition has been a seventh line in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, which became operational in 2010.
“PGI has been a leader in Latin America for more than 15 years and continues to expect the market to grow,” Hagen adds. “The new line in Mexico has enhanced our capabilities in both the hygiene and healthcare markets, and PGI’s leadership continues to focus on having state-of-the-art capability in Latin America.”
While plans to expand into Brazil have been hinted at, for now, Hagen says serving this market from its existing sites is the right strategy for PGI and that any future expansion would be timed to market demand.
Elsewhere in the Americas, PGI recently completed work on its latest custom-designed spunmelt line in Waynesboro, VA. This line not only gives the company state-of-the-art product barrier capability in North America but also provides the company with a platform for proprietary capabilities like Arium, a new nanofiber-based technology platform launched in November 2011, which enables submicron fiber production.
This technology allows PGI to enter new markets with improved performance at an attractive price point, the company says. Arium gives PGI a competitive advantage to expand its business in new markets and bring its engineered materials into markets where nonwovens have not yet penetrated.
In addition to its strong presence in the Americas, PGI has been building its footprint in Europe and Asia. The company operates a six-line site in Spain purchased from Tesalca-Texnovo in 2009. It also has sites in Nanhai and Suzhou, China, where a state-of-the-art spunmelt line—largely targeting healthcare applications—has recently become operational.
“PGI foresees that the business conditions in China will continue to evolve and that the Asian market will continue to grow,” Hagen says. “The biggest challenge is to understand how quickly it will grow. A lot of participants in this market are struggling to understand what the new economy and new reality will look like in China.”
Opining that capacity announced for China is already in excess of demand, Hagen says PGI does not expect supply and demand to be balanced before 2016 if capacity comes on-line as planned. Still, the company continues to focus on investment in China and the timing of these investments will be tied to market demand.
Moreover, supply and demand is something PGI is monitoring closely in the global spunmelt market, where the company considers capacity installations are in excess of demand. “We believe this market is going to be under pressure for probably the next three to four years, causing particular distress for some of the industry’s smallest players,” Hagen says.
To combat these difficult situations, PGI is making sure that it has the right cost structure and is positioning itself with customers for strategic platforms that are delivering the right value.
“The company’s historic discipline has been to install capacity based on customer-specific demand,” Hagen says. “PGI expects to leverage its global scope and breadth of technology to bring value to the market going forward. PGI has multiple opportunities for growth and expects to continue to grow as the market grows and to identify and innovate into new markets.”
Growing in its importance will be PGI’s specialty fabric businesses, which include a number of highly engineered material applications in a range of end uses, such as cable wrap, agriculture covers, fire resistant materials and filtration media.
“Our strategy in specialty fabric is to build scale and leadership within markets,” Hagen says. “For PGI, the specialty fabric market segment is one that we expect to be the incubator for new applications with both current and potentially new capabilities.”
One specialty market strong on PGI’s radar continues to be filtration, where it will become more intentional and direct in its market participation, according to executives. Additionally, its proprietary Arium technology is expected to help advance PGI’s role here.
Combining the high volumes of the hygiene market with the focus on innovation and differentiation demanded in industrial markets has been paying off for PGI. Last year, the company reported sales at $1.2 billion, despite the negative impact of the temporary closure of its Cali, Colombia, site for a portion of the year due to flooding.
“Sales growth during the year was the result of improved volumes in the U.S. in our carded businesses and improved volumes in France and The Netherlands as the industrial markets improved,” Hagen says. “To further improve profitability, PGI is taking steps to ensure we have the right cost structure, the right technologies and the right products in the right places.”