2011 Nonwovens Sales: $150 million
*including sales from Indian joint venture
eswegee Vliesstoff GmbH
Techtex GmbH Vliesstoffe
Hof Textiles, Inc.
Key Personnel: Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director of Techtex and global sales director eswegee, Technical Nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president of Hof Textiles, Inc.
Plants: Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany, Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC
Processes: Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace
Brands: Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint
Major Markets: Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, interlinings
Overall sales growth for Hof’s nonwoven division continued in 2011 for all market segments, according to company management. While the economic environment—especially in the automotives sector—allowed for growth, the company’s corporate strategy in terms of investments and capacity expansions has also paved a path to gain future market share, says Harald Stini, managing director.
“Other reasons for our success in 2011 were our strong customer commitment and close relationships through a year of high demand, particularly in the automotive area,” says Detlev Käppel, managing director of Techtex and global sales director of eswegee. “Whereas some of our competitors struggled to fulfill their delivery commitments to their customers, Hof was able to stick to its customer agreements and delivery schedules.”
Major challenges in 2011 included a significant increase in the cost of raw materials, notes Stini. “However, we managed together with our customers to achieve a win-win-situation by external balanced price adjustments and internal savings through higher productivity and alternative material solutions.”
The company’s Hof plant ran up to capacity in 2011 for all nonwovens technologies (binder-bonded, thermally-bonded, needle-punched). New products include lightweight needlepunched nonwovens for automotive applications and other industrial markets such as filtration and construction, as well as new lightweight interlining styles designed to keep up with the latest fashion trends for fabrics.
The spunlace plant at Reichenbach ran 24 hours per day, seven days a week and products designed for industrial applications have been well accepted by the market. “Due to our own tailor-made machinery, we are able to run products from 35-400 gsm,” Käppel notes. “The specific fiber orientation contributes to good coverage at low weight and enhanced acoustic properties, which is requested for final automotive parts.”
“Corporate plans for capacity expansions for all technologies both at Hof and Reichenbach are on the table and will be decided by our management within 2012,” says Stini.
The company’s interlining business stabilized and will be a strategic market segment in the future, says Stini. “Although market conditions for Europe are not very rosy, we are convinced that not all demand can be covered by Asia. And with our joint venture in India we have all the pre-requisites needed to grow further, especially in Asia. Talking about India, we can also add that further market growth was achieved with our joint venture in 2011 and we still see more opportunities for the forthcoming years.”
Significant building investments and capacity expansions were implemented in 2011 at the Techtex stitchbonded plant in Mittweida, Germany. The company increased capacity for all technologies utilized, Malivlies, Maliwatt, Kunit and Multiknit. Applications for this overlapping stitchbonded technology include interior facings for trim parts such as headliners or package trays, as well as foam replacement styles in car seats (under the woven seat fabric and/or under leather).
BMW, Audi and Mercedes brands have recognized the specific features of this product line, which provides good air permeability, less fogging, comfortable seating climate, recyclability and cost savings compared to other sandwich constructions, the company says. Hof has also developed a new product group that can be laminated under genuine leather as well as for PUR artificial leather seats.
“Stitchbonded nonwoven for cable harnessing in automotive is another strategic market segment where our products provide good abrasion resistance, acoustic and insulation features,” notes Käppel.
Hof has also undertaken plans to position itself within the Chinese automobile market, which has become the largest globally in terms of production units. Due to confidentiality reasons, specific plans may not be released until later this year.
Hof Textiles Inc., based in Lincolnton, NC, is a nonwovens supplier of thermal and acoustic components for the North American automotive industry. Innovation and growth are supported by numerous investments in new technology and capacity to increase the value of Hof nonwovens for customers, resulting in strong 45% growth for the company’s core automotives business.
Demand in the North American automotives industry for advanced thermal and acoustic componentry nonwovens continues to be strong and the company says it will continue to respond with major investments in additional capacity and new innovative products. According to Lothar Hackler of Hof Textiles, the business will double current production capacity within the next 18 months to support aggressive growth targets.