$176 million (¥19.4 billion)
Yoshikazu Ban, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Ryujiro Yoshino, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Akira Naganami, general manager, Bemliese sales
Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan
Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters
despite an increase in nonwovens sales, steep hikes in raw material and fuel prices have impacted profits at Osaka, Japan-based Asahi Kasei. Following unsuccessful efforts to pass along increased costs to customers, the company is now concentrating instead on tightening production efficiencies, reviewing raw material procurement routes and remodeling equipment.
In the spunbonding area, the equipment used to produce nylon spunbonded material has been expanded to also produce polyester nonwovens. The newly compatible line came onstream in May. In the SMMS segment, Asahi Kasei has used equipment improvements to increase its annual production capacity from 13,000 to 15,000 tons per year. Additionally, the company has been experimenting with the production and sale of a new type of highly uniform, thin polyester spunbond material for filter applications.
When it comes to technology segments, Asahi Kasei’s production capacity breakdown has remained steady at 12,000 tons of polypropylene spunbonded, 6000 tons of polyester spunbonded, 4000 tons of nylon spunbonded, 4500 tons of cupra spunbonded and 200 tons of meltblown materials. As previously mentioned, the company’s SMMS production capacity is now at the 15,000 ton-per-year mark.
Another important expansion for Asahi Kasei this year is in the area of cupra spunbond nonwovens, which are sold under the Bemliese brand. Production of these materials has been augmented by 1000 tons per year to reach an annual capacity of 4500 tons per year in 2005. However, despite these efforts, profits decreased for Bemliese products due to raw material price hikes as well as further depreciation costs of the extension of the facility. Therefore, in the industrial wipes segment—which is the main application for its cupra spunbond fabrics—the company plans to introduce a new application that will play a key role along with industrial wipes. Asahi Kasei also plans to develop new cupra spunbond-based products for consumer, medical, gardening and agricultural markets as well as strengthen its sales in the European sector for these materials.
Moving forward, the company plans to expand its spunbond nonwovens business in the long-term by realizing a return on its investments. Improvements to profitability are expected with the introduction of its newly upgraded SMMS facility. In terms of its previously outlined plans to add a spunbond nonwovens production line outside of Japan, Asahi Kasei has decided against committing to this project, at least for the time being.