Mike Burandt, president, Consumer Business, North America; Bill Shultz, president, European Consumer Business; Kathy Walters, president, Commercial Business; Remi Perin, sales manager, French Operation; Massimo Conforti, sales manager, Italian Operation; Mike Sprangers, sales manager, North America; Tom Kalupa, Senior sales representative; John Rank, sales representative
PlantsGreen Bay, WI (two facilities); Glen, France; Avigliano, Italy
ISO StatusBoth U.S. plants ISO 9002 certified; Italy plant ISO 9002 certified; France plant ISO 9002 certified
Brand NamesAirtex, Dritex
Major MarketsBaby wipes, industrial and food service wipes, feminine hygiene, absorbent core, tabletop, medical, moist toilet tissue, meat packaging
Under new ownership this year is Georgia-Pacific. In November, the company was purchased by Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate that had already owned G-P’s cellulose business as well as fiber producer Invista, among other things. “It’s a new owner but they’ve maintained G-P as a total separate subsidiary,” said vice president and general manager of nonwovens, Paul Farren. “It’s almost like a holding company. G-P has its own board of directors, president, CEO, etc.”
Meanwhile, G-P’s nonwovens business, which centers on airlaid technology, has continued to perform well by focusing on improving its production and reducing costs. “Like everyone else, we are managing as well as possible with the raw material price increases by aligning ourselves with the right partners,” Mr. Farren said.
Benefiting G-P were existing contracts, put in place before raw material prices escalated, which kept their impact to G-P under check. Additionally, G-P has been successful in unearthing new market segments for its airlaid technology that had been using other materials. “These markets were using technology that was more expensive than airlaid and found that pulp worked as well or better for their applications at a lower cost,” Mr. Farren said. “With converters under pressure they are using all different types of substrates and raw materials to satisfy their needs at lower costs. When business is challenged, people are more willing to run trials and revamp businesses. As they have been looking for other things, they have opened up some nice market segments.”
Meanwhile, wipes and other traditional markets for G-P’s airlaid business, continue to hold good positions even though they aren’t growing as dramatically as they once had. “What has helped us is that we have some good customers that still use airlaid in their wipes, allowing us to maintain that leg of the business while growing in businesses that have not historically been there before,” Mr. Farren said.
Additionally, G-P’s role as a user of a portion of its airlaid materials continues to benefit its business. Currently, about 30% of its output targets its own consumer products, including away-from-home products and tabletop applications.
G-P currently manufactures about 40,000 tons of airlaid nonwovens at its Green Bay, WI manufacturing plant. In recent years, the company has not been aggressive about new capacity investment, choosing to debottleneck and improve its existing lines rather than build new ones. However, with its new ownership in check and new markets for airlaid opening up, Mr. Farren hinted that it could be time for new capacity.
“Koch has been very willing to invest in the (G-P Cellulose) Brunswick operation and it’s clear that they are interested in growing the businesses they acquired,” he said. “Nonwovens has a lot of opportunities to expand on the synergies between all of these businesses. But, at this point, I can’t say that everyone has sat down and thought through all of this.”