Company Cameo

Highloft: Take Two

May 14, 2009

If the names Bryan Speight and Christopher Look ring a bell, it may be because the two executives spent a combined 16 years with Western Nonwovens Inc. (WNI), once one of the industry’s leading highloft manufacturers.

MidWest Nonwovens LLC
1642 Sauget Business Blvd
Sauget, IL 62206
Phone: 618-337-9662
Fax: 618-337-9667
E-mail: bspeight@midwest­

After purchasing Western Nonwovens’ Sauget, IL site (Mid America Fiber) in December 2008, Mr. Speight and Mr. Look founded MidWest Nonwovens with a goal of taking advantage of the solid working relationships they established with target customers and suppliers during their tenure at WNI.  

“Our goal is to re-establish connections with customers and develop a long-term supplier relationship,” said Mr. Speight. He added that a key component to re-establishing these partnerships is MidWest’s close geographic proximity to customers. Mr. Speight pointed out that trucking costs for finished highloft fiber are considerable, as the product cannot be compacted without introducing inconsistencies in loft and clumping. Geographically speaking, MidWest targets an approximately 450 to 500 mile radius from St Louis, MO area. “With highloft products being so lightweight, we are able to carry about 6000 pounds per truckload,” Mr. Speight said.

Since its relaunch, the company has invested in new equipment that is expected to increase product consistency and quality while streamlining operations. “Our investment in manufacturing technology will result in a natural cost and quality advantage for the company,” said Mr. Speight. “We will also leverage Lean Manufacturing processes to further optimize efficiency and minimize production cost.”

MidWest Nonwovens’ manufacturing line started up in December and exclusively produces thermally bonded polyester fiber batting and stuffing fiber for midwestern customers ranging from small quilt shops and foam manufacturers to mattress and furniture manufacturers. The company manufactures 10 million pounds of products annually, all of which are carded and crosslapped. In addition to markets such as home furnishings, mattresses and bedding (quilts, comforters and headboards), the company also supplies industrial insulation and correctional/institutional densified polyester mattresses.

Looking ahead, the company plans to exceed a capacity goal of nine million pounds in 2010. “We have continued to grow sales every month since starting in December and we expect to reach six to seven million pounds in sales this year,” stated Mr. Speight. To help boost capacity, MidWest Nonwovens has placed an order with Strahm industries for a new thermal bond oven, which will replace a 1998 Fleissner resin bond oven. “The new oven will give us greater flexibility in product mix and greatly improve our capacity. This investment is a major commitment to our customers, which will allow us to replicate all of our products on either line.”

While the company is enjoying steady sales and has high hopes for continued growth, Mr. Speight did acknowledge the challenges of the current economic environment. “With such a difficult market in which to start a new business, we have worked extremely hard ensuring we meet and exceed our customers’ expectations of quality and service.” He added that the company was fortunate to re-hire 18 employees who worked at the Sauget plant, including its customer service and logistic manager Lisa Szymanski; sales manager Garret Morris and production manager Mike Szymanski. “With these highly experienced team members, we were able to hit the ground running, which is greatly improving our success,” Mr. Speight concluded.