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Asahi Kasei


Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $167 million

Description: Key Personnel
Munenori Isoda, general manager, nonwoven fabric division; Yoshikazu Ban, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Mitsuharu takahashi, general manager, Bemliese/Coldon sales; Yukihisa Ilirano, general manager, new nonwovens business promotion

Plants
Moriyama and Nobeoka

Processes
Spunbonded, spunlaced, melt blown

Brand Names
Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Ellush, Coldon, Shaleria

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters

The big news from roll goods supplier Asahi Kasei, Osaka, Japan, was the completion of a 420 cm wide SMMS production line, capable of producing 13,000 tons of material per year in Nobeoka, Japan. The new line is currently operating at about 30% capacity but company executives expect 80% of the capacity to be utilized by the end of the year. SMMS’ continued immunity from pricing pressures as well as the continued ramp-up of this material is expected to contribute to increased sales and earnings for Asahi Kasei in the future.
 
In terms of other capacity, Asahi Kasei currently produces 12,000 tons of polypropylene spunbond, 6000 tons of polyester spunbond and 4000 tons of nylon spunbonded materials per year. Additionally, the company produces 4000 tons of its cupra spunbonded nonwovens, 500 tons of spunlaced materials and 200 tons of melt blown materials. End use markets include coverstock, wipes, gauze, packaging and white blood corpuscle removing filters.
 
Asahi Kasei has been busy shifting its production capabilities to meet the demands of the market. This year, a company plan to convert one of its polypropylene spunbond lines (representing 2000 tons of capacity) to polyester was postponed to 2003 because demand for polyester spunbond had decreased.
 
In June 2002, Asahi Kasei began to produce household cleaning wipes made from its cupra spunbonded nonwovens at a new facility in Malaysia. Representing the company’s first converting operations outside of Japan, the new plant is expected to produce 12,000 cases of wipes per year. Until the new plant was constructed, Asahi had been shipping a portion of the 80,000 cases of wiping products it manufactures in Japan into Southeast Asia. The roll goods in the wipes are made in Japan and converted and packaged in Malaysia.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $147 million

Description: Key Personnel
Yoshikazu Ban, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division/spunbonded fabric sales: Mitsuharu Takahash, general manager, Bemliese/Coldon sales; Yukihisa Hirano, general manager, new nonwovens business promotion

Plants
Moriyam, Noveoka

Processes
Spunbonded, spunlaced, meltblown

Brand Names
Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Ellush, Coldon, Shaleria

Major Markets
Coverstock wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Asahi Kasei, Osaka, Japan can  produce 13,000 tons of SMS, 12,000 tons of polypropylene spunbonded, 6000 tons of polyester spunbonded, 4000 tons of nylon spunbonded, 4000 of cupra spunbonded, 500 tons of spunlaced and 200 tons of meltblown materials per year. In 2002, sales of SMMS and polypropylene spunbonded nonwovens were brisk, unlike polyester spunbonded and nylon spunbonded sales, which decreased. Meanwhile, Asahi’s Cupra-based spunbonded material, which is exclusively offered by the company, saw its sales decrease in early 2002 and pick up during the second half of the year.

Higher prices of polypropylene, polyester and nylon, deteriorated profit levels in Asahi Kasei’s spunbond  business, a situation that  the company countered with a pricing increases across the board in April 2003. Asahi Kasei had not raised prices since December 2000 when it levied increases in the polyester and nylon categories. At that time, polypropylene products were not subject to increases because of the intense price competition in the segment. This time, however, polypropylene prices were raised, a measure that was followed by many of Asahi’s competitors, according to executives.
 
A large portion of Asahi Kasei’s business targets wipes, a market that is not expected to grow within Japan and Southeast Asia in upcoming years. This prompted Asahi  Kasei, in June 2002, to construct a facility in  Malayasia, dedicated to manufacturing wipes for cleanroom applications. In another effort to boost its wipes business, Asahi Kasei has formed an alliance with an unnamed U.S.-based wipe manufacturer to export roll goods into the U.S. Asahi Kasei expects to export 100 tons of material there in 2003. This figure is expected to rise to 500 tons by 2005.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $167 MILLION

Description: Key Personnel
Yoshikazu Ban, general manager of nonwoven fabrics division; Ryujiro Yoshino, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Mistuharu Takahashi, general manager, Bemliese/Coldon sales.

Plants
Moriyam, Noveoka, Japan

Processes
Spunbonded, spunlaced, meltblown

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Asahi Kasei, Osaka, Japan, can produce 13,000 tons of SMMS, 1200 tons of polypropylene spunbonded, 6000 tons of polyester spunbonded, 4000 tons of nylon spunbonded, 4000 tons of cupra spunbonded, 500 tons of spunlaced and 200 tons of meltblown materials. Additionally, the company has already unveiled plans to increase production of its cupra spunbonded nonwovens.
 
Sold under the Bemliese brand name, the main use of cupra-based nonwovens is as a wipe used in the production of electronic machinery. Demand for this type of wipe has risen steadily. In 2002, a converting facility to make the wipe was built in Malaysia to respond to increased demand and to strengthen sales in Southeast Asia. Other initiatives within this business include a partnership between Asahi Kasei and Milliken in 2003. Under this agreement, Milliken buys Bemliese in roll form, uses it to convert wipes and sells them in the U.S. and Europe.
 
These agreements have increased Asahi’s role in both Malaysia and the U.S. and have led to its decision to expand the Bemliese operation from one to two lines. The new line is scheduled to begin operation in spring 2005; production capacity will increase 20-30%.
 
Beyond Bemliese, Asahi’s production of SMMS and PP, PET and nylon spunbond nonwovens increased about 15% in 2003, rising from 26,000 to 30,000 tons. This rise was largely attributed to increased demand for SMMS in diaper coverstocks. This increase, combined with favorable conditions in polypropylene-based spunbonded nonwovens, flat sales in polyester- and nylon-based spunbonded nonwovens. Meanwhile, Asahi Kasei’s meltblown output has largely been fueling the white blood corpuscle remover market which has seen steady demand, despite its low production level of 200 tons per year."
Location: Tokyo, Japan

Sales: $176 million

Description: Key Personnel
Yoshikazu Ban, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Ryujiro Yoshino, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Akira Naganami, general manager, Bemliese/Coldon sales

Plants
Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Recent news this year for Asahi Kasei, Osaka, Japan, includes its withdrawal from the spunlace market. Although the company was producing 500 tons of spunlaced nonwovens annually, production of its core product, Shaleria acrylic microfiber-based nonwovens, has been halted due to the inaccessibility of raw materials. Shaleria represented half of Asahi Kasei's total spunlaced output while other spunlaced products included nylon-based nonwovens for nickel-cadmium battery electrode separators. The company tried unsuccessfully to increase its spunlace output through other products but was ultimately forced to withdraw from this production sector altogether.
 
In other technology segments, Asahi Kasei can produce 13,000 tons of SMMS, 1200 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.
 
In the spunbond area, the company reports steady business conditions and an expansion of 1000 tons per year to its spunbond line for Bemliese cupra spunbonded nonwovens. As of June 2005, the system is now capable of producing 4500 tons per year. According to the company, demand for Bemliese materials for industrial wipes has increased, particularly in Southeast Asia.
 
In the SMMS segment, diaper demand has reportedly increased further and the company's plant is in full operation. Asahi Kasei expects its production of polypropylene spunbonded nonwovens to increase 1000-2000 tons per year through equipment improvements. The company is also working on the development of a new polyester spunbond product. Meanwhile, in the nylon spunbond segment, a slight decrease in sales was noted in 2004.

In April 2005, Asahi Kasei launched its FNB project to develop polymers and new nonwovens processing technologies, which the company hopes will play a key role in the industry in the next decade. Going forward, Asahi Kasei plans to strengthen its competitive edge through the development of unique nonwoven processes and products.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $176 million

Description: Key Personnel
Yoshikazu Ban, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Ryujiro Yoshino, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Akira Naganami, general manager, Bemliese sales

Plants
Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown

Major Markets
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. "
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $170 million

Description: Key Personnel
Toshio Takanashi, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Akira Enami, general manager Bemliese sales

Plants
Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Sales are on the rise for Asahi Kasei but despite this profits have continued to fall due to increased raw material costs. To combat this, the company has gradually been increasing its nonwovens prices in many areas. This strategy, however, has not been effective in the diaper market, which has been characterized as severe and unprofitable and represents more than half of the company’s spunbond nonwovens sales, so the company has had to focus its price hikes on value-added spunbonded nonwovens areas such as polyester and nylon that offer higher strengths and other attributes. Additionally, the company is reportedly reviewing a plan to produce its nonwovens for the diaper market outside of Japan to save costs.
 
The production capacity of Asahi Kasei is: 13,000 tons per year of SMMS; 13,000 tons per year of polypropylene spunbonded nonwovens; 5500 tons per year of polyester spunbonded nonwovens; 3500 tons per year of nylon spunbonded nonwovens; 4500 tons per year of cupra spunbonded nonwovens and 200 tons of meltblown nonwovens. Additionally, the Osaka, Japan-based company is scheduled to open a new plant this month that will make 2000 tons per year of a new compound spunbond nonwovens, which will be sold under the brand name Precise. In other upgrades, Asahi Kasei is currently reconfiguring its polypropylene spunbond lines to be able to handle polyester, nylon and a number of other polymers to increase its flexibility.
 
In terms of specialty products, Asahi Kasei’s Precise nonwovens comprise a three layer laminate structure of PET and the thickness of each layer can be altered depending on the application. This nonwovens is manufactured through a one-process manufacturing method and is a three-layer structure with 1.2-2.0 microdiameters of a fiber diameter in the middle layer and 14-15 micrometers of both outer layers, which allow them to collect dust while maintaining high breathability and soakage potential. These characteristics are ideal for applications such as filters and masks. And, if a liquid of any viscosity is applied to the surface of a nonwoven, the middle layer would prevent the liquid from infiltrating into the rear face. This special quality makes Precise ideal for use as a base material for adhesive tapes and binders
Location: OSAKA, JAPAN

Sales: $170 million

Description: Key Personnel
Toshio Takanashi, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Tetsuya Nakamura, general manger, Bemliese sales

Plants
Moriyama, Nobeoka

Processes
spunbonded, meltblown

Brand Names
Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Semia, Smash, Precise

Major Markets
coverstock, wipes, gauze, packaging, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Like many nonwovens producers, Asahi Kasei’s profits have decreased—due to the steep manufacturing cost increases such as the cost of oil-based raw materials—even as its sales have increased. Also challenging its business is declining interest in SMMS and polypropylene-based nonwovens for diapers because these products account for more than half of Asahi Kasei’s total sales.
 
The result is the company’s attempts to balance its special-purpose, value-added nonwovens, which have lower productivity, with higher volume, lower margin businesses.  Asahi Ka­­sei has been achieving this balance by promoting its polyester and nylon spunbonded nonwovens improving on its polypropylene-based spunbonded nonwoven line to add polyester and nylon spunbonded production capabilities
 
Meanwhile, Asahi Kasei has been making its value-added Precise nonwovens, comprising a three layer laminate structures of PET where the thickness of each layer can be altered depending on the application. This nonwoven is manufactured through a one-process manufacturing method and is a three-layer structure with 1.2-2.0 microdiameter of a fiber diameter in the middle layer and 14-15 micrometers of both outer layers, which allow them to collect dust while maintaining high breathability and soakage potential. These characteristics are ideal for applications such as filters and masks. If a liquid of a viscosity is applied to the surface of a nonwoven, the middle layer would prevent the liquid from infiltrating into the rear face. This specialty quality makes Precise ideal for use as a base material for adhesive tapes and binders.
 
Currently, Precise’s output is only at 50% capacity but because of its potential to develop new end use applications, Asahi Kasei intends to increase the operational rage at the end of 2008, making it fully operational by the end of 2009.

Location: OSAKA, JAPAN


Sales: $195 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Toshio Takanashi, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, spunbonded fabric sales; Tetsuya Nakamura, general manger, Bemliese sales Plants Moriyama, Nobeoka

Processes
Spunbonded, meltblown

Brand Names
Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Semia, Smash, Precise

Major Markets
coverstock, wipes, gauze, packaging, white blood corpuscle removing filters

Asahi Kasei annual production capacity of nonwovens is: SMMS, 13000 tons per year, PP spunbond, 13,000 tons; PET spunbonded nonwovens, 5500 tons; nylon spunbond, 3500 tons; cupra spunbond, 4500 tons; compound spunbond nonwovens (Precise), 2000 tons and meltblown nonwovens, 200 tons.

While earnings decreased in 2008, the situation was not as bad as it could have been because of the defensive nature of one of Asahi’s core business, disposable baby diapers. However, demand decreases have been unavoidable so Asahi Kasei has emphasized cost reductions in nonwovens production. Additionally, new product development has been an important future undertaking.

One of these new products, an SMS with PPS as a crude material polymer, was introduced in May 2009. These nonwovens are made by laminating the PPS polymer in three structures through a spunbond/meltblown method. The fiber of the spunbond nonwovens is 2 dtex while that of meltblown is 0.03 dtex and the mass per unit area is 10-200 gsm. A line able to make this material—a couple hundred tons of it—was set up in March 2009 and the development of new end use applications has been promoted. Asahi has also been making SMS from PET under the brand name Precise since 2007 with a capacity of 2000 tons.

As for the SMS, raw and processed materials were diversified from initial PP to PET or PPS, furthermore a new product with newer polymers has been exploited.

Another new product, a nanofiber nonwoven made from cellulose fibers, was released in December 2008. Crude material of these nonwovens is pulp and the average diameter of the nonwovens is 150nm or less; the thickness is 5-20 um and the mass per unit area is possible to be less than 10gsm.
Location: Osaka, Japan

Sales: $195 million

Description: Key Personnel
Toshio Takanashi, general manager, nonwoven fabrics division; Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, spunbond fabric sales; Tetsuya Nakamura, general manager, Bemliese sales

Plants
Moriyama, Nobeoka, Japan

Processes
Spunbond, meltblown

Brand Names
Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Semia, Smash, Precise

Major Markets
Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packaging, white blood corpuscle removing filters


Nonwovens production capacity at Asahi Kasei is 13,000 tons of SMMS, 13,000 of polypropylene-based spunbond; 5500 tons of polyester spunbond, 3500 tons of nylon spunbond, 4500 tons of cupra spunbond nonwovens, 2000 tons of Precise, the group’s composite spunbond nonwovens and 200 tons of meltblown nonwovens.
In 2009, Asahi Kasei’s nonwovens business did suffer from decreased earnings but performance started to recover during he second half of the year, thanks largely to growth in new products and applications. For instance, Asahi Kasei’s new polyester spunbonded nonwovens, sold under the brand name Smash, are performing well in molded applications, particularly filter bags for dust collectors. Filter bags made with Smash offer improved breathability, leading to a reduction in the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumptions at the time of using the filter.
Another newer product, Precise, an SMS nonwoven made from PET, which acts as a support material, with another layer of SMS, made from PPS, has offered a number of new applications.
As for the cupra spunbonded nonwovens, sold under the Bemliese brand name, the technical windshield wiper business has been sluggish because of the delay of the electronics industry but the products used in medical gauze and cosmetic products has strengthened.
Turning back to Asahi Kasei’s more traditional nonwovens business, the company is making 26,000 tons of polypropylene SMMS material  for the diaper market. So far, production of this material has been limited to Japan, despite increased demand for the material in China, because the company feels they do not have the competitive edge needed to make overseas expansion worth its while.

Osaka, Japan
www.asahi-kasei.co.jp/asahi/en
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $246 million
 
Key Personnel: Toshio Takanashi, general manager, Nonwoven Fabrics Division; Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, Spunbond Fabric Sales; Tetsuya Nakamura, general manager, Bemliese Sales
 
Plants: Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan
 
Processes: Spunbond, meltblown
 
Brands: Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Smash, Precise
 
Major Markets: Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packing, white blood corpuscle removing filters
 
On an annual basis, Japan’s Asahi Kasei can make 13,000 tons of SMMS; 13,000 tons of polypropylene spunbond; 5,500 tons of polyester spunbond; 3,500 tons of nylon spunbond; 4,500 tons of cupra spunbond; 2,000 tons of compound spunbond nonwovens; and 200 tons of meltblown nonwovens. Additionally, its Thai subsidiary, Asahi Kasei Spunbond Thailand (AKST), will start making spunbond nonwovens this month. Announced in 2011, this subsidiary will initially be able to make 20,000 tons of SMMS material per year and expansion could happen as early as 2014, depending on market conditions. The new site will serve Southeast Asia and India (60%), China (30%) and Japan (10%). End-use markets will be topsheets and backsheets for diapers.
 
According to Nonwovens Industry Far East correspondent, Kin Ohmura, polyester and nylon spunbond nonwovens showed favorable trends in 2011. Sales of Smash, Asahi’s polyester spunbond nonwovens, increased in coffee filters due to its excellent thermoforming characteristics. Meanwhile, nylon spunbond nonwovens have been used as the packaging medium in a chemical-based, portable body warmer. Demand for this product has increased since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan and Asahi has increased production in line with this demand.
 
Bemliese, the cupra spunbonded nonwovens, has also performed well in 2011, largely in the skin care, face mask and sanitizing wipes markets where increases have offset softness in the technical windshield wiper maker. Demand for this product in skin care applications has been particularly strong in overseas markets such as China and Korea but domestic demand has also been consistent.
Osaka, Japan
www.asahikasei.co.jp
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $201 million
 
Key Personnel: Katsuhiko Hinamoto, general manager, nonwoven fabrics; Hiroshi Maruo, general manager, spunbond fabric sales; Yasumasa Shii, general manager, Bemliese sales
 
Plants: Moriyama and Nobeoka, Japan
 
Processes: Spunbond, meltblow
 
Brands: Eltas, Bemliese, Microweb, Smash, Precise
 
Major markets: Coverstock, wipes, gauze, packings, white blood corpuscle removing filters
 
Asahi Kasei makes 13,000 tons of SMMS nonwovens, 13,000 tons of polypropylene spunbond, 5500 tons of polyester spunbond, 3500 tons of nylon spunbond, 4500 tons of Cupra spunbonded nonwovens, 2000 tons of Compound spunbond and 200 tons of meltblown nonwovens per year.
 
The company established a Thailand site in November 2012 and expects the new line, with a capacity of 20,000 tons per year, to reach a sold-out status by the end of 2013. Materials made in Thailand are used for the topsheet and backsheet of the diaper, a field where Asahi Kasei can be competitive due to its proprietary technology.
 
Another area of focus for Asahi Kasei has been in nanofiber nonwovens, which it manufactures through cellulose nanofiber and meltblown methods. As for the cellulose nanofiber nonwovens, the fiber diameter is 30-100 nm, the mass per unit is 3-20 gsm and the thickness is 7-80 microns.
 
According to the company, these materials can be used in filters, battery separators and medical applications. One specific area of success has been in the filter market where Asahi Kasei makes its own cartridge filter with meltblown nonwovens of less than one micron in fiber diameter. This cartridge is sold under the brand name Eutec Nano.