Nonwovens Industry
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Foss Manufacturing


Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $146 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Stephen Foss, president and CEO; David Rowell, executive vice president and COO; Kevin Sexton, senior vice president and CFO

Plants
Hampton, NH; Pulversheim, France

Distribution Facilities
Indiana; California; Georgia; Texas; France; Australia

ISO Status
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are
close to ISO 14,000 (Environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water), which will be complete in 2002.

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene, and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch; extrusion; post finishing, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Foss; Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies; SoleMates; Enviromat; Geomat; FossFibre; FossFelt; Stratos; Whispertex; Masterwear; FossForm; Kunin Felt; Rainbow Felt; Confetti Felt; Kreative Kanvas; Fosscloth; Softherm; Fossdust; Fossflow; Ozite; Elevations; Showtime; Safari Felt; Mite-Kill; Bac-Kill; Wonderflex; GlitterFelt; Fluorescent Felt; Fosshape

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution dyed PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers); automotive (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, trim fabrics); decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker cover); retail (craft, auto-aftermarket); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, healthcare, car wash); home and garden (decorative/craft products)

Needlepunched nonwovens manufacturer Foss Manu­facturing, Hampton, NH, has maintained its success by continually developing its products based on its customers’ wants and needs and by examining new application areas for needlepunched materials. “We have truly gone out and identified the needs of our customers,” remarked Stephen Foss, company president and CEO. “We have really changed our thinking and are not just looking at nonwovens as our product base. In addition, we are looking at the product applications that are currently wovens, vinyl and other substrates to identify applications where nonwovens may be more cost effective and provide better performance attributes.”
 
This mode of thinking has led to several new market areas for Foss. For one, Foss is currently marketing a needlepunched line of upholstery fabric to cover the sides and backs of automotive seats—traditionally a market for wovens. This fabric offers auto manufacturers improved performance and lower costs and was driven by the company’s ability to make its own fibers, according to Mr. Foss.
 
Foss’ focus on new product development does not end with the automotives market. One interesting area where the company is blazing new trails is the theater and entertainment industry where Foss has recently launched two new products—Wonderflex and Fosshape. Wonderflex Thermoformable composites were used in women’s shoes for about a decade before making their debut on stage in 2001. Able to become highly moldable and pliable under moderate heat, Wonderflex can be used for a variety of props where factors such as weight and reusability are necessary. Additionally, Wonderflex is compatible with a range of artisan coatings including paint and can be used in sync with other materials such as wood and cloth. Fosshape, on the other hand, is a heat-activated or thermoformable needlepunched nonwoven fabric, originally crafted for the automotives industry. It has been used for ornamental effects in scenery, costumes and head pieces. Also for the stage, Foss will soon be offering a black out curtain, made from flame retardant needlepunched nonwovens, to aid in new scene set ups. This product hides stagehands from view as they prepare stage sets during live productions.
 
In another niche market, Foss is targeting the equestrian market with a blanket that is used to cool down horses after workouts. This needlepunched blanket uses the company’s Solar Guard technology that can be colored with pigments and is subsequently unharmed by bleach. This allows the white blankets to be trimmed in colors to match the horses’ stables and still feature easy launderability.
 
Foss has also entered the home grilling market with a nonwoven barbecue grill mat in its Ozite family of products. The Ozite BBQ mat is placed under barbecue grills to protect outdoor surfaces, such as wood and concrete patios, against grease stains generated during outdoor cooking. The nonwoven carpet is black and impervious to water.
 
Looking toward more established markets for nonwovens, Foss has also introduced two additional Ozite surface protection products for the construction and building industries. Ozite TopGuard oil is a protection mat with a non-slip backing that can be used both indoors and outdoors during construction and maintenance projects. TopGuard provides protection against fluid spills and damage caused by construction equipment, tools and heavy objects. Ozite MudScrubber is made of durable nonwoven fibers with a tough polymer back coating that is structured to capture mud and debris from the bottom of shoes. It helps keep grime, dirt and mud outside to protect interior workspaces.

It is no accident that many of the aforementioned products are sold directly to the consumer. In an effort to streamline costs and tighten margins, Foss has tried to eliminate as much of the middleman as possible. “Moving into end product development is definitely a part of our strategy,” Mr. Foss said. “We have always limited the use of wholesalers and distributors and now, in some cases, we are exploring selling products directly to the end user. Not only are the margins better this way, but it also allows us to be more responsive to the customer’s needs and helps strengthen our relationships.”
 
Another key to Foss’ success is its continuous drive to differentiate its product and customer base. Currently no one customer represents more than 3% of Foss’ overall sales. “The ability for us to supply many customers all over the world with the specialized products they need really makes a big difference to our business,” Mr. Foss explained.

Looking abroad, Foss’s newest manufacturing facility, Foss Manufacturing Europe in Pulversheim, France, has been operational since Spring 2001. Despite its infancy, the 6000 square meter facility is already running 24 hours a day, five days a week and executives expect it to go to a six-day operation schedule by the end of 2002. The facility currently contains one 4.4 meter wide needle­punch line, a coating line, an extrusion line and a structure line, and Foss is currently completing a business plan to add a second needlepunch line that would basically double the site’s capacity.

Mr. Foss attributes the success of Foss Manufacturing Europe to strategic foresight by the company. Sales to Europe had been steadily increasing since 1980, and the company already had a strong presence on the continent before initiating a manufacturing presence there. Therefore, the European venture was designed to reinforce Foss’ already booming European business, not to create a new market for the company.

Looking beyond the Americas and Europe, Foss continues to have a strong presence in Australia, particularly in the retail, marine and automotives markets. Instead of focusing on further global expansion, Foss is content to target markets where it already has a robust customer base. “North America, South America, Europe and Australia are strong markets for the company,” Mr. Foss explained. “Currently, we don’t need to leave these areas to generate growth. There are already enough growth opportunities in the areas where we are strong.”
 
Turning to the larger picture, Mr. Foss said that, while Foss has been able to maintain success by making strategic decisions and focusing on new business opportunities, the situation may not be so positive for the worldwide nonwovens industry in general. “I think the nonwovens industry is in for some very difficult years because there is too much capacity,” he opined. “There was almost a ‘dot-com’ mentality in the industry during the past couple of years as companies installed new lines without business plans. Some of this is healthy because it might force out some of the older capacity but it will most likely lead to companies getting desperate and destroying the pricing structure of the industry. This trend is already apparent in spunbond technology and in geotextiles.”

Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $150 million

Description: Key Personnel
Stephen Foss, president and CEO, David Rowell, executive vice president and COO, Kevin Sexton, senior vice president and CFO

Plants
Hampton, NH, Pulversheim, France

ISO Status
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 certification (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; post finishing, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Foss; Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies; SoleMates: Enviromat; Geomat; FossFibre; FossFelt, Stratos; Whispertex; Masterwear; FossForm; Kunin Felt; Rainbow Felt; Confetti Felt: Kreative Kanvas; Fosscloth; Softherm; Fossdust; Fossflow; Ozite; Elevations: Showtime; Safari Felt; Mite-Kill; Bac-Kill; Wonderflex; Glitterfelt; Fluorescent Felt; Fosshape

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution died PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers); automotives (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, trim fabrics); decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings), retail; technical

Foss Manufacturing, Hampton, NH, has continued to make identifying new applications for nonwovens a key part of its growth strategy. Whether these new applications are borrowed from traditional markets for wovens, knits or vinyls or are completely new products, Foss believes in pursuing these non-traditional market spaces in multiple industries as a way of diversifying its customer base. “We have also continued to focus on technology as a specialty fiber producer,” explained company president Stephen Foss.
 
Strictly a needlepunch producer, Foss has generally targeted technology-driven markets rather than commodities. For instance, in the automotives market, Foss has created new fabrics for “b-surface” seatings. Research and development efforts centered on expanding this product range are ongoing and executives indicated that new products will follow. Additionally, in the decorative market, the company has launched a new program for exhibits and displays. This features two products called Premier and Regal, which are reportedly being met with great reception.
 
These new products join other innovations for a variety of markets developed by Foss. In 2001, the company applied technology originally developed for automotives and footwear to the theater and entertainment industry. The result was Wonderflex Thermoformable composites for props in which weight and reusability are necessary; and Fosshape, a heat-activated or thermoformable needlepunched nonwoven for ornamental effects in scenery, costumes and headpieces. Other niche areas for Foss include the equestrian and home grilling markets.
 
In addition to niche markets, Foss has been growing through global expansion. Foss Manufacturing Europe, the company’s Pulversheim, France facility came onstream in spring 2001. Capable of producing 6000 square meters of material annually, the facility moved to a 24-hour/seven day schedule in early 2003. Executives expect that continued growth will necessitate expansion within the next two years.
 
“(The European site) gives us the ability to serve our automotives customers seamlessly, be it in North America, Europe or Australia,” Mr. Foss explained. “As well, having a truly European company gives us an edge in the European market.”
 Australia is also becoming increasingly important to Foss, particularly in the retail, marines and automotive original equipment manufacturing segment. While no plans have yet been made to establish a manufacturing site there—the company operates sales and distribution networks in the country—executives admit that such a move is not far off.
 
Beyond these regions, Foss is reportedly equipped to serve any customer in the world. For instance, efforts are currently underway in Brazil and South Africa.
 
Whether diversification relates to end use market or global reach, it is the core strategy behind Foss Manufacturing’s success. The company will continue to rely on this in the future. “We believe that (a differentiated customer base) is key to success,” Mr. Foss said. “We also see that experiences in one industry, whereby we find a solution to one customer’s problem, can easily translate to another industry.”
 
In addition to needlepunch, Foss also operates a sizable fiber business. In this area, one recent interest has been antimicrobials through its Fosshield technology. Foss is also making strides is in fire retardant fibers. Stringent regulations centered around flammability of furniture and home textiles in California, measures which are expected to spread to other U.S. areas, have generated interest in materials proven to withstand flames. Foss is both selling these fibers and using them in its own products.
 
Looking ahead, Foss’ main goal will be helping its customers grow. Whether that customer is an automotives supplier, a furniture company or, further downstream, such as an individual, the diversity of this customer base will continue to provide Foss with a competitive edge in multiple markets and locations.


Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $157 MILLION

Description: Key Personnel
Stephen Foss, president and CEO; David Rowell, executive vice president and COO; Kevin Sexton, Senior Vice President and CFO

Plants
Hampton, New Hampshire, Pulversheim, France

ISO Status
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 certification (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning, needlepunch, extrusion, post finishing, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Foss; Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies; FossFibre FRF (fire retardant fiber); FossFibre; SoleMates; Enviromat; Geomat; FossFelt; Stratos; Whispertex; Masterwear; FossForm; Kunin Felt; Lane House Collection; Rainbow Felt; Confetti Felt; Kreative Kanvas; Fosscloth; Softherm; Fossdust; Fossflow; Ozite; Premier; Regal; Elevations; Showtime; Safari Felt; Wonderflex; Glitterfelt; Flourescent Felt; Fosshape

Remaining focused on niche markets and performance for its customers has been key to Foss Manufacturing Company’s continued growth and success during the past 50 years. Foss’ expertise in developing innovative and cost-effective solutions for customers, coupled with the company’s steadfast commitment to growing the businesses of its customers has been critical to Foss’ ability to thrive, even when the industry has faced downturns.
 
Headquartered in Hampton, NH, Foss specializes in the research and innovation of specialty synthetic fibers and nonwoven fabrics, with particular expertise in needlepunched nonwovens. With facilities in North America, Europe and Australia, Foss is a major supplier to the automotive, technical, decorative, and retail industries worldwide.
 
Foss’ product mix is continuously evolving to reflect the ever-changing needs of its customers. Executives at Foss claim that their approach to the market as an integrated team—automotive, fiber, consumer products, and technical groups—brings a unique perspective as each team member is able to explore and understand the activities and markets of those who work in each different division. New concepts developed in one group can often be leveraged across others, creating new and necessary products for various end users and economies.
 
“Foss’ success is a direct result of our continued innovation and focus on unique and specialized solutions. We strive to be one step ahead of our customers, anticipating needs and continuously developing new products, programs and solutions to meet those needs,” explained company president Stephen Foss. “It is this insight into the businesses of our customers, as well as our demonstrated strength in innovation, that keeps our customers coming back and keeps us at the leading edge in this competitive global environment.”
 
A recent example of Foss innovation is its creation of a synthetic fiber that effectively guards against more than 650 strains of harmful bacteria, yeast, fungi and mold. The company’s Foss­hield Antimicrobial Technology is the umbrella brand name for a suite of antimicrobial products from Foss and its strategic partners. Products incorporating Fosshield safely and effectively guard against the growth of odor-causing and destructive bacteria.
 
From cleaning wipes to filtration systems to surgical scrubs, Foss and its partners are developing numerous types of products with Fosshield for the decorative, automotive, footwear, technical and retail industries. The process incorporates silver antimicrobial additives throughout the bicomponent and binder fibers of fabrics. Fosshield’s design allows the continual slow release of silver, resulting in a fabric that maintains the efficacy of its antimicrobial protection for the longevity of the product, even after multiple launderings. The product’s patent also covers other antimicrobial additives such as copper, tin and zinc.
 
“Fosshield Technology represents the most significant advance in antimicrobial fibers in the past decade,” explained Mr. Foss. “Our research and development team has done a remarkable job, and we look forward to nearly limitless applications for Fosshield.”
 
Other areas of new growth include the fire-retardant FossFibre FRF and the Premier and Regal lines (high-quality materials for the exhibit and display/trade show markets) and a new line of patented, moldable, recyclable, automotive acoustical products.
 
Foss executives believe diversification is the company's hallmark and the key to withstanding the ebb and flow of today’s global economy. The company views the global market for needlepunch nonwovens—Foss’ long-time staple process— as plagued by overcapacity. Critical to the company’s growth in the future will be its continued creation of unique fibers that can open up new global markets with new products.
 
Internationally, Foss Manufacturing Europe, based in Pulversheim, France, is seen as a key element to the company’s success, providing a worldwide presence for customers. For example, when a major retailer and important Foss partner expanded to Europe, Foss was available as an immediate provider of products. Foss Manufacturing Europe continues to be successful and has recently introduced a number of new product lines.
 
The company is also continuing to develop international opportunities in Australia, particularly in the automotive and decorative markets, with an eye on fast turnaround to meet automotive developments. One important product currently under development is a recyclable, underhood absorber for the new Ford Territory. It replaces fiberglass—a material many automotive workers no longer wish to use—and can withstand the severe environmental conditions of the Australian Outback.  Foss currently operates a distribution facility in Sydney, and in addition to a Australian and European presence, company executives have expressed an interest in the Asia-Pacific region as a potential spot for future operations.
 
Foss is remaining focused on continued development of new specialty fibers in order to further diversify from needlepunched production. Examples of these offerings are the Fosshield fiber and the fire retardant FossFibre FRF, as well as color-matching capabilities for solution-dyed fibers. The FossFiber FRF provides unmatched fire retardancy without harmful, undesirable chemicals. Also in development are flame barrier nonwovens for a wide variety of industries, including the bedding market.
 
The fibers and fabrics have passed the 701 Vertical Burn test as well as the new flammability standards in California. In anticipation of these new standards becoming law throughout the country, mattress manufacturers have revolutionized entire product lines so that all mattresses are compliant, not just those destined for California. This has been good for Foss’ business as many of these manufacturers are using FossFibre FRF in all of their newly compliant mattresses and components.
 
The fibers and fabrics being produced by Foss have been tested and approved in various applications for the TB603 burn test and products are also being developed to comply with the upcoming TB604 protocol which applies to top-of-bed products such as pillows, comforters and mattress pads.
 
Other Foss developments include the launch of the Lane House Collection through its Kunin Group, which offers new fabrics for the home decorative market. Also, the Premier and Regal lines have been introduced to the trade show market through the company’s umbrella brand Ozite.
 
Additional patents are pending to cover various innovative antimicrobial resistant applications of Fosshield, including mattress pads, bed linens, pillows, hospital scrubs, wound care products, air and water filters, automotive upholstery, wall coverings, athletic and intimate apparel and shoe insoles.  Executives said that new research with Fosshield shows the potential to eliminate the food source for dust mites, thus opening the door to further possibilities for Fosshield.  
 
Foss is particularly excited about some of its new partnerships, including one with Invista (formerly DuPont Textiles and Interiors) which will help foster Foss’ expansion into important new markets. The company will maintain its leadership role as an innovator of specialty fibers and nonwoven fabrics by continuing to focus on new, innovative and cost-effective products and partnerships that grow the businesses of its customers, Mr. Foss predicted.


Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $157 million

Description: Key Personnel
Stephen Foss, president and CEO, David Rowell, executive vice president and COO, (New CFO to be named shortly.)

Plants
Hampton, NH; Pulversheim, France

ISO Status
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; post finishing, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Foss; Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies; SoleMates: Enviromat; Geomat; FossFibre; FossFelt, Stratos; Whispertex; Masterwear; FossForm; Kunin Felt; Rainbow Felt; Confetti Felt: Kreative Kanvas; Fosscloth; Softherm; Fossdust; Fossflow; Ozite; Elevations: Showtime; Safari Felt; Wonderflex; Glitterfelt; Fluorescent Felt; Fosshape; Fisipe Acrylic Fibers; TopGuard; RAY-sist (endurance fibers); Lane House Collection; Signature

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution died PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire-retardant fibers, acrylic fiber); automotives (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, trim fabrics); decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings), retail (craft, auto-aftermarket); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, healthcare, car wash, home and garden)

By continuing to identify new applications for nonwovens and develop more and more specialty fibers for the automotive, aircraft and furniture markets, privately held Foss Manufacturing, Hampton, NH, has been able to identify new markets and remain competitive. “Technology is critical, and we have some phenomenal new technologies in the performance fibers area, including improved fire retardant and mold resistant fibers,” said company president Stephen Foss. “Our expanding application of Fosshield continues to set us apart from other manufacturers.”
 
Fosshield technology includes a wide range of antimicrobial fibers and fabrics produced with all natural silver, one of the oldest antimicrobial agents proven effective against more than 650 strains of bacteria. This technology, as well as other innovative fiber varieties, is helping Foss’ needlepunch nonwovens target a broad new range of markets. These technical markets enhance Foss’ traditional businesses, which include automotive, technical, and decorative.
 
“We believe in pursuing non-traditional market spaces, as well as focusing on multiple industries to grow our diversified customer base,” Mr. Foss added. “We have strong relationships in the automotive, aircraft, RV, marine and outdoor furniture markets, and Foss continues to develop high-quality, cost effective fibers that fulfill specific needs for these industries. For example, we are always working to create new nonwovens for automotive seating and door inserts, lightweight commercial aircraft carpet and moldable products for the automotive and RV industries.”
 
Much of Foss’ success in both traditional and newer markets can be attributed to its focus on strong customer relations. By working with customers to develop, design and produce custom-made products, Foss has been able to develop a number of creative nonwovens that replace competing materials. “We are especially pleased with work being done within the auto industry, with several clients enlisting us for creative solutions. Examples include nonwovens that replace leather, vinyl, wovens and knits for automotive seating and door panels,” Mr. Foss said.
 
Foss is able to achieve this success thanks to its drive toward technology and innovation rather than commodities, a situation that has also allowed it to remain strong in the U.S. Additionally, an ability to manage resources and optimize quality control allows for a level of cost effectiveness that keeps the business strong.
 
Immediate interests include completing bioefficacy tests and obtaining the necessary certifications for Fosshield CS, Foss’ most advanced antimicrobial technology. This technology uses a combination of copper, silver and zinc as the active ingredients and has proven to be extremely powerful against a broad spectrum of bacteria, mold, fungus and mildew. Fosshield CS will be applicable in almost every market Foss serves including automotive, marine, bedding, apparel, and furniture.
 
Additionally, the company has developed a PCT fiber, which is based on modified polyester and has proven to be exceptionally effective for filtration at high temperatures. It is also resistant to hydrolysis degradation which significantly increases the lifecycle of a filter media. From an end use standpoint, Foss is working on providing filtration solutions for drinking water, the healthcare industry, food processing and aviation fuel.
 
Geographically, Foss produces needlepunch nonwovens in Hampton, NH and Pulversheim, France. Known as Foss Manufacturing Europe, the Pulversheim facility was constructed in spring 2001 to better serve Foss’ international customers. Now capable of producing 6000 square meters of nonwovens per year, the facility will be doubled in size in the near term, according to executives. “Foss Manufacturing Europe continues to perform well and is considered a key element to the company’s success, serving many Tier 1 and 2 integrators,” Mr. Foss said. “Foss is also seeing some great programs in Europe with its new lightweight nonwoven aircraft carpet.”
 
Beyond North America and Europe, Australia remains a solid market for Foss, particularly in the automotive and decorative fields. While the company currently has a distribution center in Sydney and considers the market a solid extension for many of its product uses, Foss has no plans to establish a manufacturing base on the continent.
 
“We aim to serve our customers worldwide, wherever they may be. We find that we are able to promptly meet most demands from our U.S. and European facilities,” Mr. Foss said. “Internationally, we are also seeing some great growth for our Fosshield fibers through our partnership with Invista in the performance apparel and sock markets.”
 
Foss’ Performance Fibers group and its nonwovens business continue to complement one another as new fibers provide the company with the ability to create new, innovative nonwovens. For instance, Fosshield, Foss’ antimicrobial fiber, is growing rapidly, especially in the areas of air filtration, water filtration, home textiles, and apparel. Additionally, Foss’ new partnership with Portuguese acrylic manufacturer Fisipe makes it a one-stop-shop in a consolidated industry looking for acrylic fiber options.
 
Foss executives expect that new markets will continue to be born out of its fiber business. “There is always room for innovation, but it is dependent on having new raw materials to work from,” Mr. Foss said. “That is why we are continuously working to develop and perfect innovative fibers in our company—our Performance Fibers group is diligently focused on providing new technologies both for our own nonwovens and for our customers in the open market.”

Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $100 million

Description: Key Personnel
A.J. Nassar, CEO

Plants
Hampton, NH

ISO Status
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; post finishing, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Foss; Fosshield Antimicrobial Technologies; SoleMates: Enviromat; Geomat; FossFibre; FossFelt, Stratos; Whispertex; Masterwear; FossForm; Kunin Felt; Rainbow Felt; Confetti Felt: Kreative Kanvas; Fosscloth; Softherm; Fossdust; Fossflow; Ozite; Elevations: Showtime; Safari Felt; Wonderflex; Glitterfelt; Fluorescent Felt; Fosshape; Fisipe Acrylic Fibers; TopGuard; RAY-sist (endurance fibers); Lane House Collection; Signature

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution died PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire-retardant fibers, acrylic fiber); automotives (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, trim fabrics); decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings), retail (craft, auto-aftermarket); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, healthcare, car wash, home and garden).

It’s a been a troubling year for Foss Manufac­turing. The Hampton, NH-based needlepunch nonwovens manufacturer entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2005 after accusations of fraud forced the resignation of longtime CEO Stephen Foss. In the ensuing months, stories surfaced accusing Mr. Foss of using corporate funds to fund personal expenses and hiding the company’s financial troubles from creditors. Amidst these allegations, the troubled company was purchased by Alinian Capital Group, a Florida-based investment banking advisory group for $39 million, allowing Foss to pay off some of its debt, in May. Since then, Foss has been able to return to profitability.
 
Alinian named A.J. Nassar Foss’ new CEO who has addressed three major priorities: intense review of costs and controls; focus on employee initiatives and morale and repair of customer, and former customer, relationships
 
“Foss Manufacturing had not been performing to its potential and we took steps to be more productive and profitable. Those steps have resulted in the retention of almost 400 jobs and 200 new position offerings here at Foss. In addition there has been a huge collateral effect with direct and indirect suppliers in Hampton and throughout the Northeast,” said Mr. Nassar.
 
Among the allegations against Mr. Foss are that he and other executives illegally distributed $900,000 worth of illegal dividends, spent $562,000 to pay off personal charges on credit cards and used $300,000 of company living expenses on his personal residence and other family members’ homes. Additionally, Mr. Foss reportedly manipulated computer data to hide his company’s financial problems from creditors.
 
With its needlepunch technology, Foss serves a number of markets including automotives, retail crafts, auto aftermarket, filtration, car wash and home and garden. Additionally, the company has been a pioneer in performance fibers with its Fossshield technology which includes a wide range of antimicrobial fibers and fabrics produced with all natural silver, one of the oldest antimicrobial agents proven effective against more than 650 strains of bacteria. Foss’ most advanced antimicrobial technology Fosshield CS used a combination of copper, silver and zinc as the active ingredients and has proven to be extremely powerful against a broad spectrum of bacterial, mold, fungus and mildew. Beyond Fosshield, Foss’ PCT fiber, based on modified polyester, has proven to be exceptionally effective for filtration at high temperatures. It is also resistant to hydrolysis degradation, which significantly increases the lifecycle of a filter media. This technology is allowing Foss to provide filtration solutions for drinking water, the healthcare industry, food processing and aviation fuel.

Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $100 million

Description: Plants
Hampton, NH

ISO Status
All businesses are both QS 9000 and ISO 9001 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needle­punch, extrusion; flame lamination, calendering, latex coating, saturation, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Fosshield, Ecospun, FossFibre, Ozite, TopGuard, Kunin Felt, Kreative Kanvas, Fosscloth.

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution dyed PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire-retardant fibers, acrylic fiber); automotive (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, interior trim fabrics); Ozite decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings); retail (Kunin craft felt, auto-aftermarket, indoor/outdoor carpeting, construction); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, footwear, healthcare and car wash.)

Foss has ambitious plans to double its sales in the next three to five years. While the company saw increases in the specialty fibers and indoor/outdoor carpeting areas, the automotive sector slowed as a result of a substantial drop in the auto industry. Although companies such as Toyota and Honda are faring well, GM and Chrysler have seen a 20% loss in sales, which, as a result, has impacted Foss’ OEM automotive division. Even with this decline, Foss’ new owners, Alinian Capital Group, still see automotive as a major area of growth, explained David Rowell, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
 
On the topic of the company’s shift in ownership—as well as its recovery from Chapter 11 bankruptcy—Mr. Rowell confirmed that Foss has regained both profitability and productivity. He reported that Foss has improved raw material procurement, hired 150 employees since a year ago and bumped up efficiency 10% in recent months. Additionally, the company is cutting back on its number of SKUs and extending run-times. “These strides are a result of more focused, refined business plans,” he said. “The transition is complete and behind us. We have spent the last nine months making customers aware of our new direction and mission.”
 
Foss’ new mission involves cost metrics that are designed to keep the company’s management team on track and in the black. “Every day we review how we are doing against this new plan of metrics. It’s a very intense effort,” stated Mr. Rowell. “This plan is well in place and we are sharply focused on cost and controls.”
 
In the area of capital expenditures, Foss has acquired a new ERP software package and is reportedly close to procuring certain pieces of equipment. The company is also considering the addition of new opening and needlepunch machinery. “This is still being discussed, but the commitment is there,” he said. On the fiber end, capital improvements are being aimed at adding fiber technology.

Location: HAMPTON, NH

Sales: $108 million

Description: Key Personnel
A.J. Nassar, CEO

Plants
Hampton, NH

ISO Status
All businesses are QS 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 17025 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; flame lamination, calendering, latex coating, saturation, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Eco-fi, Fosscloth, Fosshield, FossFibre, Ozite, TopGuard, Kunin Felt, Kreative Kanvas,

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution dyed PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire-retardant fibers, acrylic fiber); automotive (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, interior trim fabrics); Ozite decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings); retail (Kunin craft felt, auto-aftermarket, indoor/outdoor carpeting, construction); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, footwear, healthcare and car wash.)

After achieving 8% growth in 2007, Foss Manufacturing is a roll goods producer feeling bullish about its future prospects. The company has added 185 new employees to its roster and in April started up a state-of-the-art needlepunch line at its Hampton, NH headquarters.
 
Designed and built by Erko-Trützschler, the turnkey machinery is expected to increase the company’s productivity and efficiencies. “The superior quality from the new line will catapult us into the future via the use of finer denier fiber and lighter weight fabrics,” commented David Rowell, executive vice president of sales. “It will also allow us to maximize the exciting potential of our two key technologies, Eco-fi fibers and Fosshield antimicrobial fabrics.” Foss’ Eco-fi fibers and fabrics are made from 100% recycled plastic PET bottles.
 
Are other capital expansion projects being considered? According to the company, it is looking closely at future growth and has developed a business plan to analyze market needs and direct these efforts. “Plans for substantial capital expansion are being formulated as we speak,” stated Mr. Rowell. “ We expect to add an amount that is equal to, if not more than, we added this year.” He said that additional capacities will touch on a variety of processes, including post-finishing, not strictly needlepunch. “We are looking at growing our capacity levels from a forward-thinking standpoint—above and beyond the basic needlepunch mentality.”
 
Now representing 70% of Foss’ overall fiber sales, Eco-fi continues to gain momentum. The recycled polyester fiber’s benefits include sustainability, eco-friendliness, decreased landfill impact and lack of harmful emissions.
 
The company’s Fosshield product line continues to target both woven and nonwoven applications. Foss reports increasing interest for different market areas such as towels, mattress pads, mattress ticking, apparel, blankets, hospital cubicle curtains, upholstery for medical offices and wallcoverings. The company has also partnered with a major U.S. carpet manufacturer, which has launched a line of carpet incorporating Fosshield technology. “Fosshield is doing quite well,” reported Mr. Rowell. “There are a number of other market areas now in the testing phase.”
 
One area primed for growth is the medical field, where Fosshield fabrics are gaining ground as hospital-acquired infections become a major issue in the U.S. In response to recent, much-publicized outbreaks of Staph, Legionella and other infections, upcoming state and federal legislation is expected to seriously impact hospitals. “Medicare is no longer going to pay hospitals with high infection rates; patients will not want to be admitted there; and doctors won’t want to work there. There will be a revolution in the hospital industry and the technologies we are working on will be part of the solution,” Mr. Rowell predicted.
 
In the retail sector, Foss is seeing the effects of a slow retail market, although the company did introduce an increased number of retail products last year. The company attributes much of the slow growth to an industry-wide 20% decline in retail and a sluggish economy. “We have held our own because of the placements of more SKUs, but it’s been slower than expected with single-digit growth projected.”
 
In the automotive market sector, which continues to represent approximately one third of sales for Foss, both Fosshield and Eco-fi have seen activity. Thanks to a range of new moldable products, Foss reports solid performance despite the recent problems plaguing automakers and suppliers. “In a market that is off by 10-12%, our sales have grown. Things are really going well for us. We’re increasing sales and aren’t in a funk like many suppliers.”
 
While the footwear market has been slow for Foss for the last five years or so, looking forward, the company is anticipating a major boost in this sector. “We were recently approved by the military for business with two major domestic footwear companies that will bump up our activities by millions of dollars. This is exciting because this is Foss’ heritage.” He added that footwear sales are expected to grow from zero last year to more than two million dollars in the near future.
continue to be successful, particularly in the personal care market.
 
Back to nonwovens, this segment will continue to focus on improving efficiency and enhanching its product quality while reducing waste. Most recently, this goal was carried out through the investment in new water treatments facilities for its spunlace lines that allow a more varied usage of raw materials.

Location: HAMPTON, NH


Sales: $80 Million


Description: Key Personnel
A.J. Nassar, CEO; Mike DeGrace, president

Plants
Hampton, NH

ISO Status
All businesses are QS 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 17025 certified and are close to ISO 14,000 (environmental registration based on efforts to reduce emissions, solid waste and waste water)

Processes
Polyester, polypropylene and specialty fiber spinning; needlepunch, extrusion; flame lamination, calendering, latex coating, saturation, die cutting, embossing

Brand Names
Eco-fi, Fosscloth, Fosshield, FossFibre, Ozite, TopGuard, Kunin Felt, Kreative Kanvas,

Major Markets
Specialty synthetic fiber (solution dyed PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire-retardant fibers, acrylic fiber); automotive (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, interior trim fabrics); Ozite decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings); retail (Kunin craft felt, auto-aftermarket, indoor/outdoor carpeting, construction); technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, footwear, healthcare and car wash.)

All things considered, Foss Manufacturing says its performance in 2008 was satisfactory. Roll goods sales, at $80 million, were essentially flat, dipping by a small percentage compared to the steep declines witnessed recently in many of its key markets. David Rowell, Foss’ executive vice president of sales, attributed the company’s results to the current economy and pointed out that industry- wide car sales are off 27% while motor home, RV and marine markets have fallen 70%. “As a whole, the automotive market was off dramatically. The economy is not spurring us on, that’s for sure, but we do have four or five arenas that look positive. We are doing okay.”

One such bright spot is Foss’ Fosshield additive, which is making headway in an array of both woven and nonwoven applications in different market areas such as towels, mattress pads, mattress ticking, apparel, blankets, hospital cubicle curtains, upholstery for medical offices and wallcoverings.

Another ray of hope comes in the form of Fosshield facemasks, which have earned both Canadian and EU approval and are close to a nod from FDA as well. “Swine flu and other viruses are boosting demand for face masks and orders have dramatically increased. Our facemask business is way up.” Mr. Rowell attributed part of this growth to the strength and quality of Foss’ antimicrobial technology and said some of the increase stems from the fact that people are looking for antimicrobial protection. “The Fosshield facemask is much more than just a filtering device. It will not allow microbe growth on its surface and thus can be reused without fear of bacterial buildup,” he said.

With the green movement in full swing, Foss’ Eco-fi recycled fibers and fabrics are enjoying the public’s increasing emphasis on environmental responsibility as well the Obama administration’s efforts toward eco-consciousness in general. Made from 100% recycled plastic PET bottles, Eco-fi continues to gain momentum and represents 70% of Foss’ overall fiber sales. The recycled polyester fiber’s benefits include sustainability, eco-friendliness, decreased landfill impact and lack of harmful emissions.

“This has helped our cause in many of the markets we serve. We’re getting lots of hits on our website and people are demanding green products. We can’t increase our prices over it, but it helps us fight against the competition.”

Another area of growth for Foss is footwear, the company’s legacy, where business has tripled. With the majority of sales (90%) stemming from military contracts, Foss works with three or four U.S.-based companies to produce box toes, counters and midsoles for military boots. “This is not huge volume but footwear is a good, steady business for us in an area where we were barely active just a couple of years ago.”

Foss is also making strides in the outdoor seasonal carpeting arena where it is penetrating big box stores and seeing substantial benefits. The company is placing indoor/outdoor carpeting in a variety of colors and constructions as well as a high quality carpet pad in the major chains. Additionally, a new line of carpet tiles from Foss has been placed in more than one chain. “These products have dramatically increased our sales into the home centers,” Mr. Rowell reported.

In the automotive sector, Foss is holding its own and looking forward to recovery in 2010 and beyond. “Our auto sales have been up in 2009 even with the dismal automotive sector, where car builds are one half of what they were last year (and last year was down). Our market penetration has grown, and we have not witnessed the overall sales loss in automotives. Even though the manufacturing sector has been damaged by the economic and credit situation, auto builds will come back up next year, and we’ll be ready.”

With its new needlepunch line offering “dramatic improvements” in both quality and output, Foss is taking the possibility of future expansion very seriously. Designed and built by Erko- Trützschler, the turnkey machinery uses finer denier fiber and produces lighter weight fabrics. “The new needlepunch line is wonderful—it’s everything it was billed to be and more,” said Mr. Rowell. “Our next expansion will be in the direction of new patterning for our roll goods. We are looking into different structuring and aesthetic concepts.” He added that on the fibers end, future investments will target improved abrasion and fire retardancy. “New fiber technologies are an important focus for us from an R&D standpoint.”

The company is also keeping a close eye on the medical market, where its antimicrobial technology is expected to flourish. “This is really the future of our company,” said Mr. Rowell. “Our strategy is to continue to enter into medical and hospital markets where quality and efficacy will bring key benefits. Antimicrobials have a ton of potential—not just in non-disposable hospital applications such as blankets and curtains but also in footwear and automotive uses. Whatever the need, we’ll be there to fill it.”

Location: Hampton, NH

Sales: $96 million

Description: Key Personnel
A. J. Nassar, CEO, Mike DeGrace, president

Plants
Hampton, NH

Processes
Needlepunch

Brand Names
Eco-fi, Fosscloth, Fosshield, FossFibre, Ozite, TopGuard, Kunin Felt, Kreative Kanvas

Major Markets
Specialty syntehtic fiber (solution dyed PET, bicomponent fibers, antimicrobial fibers, fire retardant fibers, acrylic fibers); automotives (headliners, package trays, floor carpets, interior trim fabrics); Oziete decorative (wall coverings, marine, RV, speaker coverings); retail (Kunin craft felt, auto-aftermarket, indoor/outdoor carpeting, construction, technical (vinyl substrate, filtration, footwear, healthcare and car wash)

“Sales are up in the double-digits, almost 20%,” said David Rowell, Foss Manufacturing’s executive vice president of sales,” so we have been on a real excellent roll.” Based in Hampton, NH, needlepunch specialist Foss credits its success to gains in automotives and indoor/outdoor carpeting. With most of its raw material supply based on recycled polyester bottles, the company continues to offer value to its customers.
In the automotives market, Foss’s performance is well ahead of car builds as it has successfully taken marketshare, particularly in the area of interior carpeting where nonwovens are becoming the material of choice for many car companies both in North America and beyond.
This success is being attributed to strong customer relationships as well as high quality products made possible through  Foss’ most recent investment, a state-of-the-art needlepunch line, which is offering “dramatic improvements” in both quality and output. Designed and built by Erko-Trutzschler, the turnkey machinery, which was added in early 2009—uses finer denier fiber and produces lighter weight fabrics than previous generation machines.
“In order to penetrate the interior of the car, the quality has to be significantly better than it was five years ago and the equipment has to be able to achieve this,” Mr. Rowell said. The new line is dramatically different and we are really firing on all cylinders.”
Foss will add another state-of-the-art needlepunch line in early 2011.
Meanwhile, in the indoor/outdoor carpeting market, Foss is reporting booming success with big box retailers such as Home Depot, Nenards and Costco where it is selling peel-and-stick carpet tiles made from recycled polyester bottles. “These big box stores just love to promote products that are sustainable and green so it’s ust been a home run for us,” Mr. Rowell reported predicting that the company will sell a couple of million dollars worth of these tiles this year.
The tiles sold at Costco warehouse stores incorporate Foss’ proprietary Fosshield antimicrobial technology to keep carpeting in mold- or mildew-prone areas—like a basement or garage—from attracting bacteria growth.
Beyond these two blockbuster areas, other markets for Foss, like technical products or craft felt products, have been more or less flat, Mr. Rowell said, a situation he is fine with given the state of the economy.
In fact, Foss, amidst its success in automotives and carpeting, has made some efforts to reduce its expenses without curtailing services to its customers. These include closing some of its U.S. warehouses and instead using bonded warehouses and a general streamlining of many of its logistical operations.
For instance, Foss recently forged an alliance with Lock Fast, an Australian distribution company that was once one of its main competitors in the exhibiting and display market. Lock Fast is now Foss’ sales agent for its display business Down Under. “We are forming alliances with people we used to butt heads with,” Mr. Rowell said.
As it waits for its next line to come onstream, Foss will continue to keep its eye on the market, educating itself on the needs of its customers and technologies. “We are staring to understand the market more and more,” Mr. Rowell said. “We are making sure we are comfortable with what we are doing.”