Nonwovens Industry
Welcome to Nonwovens Industry
FacebookRSSTwitterLinkedIn
Print

Jacob Holm


Location: Jyderup, Denmark

Sales: $60 million

Description: Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, CEO; Peter Stoffel, COO; Michael Steen Lunde, vice president, business development; Jos van Hattum, sales director; Bruno Guyomard, research and development manager

Plants
Soultz, France; Mildenau, Germany

Processes
Hydroentangling, needlepunch

Brand Names
Norafin, Lidro, Rough n’ Soft

Major Markets
Cosmetics/hygiene, household, industrial, medical

New to this year’s top company report is roll goods producer Jacob Holm Industries, Jyderup, Denmark. With annual roll goods sales of $60 million, Jacob Holm specializes in hydroentangled and needlepunched nonwovens for wiping applications in a variety of markets. Jacob Holm Industries was founded in 1995 when parent company Jacob Holm & Sons entered the nonwovens industry.
 
While Jacob Holm’s nonwovens production initially centered around thermal bonded materials for acquisition and distribution layers, the company soon determined that spunlaced was a more viable market. During 1998-1999, Jacob Holm reconfigured its equipment to produce spunlaced nonwovens for baby wipe applications. Jacob Holm expanded its spunlaced production and entered the needlepunched market in 2000 when it purchased Norafin, Mildenau, Germany, a producer of spunlaced and needlepunched nonwovens.
 
The acquisition of Norafin as well as the addition of a second spunlaced line in early 2001 helped to transform Jacob Holm into one of Europe’s leading suppliers of nonwovens targeting baby wipes as well as other wiping applications and medical products. Last year, the company achieved roll goods sales of approximately $60 million. Currently, 70% of sales are conducted in Western Europe while the remainder are split between North America and Asia. Jacob Holm operates two plants, one in Soultz, France and the other in Mildenau, Germany, which are able to serve its customers globally.
 
While spunlace capacity in Europe is at an all-time high, Jacob Holm has not felt the ill effects of a weakened economy. “Our perception of the market is that customers are considering wipe products to be something they need to have,” Mr. Lunde said.

“They are buying these products regardless of economic conditions.” To date, the only segment where executives have noticed a decline is in the airline industry, where the company supplies wipes to many of the major carriers in Europe.
 
While the bulk of Jacob Holm’s wipes business targets baby care applications, the company is seeing strong growth in wipes for household, cosmetic and industrial uses. These emerging markets have been targeted with differentiated products that are able to achieve more than one function per use. “Our customers are showing an increased focus on quality and placing stringent requirements on our products,” Mr. Lunde said. “These products need to do more than just wipe something. They need to offer something else to find a place in more interesting markets.”
 
Jacob Holm’s focus on new product development has led to the introduction of several new products in recent months. Most recently, the company’s Duplex product, a spunlaced nonwoven laminated to a polyethylene film targeting protective applications in the medical, hygiene and cosmetic segments, was launched in April. Also in April, Jacob Holm introduced Bi-Active, a wipe comprising a soft side and a rough side that is ideal for cleaning and cosmetic applications.
 
These two products join Jacob Holm’s Rough n’ Soft three layered nonwoven material, a three-layered nonwoven material made entirely from spunlaced nonwovens. Like Bi-Activ, this product also features a rough side and a softer side to target cosmetic and household areas. Additionally, for the cosmetic and household cleaning markets, the company’s Triplex features a three-layer sandwich construction with a layer of film positioned between two spunlaced layers.
 
Because many of its products are made from composite structures, Jacob Holm has had to form several partnerships with other companies to use their materials. While executives declined to name these companies, they did admit that these collaborations are vital to the business. “Jacob Holm is aggressively pursuing the composites market,” Mr. Lunde ex­plained. “This further stren­g­thens our relationship with key players in the segments where we are active and enables us to present new product solutions to our customers at frequent intervals.”
 
These new products and collaborations result from a company-wide goal of broadening its product portfolio. “We will keep on working with our current customers to expand our existing products,” Mr. Lunde said. “We will focus on the areas where we think we can make a difference.”
Location: Jyderup, Denmark

Sales: $65 million

Description: Jacob Holm Industries (France) SAS
Soultz, France
Tel: 33-389-74-6500

Jacob Holm Industries (Germany) GmbH
Mildenau, Germany
Tel: 49-3733-55070

Jacob Holm Management GmbH
Allschwil, Switzerland
Tel: 41-61-485-5300
 
Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, CEO; Peter Stoffel, COO: Michael Steen Lunde, Vice President of business development; Hyo-young Kim, Marketing Director; Jos van Hattum; Bruno Guymard

Plants
Soultz, France; Mildenau, Germany

Processes
Hydroentangling, needlepunch

Brand Names
Norafin, Lidro, Rough n’ Soft, Bi-Activ, Duo-Touch, Duo-Clean, Scrubbi, Duplex, Triplex

Major Markets
Cosmetics/hygiene, household, industrial, medical

Increased product diversification as well as a focus on quality control contributed to a jump in sales last year for Jacob Holm Industries. The company’s nonwovens sales reached $65 million last year, compared to $60 million in 2001. While baby wipes continue to comprise the bulk of Jacob Holm’s business, other segments of the wipes market are considered strong growth areas, and most of its new products target these areas.
 
For one, BiActiv, a wipe comprising a soft side and a rough side, is ideal for cleaning and cosmetic applications, and Rough n’ Soft, a two-layer nonwoven material made entirely from spunlaced substrates, targets household and cosmetic applications. Additionally, Triplex, features a three-layer sandwich construction with a piece of film positioned between two spunlaced layers that can be used in a variety of wipes applications.
 
These diversification efforts are a direct result of maturity in the baby wipes segment. As growth prospects in baby wipes wane, Jacob Holm has been  eager to capitalize on the mass proliferation of wipes into other consumer and industrial areas. Jacob Holm is experiencing 10% growth or better in the household care, cosmetics and institutional and industrial wipes segments, according to Michael Steen Lunde, vice president of business development.
 
One area of interest is raw material development. Rather than focus on new forming methods and embossing patterns, which can confuse consumers who are used to certain substrate types, adding value to fibers, such as antimicrobial benefits, is one way to boost the effectiveness of wipe products.
 
“There is a demand on the nonwovens producer to come up with new things, and to do this we really need to invest in our businesses,” Mr. Lunde remarked. “You used to see different nonwoven substrates, but now you are really seeing the same substrate in a variety of different products. What has changed is the lotion.”
 
While most wipe substrates used in North America and Europe are uniform, Mr. Lunde still sees room for technology in niche areas. He hopes that these new substrates can attract consumers and open up opportunities for wipes. “The challenge is to come up with a specific material to convince customers to incorporate a new substrate into their products,” he said. “This can be difficult because the customer reaps a lot of advantages by using the same material for all of their products including cost, liquidity and fluidity.”
 
The trend toward uniform products has also led to consolidation within customer-supplier relationships in the nonwovens industry. Global companies, keen on offering the same product throughout the world, are achieving this by purchasing their raw materials from fewer companies.
 
“A lot of the bigger consumer product companies are cutting down on the number of suppliers they use,” Mr. Lunde remarked. “Companies that used to rely on 14-15 vendors now use three or four. This has impacted a lot of companies in the way that they cater to these companies. It has really increased dependency—for both the supplier and the customer.”
 
This has also led Jacob Holm to sharpen its focus on quality control. The company has honed its operations to consistently deliver the same product to its customers, a process that has really taken an attitude readjustment, according to Mr. Lunde. “As an industry, we have not explained that small flaws are intrinsic to nonwovens,” he said. “Instead, we have risen to the demand for a uniform product by improving our products.”
 
In addition to three spunlaced lines, two lines in Soultz, France and one line in Mildenau, Germany, Jacob Holm also operates a needlepunch line in its Mildenau, Germany facility. This operation was acquired through Jacob Holm’ purchase of Norafin in 2000 and does not only target the markets that typically use needlepunched nonwovens. In addition, the output is used to reinforce Jacob Holm’s spunlaced materials and further diversify its offerings to the wipes market.
 
Outside of wipes, also on Jacob Holm’s radar screen is the medical market. Penetration into this market has already been achieved to some degree through new product introductions, including Duplex, a spunlaced nonwoven laminated to a polyethylene film that targets protective applications in the medical, hygiene and cosmetic segments.  
 
New products and their entry into new markets are expected to help Jacob Holm continue its pattern of double-digit growth. “We have worked hard to make sure we don’t rely too much on just one thing,” Mr. Lunde concluded. “We know this will pay off.”"
Location: Jyderup, Denmark

Sales: $87 MILLION

Description: Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, CEO; Peter Stoffel, COO: Michael Steen Lunde, vice president of business development; Jos van Hattum, sales director; Bruno Guymard, research and development manager

Plants
Soultz, France; Mildenau, Germany

Processes
Hydroentangling, needlepunch

Brand Names
Norafin, Lidro, Rough n’ Soft, Duplex, Triplex

Major Markets
Cosmetics/hygiene, household, industrial, medical

North American expansion is among the highlights of Jacob Holm’s business this year. The company announced in April that it would  build a spunlace line in the Asheville, NC, in light of increased demand in the U.S. and a promising European business.
 
Executives have said that North Carolina was chosen as a location because of its strong, existing nonwovens infrastructure and good business climate. The operation will be easily accessible to several key marketers of wipes, which will be the line’s key target market, according to the company.
 
Representing a $40 million investment, the new line joins several other projects announced in recent months by other European spunlaced producers looking to grab a share in the burgeoning U.S. wipes market. Jacob Holm’s decision to enter the U.S., however, was not made because some U.S. wipes marketers’ planned conversion from airlaid to spunlaced substrates. In fact, while much of Jacob Holm’s European business centers around personal care and other types of wipes, the North American line is expected to serve industrial markets such as wipes for the food service industry and packaging materials.
 
“We are ready for a competitive market; we never had the illusion that there wouldn’t be huge competition in the U.S.,” said Michael Steen Lunde, group vice president. “There are very few industries that experience a total monopoly so having a line that runs well and produces the right products will be rewarded. People will make it work, make it grow.”
 
Mr. Lunde added that while this new line is based on spunlaced technology, it could produce other types of substrates required by customers  in the future. The U.S. facility will also have after-treatment capabilities.
 
Paramount to building the foundation for this new venture  has been Holm’s U.S. sales director Michael Norboge, who has worked with U.S. clients since 1999. Mr. Norboge will continue in his senior role serving existing and future Jacob Holm clients.
 
Using technology from Fleissner, Jacob Holm, Kuster and A. Celli, the U.S. line will be able to produce at least 15,000 metric tons of material per year. Construction will begin next month, and the line should come onstream in June 2005. The operation will employ 50 hourly and 20 salaried employees.
 
While waiting for the new line to come onstream, Jacob Holm will continue to focus on its existing roll goods business, which currently has facilities in Soultz, France and Mildenau, Germany. While other companies involved in wipes have forward integrated either by acquiring or investing in a converting operation, Jacob Holm is content honing its spunlaced material.
 
“Conducting development work with our branded clients has allowed us to  see  what platforms will shape the future of the nonwovens industry,” Mr. Lunde explained. “One always has to watch out that things will change.”
 A constant stream of investment in research and development, engineering and quality practices has allowed Jacob Holm to be competitive. Its European plants have been able to escape some of the overcapacity issues affecting Europe thanks to long-term contracts with branded manufacturers.
 
These manufacturers are trending away from middle ground quality wipes. Instead, there seems to be demand for standard commodity substrates and specialized value-added products that can fetch a higher price. This has led to two key challenges for Jacob Holm: developing a standard product at a more efficient price and coming up with innovative, value-added properties to add to its spunlaced material.
 
In addition to its three spunlaced lines, Jacob-Holm operates a needlepunch line in Germany, which was purchased as part of its acquisition of Norafin in 2001. While much of this output reinforces its spunlaced business and diversifies its products in the wipes market, it has been making headway in filtration and cosmetic areas. “You really have to challenge yourself to get value in needlepunch because it’s a slow process, it’s expensive and it’s hard to make money off of,” Mr. Lunde said.
Location: Allschwil, Switzerland

Sales: $91 million

Description: Key personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Peter Stoffel, CEO; Jack Richardson, COO; Ingo Johannsen, CFO; Michael Norboge, vice president of Personal & Home Care; Claudia De Buman, vice president of Special & Technical Applications

Plants
Asheville, NC, USA; Soultz, France; Mildenau, Germany

Processes
Hydroentangling, needlepunch

Brand names
Lidro, Norafin, Rn’S

Major markets
Wipes, Hygiene, Medical, Filtration, Packaging, Protective apparel and Automotive


Sales of $91 million reflect a slight increase for Jacob Holm Industries, a solution provider serving industries with mainly spunlaced and needlepunched nonwovens to date. This figure is expected to jump significantly in 2005 and 2006 as a large spunlaced line comes onstream in North Carolina, the company’s first U.S. production site.
 
Jacob Holm Industries invested $65 million in this U.S. facility to accomplish two phases of business expansion in the U.S. The facility’s new line, using technology from Fleissner, Jacob Holm, Kuster and A. Celli, will be able to produce at least 15,000 metric tons of material per year and, more importantly, the facility is designed and constructed to accommodate further expansion in the near future. The line will chiefly serve the personal care and household wipes markets but also features enough flexibility to create other substrate types including cotton for various markets.
 
The company made a decision to enter the U.S. last spring after sales there, once representing as much as 20% of its total business, were hit by U.S. currency fluctuations. Last year, U.S. sales accounted for approximately 10% of Jacob Holm sales. Also contributing to this decision was increased demand for spunlaced nonwovens in the U.S. wipes market, which was reportedly led by Procter & Gamble’s conversion from airlaid to spunlace in its U.S. baby wipes business.
 
“The growth in the U.S. has been better than we hoped,” said CEO Peter Stoffel. “Some U.S. companies already have no choice but to buy spunlaced products in Europe or Israel.”
 
Wipes currently represent about 70% of Jacob Holm’s total nonwovens business. This figure was once as high as 80%.  But executives are looking beyond this market for growth and expect it to keep decreasing as a focus on other areas continues.
 
“We are looking to other markets where we can sell more functions and differentiate our products. This is being demanded, to some degree, in wipes, but moreso in areas like filtration and protective apparel.”
 
Here Jacob Holm is working with high performance fibers such as Teflon, Nomex, PVA, meta-aramids and poly-aramids. “If a fiber is cardable, we can use it,” explained Mr. Stoffel. “We are examining this in all aspects of our business but wipes are limited in how much differentiation a customer will pay for.”
 
From a geographical standpoint, much of Jacob Holm’s focus is on maintaining its European business while preparing for its North American expansion.  However, five years ago, the company, which operates facilities in France and Germany, made a commitment to being a global company.  “It was our decision to go to the U.S. first but it’s safe to say we will go to Asia next,” Mr. Stoffel said.
 
Like many of his peers, Mr. Stoffel cited rising raw material prices, and the retail market’s failure to absorb them, as a key challenge facing nonwovens. “It has been hard to pass increases on and the industry isn’t going to develop if we can’t increase our prices. Productivity can only take us so far when it comes to cutting prices.”
 
So far, the result of this problem has been industry consolidation, a trend Mr. Stoffel sees continuing in all tiers of the industry. “The good thing is the market is still growing so it is a good market to be in,” he added.
 
In corporate news, Jacob Holm in 2004 reorganized its organizational structure into global business units, Personal & Home care (PHC), encompassing wipes used domestically, and Special & Technical Applications (STA), containing filtration, protective apparel and other specialty applications. With this reorganization came a move of the company’s corporate headquarters from Jyderup, Denmark to Basel, Switzerland as well as some personnel appointments. Jack Richardson, formerly of Johnson & Johnson, was named chief operating officer; Ingo Johannsen, who formerly worked for Siemens in business development and mergers and acquisitions, joined the company as chief financial officer; Michael Norboge, formerly U.S. sales director was named vice president of Personal & Home Care and Claudia de Buman was named vice president of Special & Technical Applications. Mr. Stoffel said that the global units will give customers a key focal point for dealings around the world.
Location: Aalschwil, Switzerland

Sales: $87 million

Description: Key personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Peter Opperman, CEO; Jack Richardson, COO; Ingo Johannsen, CFO; Michael Norboge, vice president of Personal & Home Care; Claudia De Buman, vice president of Special & Technical Applications

Plants
Asheville, NC, USA; Soultz, France; Mildenau, Germany

Processes
Hydroentangling, needlepunch

Brand names
Lidro, Norafin, Rn’S

Major markets
Wipes, Hygiene, Medical, Filtration, Packaging, Protective apparel and Automotive

Continued growth can be expected for the coming years for Jacob Holm Industries. Sales of $87 million were relatively unchanged in 2005 as the company commissioned and started production on its new spunlace line in new facilities in Asheville, NC and looked toward boosting its Special and Technical Applications (STA) unit. However, sales are expected to jump this year as the new North American spunlace line is fully commercial, according to Jacob Holm Group CEO Peter Oppermann.
 
“The line's real potential will be visible during the course of 2006, the qualification process of our non-standard products has just taken more time than expected in 2005; however, the sold-out position was reached at the end of the second quarter. The advantages of a very versatile, yet highly productive line being able to produce two times textile width fabrics (4.6 m line width) supported the business as expected,” Mr. Oppermann explained. Jacob Holm invested more than $50 million in this U.S. facility to accomplish two phases of business expansion in the U.S. The new line can produce 15,000 tons of spunlace material per year and will serve the wipes market, a core segment for Jacob Holm's spunlace business in Europe and North America, as well as a range of technical markets, namely filtration and protective apparel.
 
In fact, Jacob Holm’s focus on these technical areas resulted in the spin off of its technical activities under the name Jacob Holm & Sons STA, into which LD Equity invested. Jacob Holm & Sons STA announced the acquisition of Tytex in July 2006. Jacob Holm & Sons STA will employ 500 and achieve sales of $94 million. Tytex is a producer of knitted technology for global healthcare companies. Among Tytex’s key markets are adult incontinence items, hip protection, nursing mothers, bandages for wound and skin care and orthopedic solutions.
 
“We are not combining the two companies in order to produce the standard tough-action cost synergies. We intend to exploit the fact that the two companies both develop and manufacture advanced textiles based on a high knowledge content and close partnership with customers. Also, both operate in markets driven by innovation. That is why the two companies can learn from each others’ experience and together build a global platform and a broader range of solutions to offer our customers. By combining the two technologies, we will also be able to design entirely new products to spur growth,” said Christian Møller, partner with LD Equity, and Poul Martin Mikkelsen, chairman of the board of Jacob Holm & Sønner A/S in a joint statement.
 
Tytex Group will operate a subsidiary under its own name and with its own brands. Poul Martin Mikkelsen, owner of parent company Jacob Holm & Sønner A/S, will be appointed chairman of the board of directors of Jacob Holm & Sons STA while Christian Møller, Stig Løkke Pedersen, executive vice president of H. Lundbeck A/S, and Martin Mikkelsen, attorney, will also serve on the board.
 
Peter Aggersbjerg, who was the CEO of Tytex from 2001 to April 2006, will become CEO of Jacob Holm & Sons STA. He orchestrated the company’s successful transition from a contract manufacturer to an innovative, market-driven healthcare company. Per Gernow will stay on as CEO of Tytex.
 
Jacob Holm’s activities in the production of nonwovens for applications within personal hygiene, cosmetics and cleaning will continue without change. According to Eveline Geser, marketing director, this business arm has been challenged by pricing concerns and retailer pressures.

However, Jacob Holm has been making strides in developing specialty wipes as well as continuing to improve its productivity. “Supported by one of the most versatile and complete spunlace nonwovens production assets and an in-depth understanding of market requirements Jacob Holm has in close cooperation with its clients developed solutions providing an opportunity to differentiate in a highly competitive market. The utilization of specialty fibers, composite structures as well as customized patterning helped that initiative,” Ms. Geser added.

Location: Allschwil, Switzerland

Sales: $104 million

Description: Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Stephen Landon, president and COO; Michael Norboge, vice president sales & business development; Finn Schoning, group controller; Jack Richardson, vice president USA operations; Alain Herberle, France operations; Francois Wurffel, global production

Plants
Asheville, NC; Soultz, France.

Processes
Hydroentangling (including standard & specialty applications)

Brand names
Rn’S, Lidro, TAU

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, packaging, automotive, industrial (various)


Jacob Holm’s large scale dry carded spunlace line continues to ramp up in Asheville, NC, allowing the Switzerland-based company to continue its growth pattern with sales climbing from $91 million in 2005 to $104 million in 2006. Jacob Holm’s U.S. line, which was added in 2005, is being called the widest and fastest dry carded spunlace line in the world by executives who report that the line is already oversold. Growth is continuing into 2007, thanks to major new agreements with leading global and U.S. marketers for personal hygiene and disinfectant wipe applications covering 2007 and 2008.
 
“Presently 2007, has seen exceptional growth and demand for spunlace in the U.S.,” said company president Stephen Landon.
 
Additional growth can be attributed to optimization of the company’s two French lines. Volume growth occurred in both existing and new markets.
 
Meanwhile, earnings growth was described as “satisfactory but below budget” with U.S. volumes increasing significantly from start up and European margins under pressure due to excess market capacity. However, significant operational improvements increased both capacity and capabilities in France and fixed costs were reduced, according to Mr. Landon. “These successes helped to partly offset the margin squeeze from unprecedented and ongoing raw material cost rises. These cost increases together with global supply constraints on cellulosic fibers could impact our short-term progress and put marginal product platforms at risk” he said.
 
With three spunlace lines, the bulk of Jacob Holm’s output serves the wipes market, which has shown exceptional strength since early 2007, according to the company. New and interesting wipes applications continue to be introduced in Europe, North America, Asia and the Near East as more established wipes programs are holding or gaining volumes, Mr. Landon said.
 
Also benefiting the spunlace market in general is recent consolidation in both North America and Europe, which Mr. Landon said should provide improved stability in general. “Until recently, there have been a large number of individual spunlace producers especially in Western Europe, all roughly the same size and scale and all seeking sustainable volumes and pricing from a finite marketplace,” he said. “The marketplace will likely see increased emphasis on product and segment development from the lower number of spunlace producers, which will be a good development for all concerned.”
 
In March 2007, Jacob Holm sold off its Norafin / STA unit after establishing it as a separate company in July 2006. The unit was spun off to perform under the Norafin name and will focus on four specialized segments. Jacob Holm, meanwhile, will continue to retain and expand its business development and research resources supported by its operations in the U.S. and Europe. The focus will remain on diversifying its business beyond consumer wipes through new technology and innovation. Among its proven competencies already are layered products, the inclusion of scrims and nettings, heavy and lightweight specialties, thermal and hydroembossing and the ability to produce higher caliber products at low basis weights, according to Mr. Landon.

“The surface has only been scratched on the full range of applications in which spunlace can perform technically and economically and Jacob Holm is working diligently on finding and developing these new applications.”
 Areas being examined by Jacob Holm include commercial construction, disease prevention and specialty packaging and closures, he added.
Location: BASEL, SWITZERLAND

Sales: $160 million

Description: Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Stephen Landon, president and COO; Finn Schoning, group controller; Chip Holton, vice president operations USA; Alain Héberlé, plant manager France; Craig DePorter, director of marketing and business development Europe; Francois Wurffel, group production manager; Alexis Porcher, global commercial manager; Jean-François De Gruttola, key account director; Ginny Casstevens, sales director—Americas; Amel Sediri, marketing

Plants
Asheville, NC; Soultz, France.

Processes
Hydroentangling (including standard & specialty applications)

Brand Names
Rn’S, Lidro, TAU

Major Markets
Personal Care, Home Care, Hygiene, Packaging, Special & Technical industrial applications


Sales jumped from $104 million to $160 million at Jacob Holm as the company underwent full qualification and significant scaling up of its newest line, which is located in Asheville, NC. “We have seen strong demand for spunlace nonwovens in both the U.S, and Europe,” said Stephen Landon, president. “We ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week on all our lines to meet strong demand.”
 
By region about $110 million of Jacob Holm’s sales were in Europe while $50 million were in the U.S. The U.S. sales have increased significantly during 2008 to a current level of approximatively $85 million per annum, as the Asheville site continues to increase its production output.
 
For Europe, 2007 was characterized by increased sales of higher value-added products into both existing and new markets as well as record production on existing assets to support the higher sales volume. The U.S. not only saw the full qualification and scale-up of the Asheville line, it also saw a rationalization of products and a new focus on products and markets where the company has a clear competitive advantage—the Asheville line is the widest spunlace line with the highest capacity worldwide and is ideally suited to higher value spunlace products, Mr. Landon explained. “We are further optimizing our product output in the U.S to meet the ever-growing demand,” he continued. “Our current demand exceeds our U.S. capacity with some customers supported from our French plant.”
 
To date, the economic downturn in the U.S. has not impacted business for Jacob Holm there and while pricing pressure does exist on the market, for the most part Jacob Holm’s products mainly fall in the top end/higher value market segments that escape some of these pressures.
 
That said, the U.S. line has performed well ahead of budget on production performance and the company is exploring a number of new product innovation plans for 2009 and beyond. Among these could be a finalized plan for a new line at the Asheville site, which was designed and built for a quick scale up and additional capacity, according to Mr. Landon. Plans for a new line, however, won’t be finalized before the second quarter of next year.
 
In the meantime, Jacob Holm will continue to focus on growth, particularly in markets beyond wipes where its high value spunlaced products can bring real value.
 
“The global spunlace market is growing and becoming far more differentiated, for example cosmetic and personal care applications are showing a lot of innovation and growth but the household market is showing much lower growth and is mainly cost-driven,” Mr. Landon said. “Spunlace remains a premium nonwovens technology with the scope to penetrate new industrial markets outside traditional wipe applications.”
 
In fact, Jacob Holm expects wipes to represent only about 65% of its overall volume by 2010 as other applications such as specialty packaging, hygiene components beyond wipes, construction, automotive and cosmetics emerge as major users of spunlaced nonwovens.
Location: BASEL, SWITZERLAND


Sales: $172 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Finn Schoning, group controller; operations USA; Alain Héberlé, director of marketing and Porcher, global commercial account director; Ginny Casstevens, Sediri, marketing

Plants
Asheville, NC; Soultz, France.

Processes
Hydroentangling (including

Brand Names
Lidro, Rough N Soft, TAU

Major Markets
Personal Care, Home Care, industrial applications

Growth in the wipes market as well as that market’s continued conversion to spunlaced nonwovens has allowed Jacob Holm to continue its pattern of sales growth. The Swiss manufacturer of spunlaced nonwovens reported sales grew 7.5% to $172 million last year after growing from $104 million the year before.

“We see moderate growth in wipes plus significant growth in spunlace applications for wipes in North America, and we are seeing significant growth for the wipes market in general as well as more conversion from airlaid in Eastern Europe,” explained CEO Stephen Landon.

With bragging rights on the world’s largest spunlace line, located in Asheville, NC, Jacob Holm reported that about $78 million of these sales were conducted in the U.S. The company is poised to expand its presence in North America thanks to new contracts in Mexico as well as a deal in the feminine hygiene market in Canada.

About $94 million in sales is done in Europe, where Jacob Holm has a sizeable spunlace business in Soultz, France. This busines is not growing as quickly because the wipes business of Western Europe as its conversion to spunlace is already complete. Instead, Jacob Holm is betting on growth in Eastern Europe where wipes are growing quickly as is spunlaced nonwovens’ penetration into existing wipes markets.
Currently, about 80% of Jacob Holms European sales are related to wipes, a percentage the company is okay with. However, Mr. Landon said he would like to see this part of the business more diversified into more valued added wipe areas, which is the case already in North America where wipes represent 70% of sales.

Jacob Holm’s five-meter-wide U.S. spunlace line, added in 2006, is capable of making nonwovens with a range of raw material and in varying different basis weights, mostly for the premium wipes market. In fact, it is this line’s success in attracting long-term, high volume premium businesses that has contributed to Jacob Holm’s impressive growth during the past two years. “High volumes don’t necessarily mean low technology, but we do want to run our machines for long campaign times. We want a balanced mix of customers and products,” Mr. Landon said.

“The next step in the U.S. will be a second line, to be approved probably later this year or early next year and operational in 2011. We are thinking it will be a complementary line to the first line,” he said. “The emphasis will be on quicker changeovers and shorter run times.”

After that will come a third line—probably five years from now— offering complementary technology to spunlace, Mr. Landon continued adding there are still many segments of the wipes market still open to Jacob Holm. “Household wipes has not even been fully explored by Jacob Holm in the U.S.,” he said.
Location: Basel, Switzerland

Sales: $156 million

Description: Key Personnel
Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Stephen Landon, president and COO;
Finn Schoning, group controller; Ginny Casstevens, sales director – Americas; Jean Francois De Gruttola, key account director—USA; Richard Knowlson—global product development director; Alexis Porcher—global commercial manager; Chip Holton, vice president—Operations—USA; Gilles Hourlier, vice president—Operations—France

Plants
Asheville, NC and Soultz, France
Processes
Hydroentangling

Brand Names
Lidro, Rough N Soft, TAU

Major Markets
Personal Care, Home Care, Hygiene, Packaging, Specialty & Technical Industrial applications

While sales value fell slightly in 2009 for roll goods producer Jacob Holm Industries, sales volumes increased 12.5% to 927 million square meters during the same period as the company reported a change in sales mix beyond wipes to more lower basis weight, specialty products,  as well as a general reduction in wipes prices following reduced raw material costs and movement to lower basis weights in wipes. Moving forward, the Swiss-based company expects to see sales rise by the end of this year to $173 million compared to $156 million last year on strong sales volume growth.
“This strong sales volume growth is being driven by operational performance and product rationalization in the U.S. as well as line upgrades in France,” explained president and COO Stephen Landon. “We are not just growing by getting better but by running longer runs of existing products. For example, in the U.S., we now  have about 10 products that make up sales whereas in 2008 we had 15.”
Currently, all three of Jacob Holm’s spunlace lines, in North Carolina and France, continue to be sold out, running on a 24 hour-a-day, 365-day-per-year schedule.  Therefore, without further investment, Jacob Holm has been relying on longer runs of existing products in the U.S. and line upgrades, including the world’s most advanced filtration system, in France, for growth, but Mr. Landon admits there is only so much output that can be squeezed out of existing lines. “Have we maxed out? There is always scope for product rationalization but it’s always less and less and less,” he said. “Another line in North America is the most profitable growth option.”
While a plan for a second North American line—the first was added in 2005—has not yet been finalized, the company is in the final planning stages for such an investment, which is largely being driven by new value-added spunlace applications for both wipe and non-wipe applications. “In the Americas, Jacob Holm is excited by the unprecedented interest in new value added spunlace applications, for both wipes and non wipes, and this in turn is driving our U.S. capacity expansion planning,” Mr. Landon explained. “It is clear that while some existing U.S. spunlace capacity was underutilized and even removed in 2009, this is more to do with lack of capabilities than a lack of market demand for capable and competitive assets and products,” Mr. Landon explained.
Until the new line is finalized, Jacob Holm will continue to support North American growth with exports from France, where the market continues to be described as stable with recent new opportunities to display its capabilities such as sustainable wipes and new fiber innovation. In fact, the business has been defined by a focus on new product development outside of commodity wipes to maintain margins. “Standard wipes  continue to see major new staple fiber type substitutions to control costs,” Mr. Landon said. “This will allow Jacob Holm more room to showcase processing capabilities.”
Amidst this, Eastern Europe is showing major growth opportunities for the company and 2009 saw significantly increased sales volumes to Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary as well as the group’s first commercial orders in Russia. However, Turkey, which has been good for Jacob Holm in the past, is now in danger of facing excess capacity. In light of this, the company is targeting growth outside of standard commodity wipes.
While wipes continue to represent the bulk of Jacob Holm’s business, currently  25-30% of its total capacity is outside of the wipes market in a number of differentiated products. According to Mr. Landon, “This level of business, across many segments, has taken the last three years to achieve and allows us to be less dependent on the commodity wipes segment while also supporting innovation and investment where we believe we can drive the next generation of wipes.” Mr. Landon said. “We are working with customers to launch at least six high volume new innovative wipes programs in both North America and Europe.”

Basel, Switzerland
www.jacob-holm.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $192 million

Key Personnel: Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Stephen Landon, president and COO; Finn Schoning, group controller; Richard Knowlson, global product development director; Alexis Porcher, global commercial manager; Ginny Casstevens, vice president, sales and new business development—Americas; Chip Holton, vice president, Operations—USA; Gilles Hourlier, vice president, Operations—France

Plants: Candler, NC; Soultz, France

Processes: Hydroentangling

Brands: Lidro, Rough N Soft, TAU

Major Markets: Personal care, home care, hygiene, packaging, specialty and technical industrial applications

Sales continued to climb at Jacob Holm Industries in 2011. The Swiss nonwovens producer with manufacturing sites in Candler, NC, and Soultz, France, reported sales increased 16% to $192 million due largely to a changing product mix, favorable exchange rates and raw material pricing.

“Our ability to produce lightweight substrates with high functionality continues to drive our success in the hygiene market specifically within diaper component and feminine hygiene applications,” says Stephen Landon, president and COO. “In addition, our lightweight capabilities have proven successful in the wipes category by allowing our customers to offer premium, lighter weight wipes to the market at a lower cost without compromising quality. These combined successes have allowed us to capitalize on many opportunities within the global market.”

Some other factors influencing success include the ability to offer alternative, more cost-efficient fibers such as regenerated cotton, as well as the ability to supply premium, lighter weight products matching or exceeding product specifications, he adds.

Currently, about 65-70% of Holm’s overall capacity is sold into the global wipes market while the balance is primarily sold into the hygiene market for diaper components and feminine hygiene applications. While efforts to diversify beyond wipes have been strong in recent years, Holm continues to develop new products in its core wipes business. These include 100% synthetic wipes with an apertured or smooth surface for disinfecting applications, a variety of premium lightweight wipes that range from 30-40 gsm using specialty fibers and a new range of 100% cellulosic/sustainable products.  

This has helped Holm in wipes, which Landon still describes as a global growth market, albeit one with very pressurized margins, particularly in developed markets. “Converters are constantly looking for cost savings and this provides a need for constant product reinvention,” he explains. “The market also seems to have segmented into specific tiers of premium and low cost wipes with innovation and differentiation being valued in the premium tier.”

Meanwhile, Holm has expanded its processing capabilities beyond lightweight hygiene applications to deliver mid- to heavyweight products for industrial applications like automotives, apparel and furniture, areas that have traditionally used needlepunch fabrics. In the lightweight hygiene category, Holm continues to push the lowest basis weight limits that spunlace can supply, now targeting 20 gsm and lower, in order to compete with alternate nonwoven technologies while providing spunlace performance.

Efforts like these have helped Holm continue to grow during the past several years without adding new capacity. The company’s most recent investment, a large line in North Carolina, was added in 2006, and has been running at sold-out status for several years, but to date the company has announced no final plans for a second line at the site.

According to Landon, in 2011, the company reviewed a few specific acquisition opportunities, which did not close. Instead, the key for Jacob Holm has been, and will remain, maintaining a benchmark capability in target market segments of premium wipes and hygiene. “Specifically, this has involved upgrading existing lines to process many alternate fibers and lightweight spunlace for hygiene plus the reduction of waste and energy consumption,” he adds.

This strategy also encompasses Europe, where a focus has been on both innovation and operational efficiency. “In an overcapacity marketplace, it has been critical to differentiate and at the same time we have invested to ensure our lines remain competitive with the very latest technology,” Landon adds.

While Jacob Holm provides a breakdown of sales from its manufacturing bases—the U.S. accounts for $91 million while Europe $101 million—it will not provide information on its global scope. However, the company says it has seen promise in Latin America as well as in certain Southeast Asian markets.

Meanwhile, the company has restructured its North American sales team to focus and grow its presence in both North and South America as it supports the rollout of next generation premium wipe products. Additionally, the company has increased its North American sales team to focus on new market opportunities for industrial applications where it sees its ability to process 100% synthetic fiber products at high efficiencies as a strength. 

“Jacob Holm continues to invest heavily in product development activities and to differentiate itself it in its core wipes business, its growing hygiene segment, as well as supporting new industrial opportunities,” Landon continues. “Additional resources were added to the product development group in both North America and Europe and higher levels of machine trial times were made available.” 
Basel, Switzerland
www.jacob-holm.com
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $171 million
 
Key Personnel: Poul Mikkelsen, chairman; Stephen Landon, president and COO; Finn Schoning, group controller; Alexis Porcher, global commercial manager; Richard Knowlson, vice president product development; Ginny Casstevens, vice president, sales and new business development, Americas; Jeff Sellers, vice president, operations and procurement, USA
 
Plants: Asheville, NC, U.S., and Soultz, France
 
Processes: Hydroentangling/Spunlace
 
Brands: Lidro, Rough N Soft, TAU
 
Major Markets: Personal care, home care, hygiene, medical, packaging, specialty and technical industrial applications
 
Sales decreased at Jacob Holm Industries in 2012. The reduction reflects lower raw material costs, changes in product mix and varying exchange rates, according to president and COO, Steve Landon.
 
“Margins in key segments were broadly in line with the prior year and lines remained full in 2012, operating on a 24/7 basis throughout the full year,” he says.
 
Currently about 60-65% of Jacob Holm’s overall capacity is sold into the global wipes market while the balance is primarily sold into the hygiene market for diaper components and feminine hygiene applications. While efforts to diversify beyond wipes have been strong in recent years, Holm continues to develop new products in its core wipes business. These include 100% synthetic wipes with an aperture or smooth surface for disinfecting applications, a variety of premium lightweight wipes that range from 30-40 gsm using specialty fibers and a new range of 100% cellulosic/sustainable products.
 
Variety in raw materials has helped Jacob Holm in the global wipes market, which is still a growth market, albeit one with very pressurized margins, particularly in developed markets. Here, Jacob Holm’s efforts have been recognized by wipes converter Rockline Industries, who honored the spunlace maker with its Supplier Innovation Award in 2011 and again in 2012.
 
While wipes undoubtedly remain a priority, Jacob Holm has expanded its processing capabilities beyond lightweight hygiene applications to develop mid- to heavyweight fabrics for industrial applications such as automotives, apparel and furniture, areas that have traditionally used needlepunch fabrics. In the lightweight hygiene category, Jacob Holm continues to push the lowest basis weight limits that spunlace can supply, continuing to target 20 gsm and lower, in order to compete with alternate nonwovens technologies while providing the same performance as heavier spunlace nonwovens.
 
Efforts like these have helped Jacob Holm continue to grow during the past several years without adding new capacity, Landon says. The company’s most recent investment, a large line in North Carolina was added in 2006 and has been running at sold-out status for several years but to date the company has announced no final plans for a second line at the site.