Nonwovens Industry
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KNH Enterprises


Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $55 Million

Description: "Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, president and owner; Dr. Kirk Hwang, vice president corporate planning and international operations; George Wong, hygiene market director; Herman Tai, industrial specialties applications director; Alvin Hu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

ISO Status
ISO 9002 certified; 9001 in process

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, melt blown, airlaid, needlepunching

Brand Names
KNH brand used for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

Reporting flat sales for 2001 was KNH Enterprises, a Taipei, Taiwan-based roll goods producer that has focused on streamlining its business to achieve higher profits despite the weak economy. “We have been restricting our customer base and strategically focusing on initiatives with key customers,” explained company president J. C. Tai. “By doing that, our top line is flat, but our profits have improved 30% in conjunction with management cost cutting.”
 
With a total annual capacity between 17-20,000 tons, KNH produces carded, airlaid, thermal bonded and melt blown nonwovens for the hygiene, industrial, agriculture and geotextiles markets as well as for a number of niche segments. As part of an effort to focus on new initiatives, the company has recently entered a number of new markets and is currently offering a variety of new products. “Our product portfolio is more complete than ever before,” Mr. Tai revealed. “We have been exploring initiatives in the hospital, cleanroom and dust collection areas, and now that we have completed exploring these areas, we are ready to enter them.”
 
In other market penetration news, KNH is poised to expand its presence in the agriculture market. The company has been testing a sun/moisture control web for agricultural applications in Japan since 2001 and is now ready to roll the product out to Taiwan, Korea and China. Prospects for this material are so optimistic that by next year the company expects to sell 20 million square meters of it per year. Additionally, the company is focusing on key industrial segments as an area where it could provide value added service and diversification. “Much of our research and development is valuable in this area,” Mr. Tai added.
 
Last year, in the industrial segment, KNH began an alliancewith SSA (Spill Station Alliance, Sydney, Australia, to sell heavy-duty drainage products in Australia. This alliance is reportedly performing well and helping KNH to improve its presence in the Australian market.
 
Another key focus area for KNH was the further development of its two-in-one airlaid product—a preintegrated nonwoven product with an airlaid absorbent core featuring two layers of an air through bonded nonwoven and one layer of airlaid material. Originally introduced to the hygiene market in late 2000, the two-in-one product is now being improved to achieve better waste reduction as well as process simplification. The concept has also been expanded with the development of a three-in-one product, which is similar to the two-in-one but coated with a polyethylene layer.
 
Also in the development stage for KNH is an airlaid/SMMS material, manufactured through a dipping process, which is ex­pected to come onstream during the first quarter of 2002. “We are very excited about the potential applications for this product,” Mr. Tai said. “There are various areas where it shows potential, particularly the apparel industry.”
 
The variety of sophisticated new products being offered by KNH is a result of the company’s commitment to innovation and technology. The company believes that roll goods producers need to differentiate their product offerings in terms of structure and functionality to succeed in difficult economic environments. “In terms of technology, everything we do is with the goal of fencing off the competition—to offer different functions and provide better services,” Mr. Tai explained.
 
Looking toward KNH’s converting business, the company has continued its strategy of aggressively adding lines for feminine hygiene product manufacturing. KNH currently makes sanitary pads for a full range of applications including heavy protection products for the Chinese market. The company expects to boost this business by adding a new air through bonding line in its Shanghai, China facility during the second quarter of 2003. The line’s carded/airlaid/airlaid/carded materials target the hygiene and medical markets.  
 
As for future capital investment plans, KNH is taking a wait-and-see approach to expanding its capacity. While Mr. Tai admitted that the next significant capital investment would involve its three-in-one airlaid product for ultrathin feminine care items, he did not specify when the company would make such a move. “It could be next year or it could be in 10 years,” he teased.
 
Whether or not KNH will invest in capital improvements will most likely depend to some degree on the oversupply situation that has been plaguing the nonwovens industry with intense competition, pricing pressures and other headaches. “The oversupply situation is a nightmare,” Mr. Tai opined. “Pricing structures are now designed for specific applications. In the future pricing needs to be more flexible to allow us to tailor our products to individual business needs.”
 
In the future, nonwovens executives will have to be creative to achieve success. For instance, the continued proliferation of nonwovens into new areas, traditionally dominated by other materials such as film, paper and wovens, is necessary for the industry to continue to grow.
 
“In my view, the industry should bring in new innovations and find new applications to accelerate growth and get out of the price war situation,” Mr. Tai explained. “This is already happening as nonwovens continue to replace woven and paper products. Furthermore, it has already been demonstrated in nonwovens’ replacement of films in water barrier products.”

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $55 Million

Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, president and owner; Dr. Kirk Hwang, vice president corporate planning and international operations; George Wong, hygiene business director; Herman Tai, industrial specialties business director; Alvin Hu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified

Processes
Air through bonded, thermal bonded, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunched

Brand Names
Carnation brand used for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

As part of its efforts to withstand pricing pressures and other problems facing the nonwovens industry, KNH Enterprises, Taipei, Taiwan, has been lessening its reliance on commodity-oriented businesses and increasing its presence in specialty areas. This strategy is starting to pay off and executives hope sales increases outpace current levels in the near futures. Sales reportedly rose about 5% for the company last year.
 
A commitment to innovation and technology has led to opportunity within several subsegments of filtration including air, liquid and environmental conscious practices, where KNH primarily provides meltblown materials. Healthy demand exists in these areas of KNH’s core Asian and Australian markets.
 
KNH’s meltblown business also received a temporary boost from the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak that overtook parts of Asia earlier this year. Now that SARS panic has more or less subsided, demand for the masks has dropped, but not to the same levels as before the disease became known, according to executives.
 
KNH was able to meet this demand without boosting its meltblown output, which now stands at about 50 tons per month. Instead the company combined meltblown with other nonwovens technology, including internally produced air through bonded nonwovens and externally purchased spunbonded materials, to bulk up its inventory.
 
Turning toward the hygiene market, KNH has been trying to withstand pricing pressures by decreasing the weight of its carded nonwovens. Basically, the company has engineered its materials to provide the same sponginess at 25 gsm weights as it did at 30 gsm. This trend is also ongoing in the airlaid market, another market in which KNH participates that has been characterized by pricing pressures in recent years. The company has been fine tuning its two-in-one airlaid product, sold in the feminine hygiene market under the Carnation brand, to increase performance while decreasing basis weights. Executives feel that this practice will continue as prices trend even lower in upcoming years.
 
Meanwhile, KNH’s other core markets agriculture and geotextiles have remained flat. Highlights in these businesses include a sun/moisture control web for agricultural applications in Japan as well as increased funding of civil engineering projects within Asia. “We have continued to collect data on sun and moisture management,” Mr. Tai explained. “We need to get the data on the full range of produce grown in these areas and how the product would affect this produce before we make the push into new areas.”
 
Niche markets also continue to be a strong interest for KNH. Among these is composites where the company has developed a PTFE-based nonwoven for protective apparel applications. So far, entry into this market has been positive, boosted by concerns related to SARS. Other markets gaining in importance for KNH is heavy-duty  drainage products, wastewater treatment applications and antistatic cleaning cloths.
 
On the converting side of the business, KNH has taken advantage of lower interest rates by upgrading its facilities in Tainan Taipei, Taiwan and Shanghai, China. While lines have not been added, KNH has improved efficiencies to enhance its cost structure. One area where the company has expanded, however, is in its lamination business. The company has integrated nonwovens and film production into one line to make breathable materials for medical and protective apparel applications. This line is currently operating in Taiwan but executives expect it will someday shift to Shanghai.
 
As Taiwan’s largest roll goods producer, KNH has been content to target its domestic and neighboring markets and has not paid much attention to North America and Europe. Executives realize that this could change, however, as global trends align themselves in all parts of the world. As this globalization continues, KNH will rely on foreign partners and technological know-how to provide its business with true global scope.


Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $55 Million

Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, president and owner;  Kirk Hwang, vice president corporate planning and international operations; George Wong, hygiene business director; Herman Tai, industrial specialties business director; Alvin Hu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunching

Brand Names
Carnation brand used for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

KNH’s efforts to diversify into non-commodity markets while offering a new spin on products in its existing commodity segments have led to several investments for the Taipei, Taiwan-based company. Recently, the company brought a new laminating machine onstream, tailored existing filtration products to better filter liquids and reduced weights across many of its major product lines.
 
Executives hope that these and other initiatives will pay off, allowing KNH to increase sales and prepare itself for future changes in the industry. “You can’t sell a pure nonwoven anymore,” said company president J.C. Tai. “The only way to address or overcome the stresses in the market is to add function to your products.”
 
In early 2004, KNH’s new film/nonwovens line began operation, producing polyethylene/nonwoven laminates for hygiene applications. Among the features of this new line, which improves cost efficiency, is a print release coating option. This gives customers more product choices.
 
Other efforts within the hygiene segment include decreased weights in KNH’s carded nonwovens. The result has been lower costs, which have helped KNH defend itself against pricing pressures. The company has engineered its materials to provide the same sponginess at 25 gsm weights as it did at 30 gsm. This trend is also ongoing in the airlaid market, another market in which KNH participates that has been characterized by pricing pressures in recent years. The company has been fine-tuning its two-in-one airlaid product, sold in the feminine hygiene market under the Carnation brand, to increase performance while decreasing basis weights. Executives feel that this practice will continue as prices trend even lower in upcoming years.
 
Meanwhile, KNH’s other core markets, such as agriculture and geotextiles, have remained flat, largely due to weakened economies and downsized civil engineering budgets. Highlights in these businesses include a sun/moisture control web for agricultural applications in Japan as well as increased funding of civil engineering projects within Asia.
 
One market gaining ground for KNH is heavy-duty drainage and wastewater treatment products. The company entered this market in Australia in 2001 through an agreement with Spill Station Alliance, Sydney, Australia. Vice present of corporate planning Kirk Hwang said Australia is a good region in which to launch this business because it has historically been a benchmark for the rest of the Asia-Pacific region when it comes to environmental efforts.
 
In recent years, water filtration has emerged as a big market for KNH as advancements in the company’s meltblown nonwovens have opened up doors in waste water management. This is particularly an important market in China as more consumers and agencies become more aware of the importance of water quality. Mr. Tai said he expects similar trends in air quality control to follow. “We are seeing more and more environmental specialty companies in China,”  he explained. “This is definitely a market that we are watching closely.”
 
On the new product front, KNH has created a melt­blown/needlepunch/spunbond composite membrane for wastewater treatment applications. The material forms the filtration media in products that use bacteria to convert debris in wastewater to carbon dioxide and H2O.

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $65 Million

Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, president and owner; Dr. Kirk Hwang, vice president corporate planning and international operations; George Wong, hygiene business director; Herman Tai, industrial specialties business director; Alvin Hu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

ISO Status
ISO 9001 certified

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunching

Brand Names
Carnation brand used for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

KNH, Taiwan’s largest nonwovens producer, continued its efforts to diversify its roll goods business beyond the commodity-oriented hygiene market last year and executives said these efforts have paid off. The company reported 30% overall growth levels and a 20% jump in nonwovens sales thanks largely to growth in Asia, particularly China.
 
“China is a virgin market,” said company president and owner J.C. Tai. “It’s really growing fast but now it just needs to prove that it can maintain its stability,”
 
An active member of ANFA, the Asian Nonwoven Fabrics Association, Mr. Tai said efforts are underway in the region to integrate and modernize the Asian nonwovens industry, which has traditionally been very fragmented. These efforts are intended to facilitate conducting business in the region.”
 
With a reported 85% of its sales generated in Asia, KNH has a strong interest in improving the industry there. One area of increasing interest to the company is wastewater treatment. As Asian countries look toward modernization, they are trying to clean up heavily polluted water supplies and the properties of nonwovens, such as absorbency and tremendous surface area, allow them to help clean this water.
 
Efforts in this area have led to the creation a meltblown/needlepunch/spunbond composite membrane for wastewater treatment applications. The material forms the filtration media in products that use bacteria to convert debris in wastewater to carbon dioxide and water.
 
This product has built off of advancements made by KNH in water filtration, which has emerged as a big market for the company as advancements in the company’s meltblown nonwovens have opened up doors in water management. This is particularly an important market in China as more consumers and agencies become more aware of the importance of water quality. Mr. Tai said he expects similar trends in air quality control to follow.
 
On the converting side of its business, KNH has doubled its wipes capacity in the past year because of that market’s huge growth potential. “The wipes market in Asia is just like the market in the U.S.,” Mr. Tai said. “Consumers are looking for convenience and we are responding to it.”
 
In other expansion news, the company has added its second airlaid line as well as its first spunlaced line to its nonwovens operation. While materials made on these lines will target hygiene and wipes markets, KNH is also exploring industrial specialty areas for this output. “The commodity markets can be dangerous,” Mr. Tai explained. “That’s why we are looking more into environmental and industrial specialty areas.”
 
Still, hygiene products continue to be an important market for KNH, which sells products under the Carnation brand name, in its consumer division. Here, the challenge is to focus on cost improvements and performance enhancements to drive up earnings, improve cost controls and woo customers.
 
This goal has been achieved to some extent with a new film/nonwovens line, which came onstream in 2004, producing polyethylene/nonwoven laminates for hygiene applications. Among the features of this new line, which improves cost efficiency, is a print release coating option. This gives customers more choices in products.
 
Other efforts within the hygiene segment include decreased weights in KNH’s carded nonwovens. The result has been lower costs, which have helped KNH defend itself against pricing pressures. The company has engineered its materials to provide the same sponginess at 25 gpsm weights as it did at 30 gsm. This trend is also ongoing in the airlaid market, another market in which KNH participates that has been characterized by pricing pressures in recent years. The company has been fine-tuning its two-in-one airlaid product, sold in the feminine hygiene market under the Carnation brand, to increase performance while decreasing basis weights. Executives feel that this practice will continue as prices trend even lower in upcoming years.
 
Meanwhile, on the raw material front, KNH has been combating fluctuating raw material prices in the synthetic realm by paying more attention to cotton and other natural fibers. “As oil prices rise, the price of cotton doesn’t seem so high,” Mr. Tai explained. “We are seeing the direction of the nonwovens industry in general going toward natural fibers because synthetics are so dependent on petroleum.”"

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $71 Million

Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, president and owner; Dr. Kirk Hwang, president; George Wong, hygiene business director; Herman Tai, industrial specialties business director; Alvin Hu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunching

Brand Name
Carnation brand used for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets:
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

Sales grew 10% for Taiwanese roll goods producer KNH Enterprises thanks largely to increases in the wipes business. Despite this growth, KNH’s earnings were impacted by higher raw material costs, a situation the company has been battling with cost controls throughout its operation. Additionally, lower weight materials are being developed to combat raw material costs. “Surface area enlargement and surface characteristics modification for value-added applications are the growing technology,” explained company president Kirk Hwang. “KNH has been challenging itself to leverage new innovation for other fields to reposition its nonwovens business.”
 
From a regional standpoint, the Asian nonwovens market continues to grow, led largely by China’s large volume growth as well as Japan’s increased focus on high value, highly technical applications. According to the company, efforts to integrate and modernize the Asian nonwovens industry, which has traditionally been very fragmented, are paying off, allowing the region to experience growth in a number of segments ranging from high volume commodity to lower volume, high technology areas.
 
“The major growth lies in the auto industry and technical textiles for high performance products,” said company president Kirk Hwang. “Nonwoven has served as a unique substrate for nano, antibacterial, solar cell, and biological reaction beds. KNH is exploring various applications in biological reactions and slow release for skin care.”
 
One area of increasing interest to the company is wastewater treatment, which is becoming more important to Asian countries as they look toward modernization and try to clean up heavily polluted areas. KNH has been supplying a meltblown/needlepunch/spunbond composite membrane for these applications. The material forms the filtration media in products that use bacteria to convert debris in wastewater to carbon dioxide and water.
 
Meanwhile, growth in the wipes market has led KNH to add a new spunlace line to support its hygiene wipes converting operation in Shanghai. Executives hope this move will allow the company to position itself in the heart of the Chinese home and personal care wipes markets, which are growing at the  same pace as the country’s economy. In other expansion news, KNH has added a second meltblown line in Taiwan—and is planning on installing a third—to meet demand for the material in face mask and room air cleaning filtration media markets as well as in the water treatment industry, which is being targeted with a meltblown composite product.
 
Other highlights of KNH’s converting operation include a second airlaid line as well as a new film/nonwovens line, which came onstream in 2004, to produce polyethylene/nonwoven laminates for hygiene applications. From a technological standpoint, KNH has been lowering weights, and subsequently costs, of its carded nonwovens. The company has developed its materials to provide the same absorbency at 25 gpsm as it did at 30 gpsm. In airlaid, the company has been fine-tuning its two-in-one airlaid product, sold in the feminine hygiene market, to increase performance and decrease basis weights.

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $71 Million

Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, chairman and owner; Dr. Kirk Hwang, president; George Wang, general manager China operations; Alvin Hu, wastewater business unit officer; Dr. Y. S. Chiu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunch, spunlace

Brand Names
Carnation brand for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles


Sales in 2006 remained steady for Taiwanese roll goods producer KNH Enterprises. While filter markets saw a decrease in demand, sales in both disposable wipes and feminine hygiene markets continued to climb. The company’s investment last year in a spunlace line in China—which will be followed by a second spunlace line this year—is expected to positively impact the company’s sales going forward.
 
KNH expects the two new spunlace lines to boost annual spunlace production as much as 10,000 tons. “As this new capacity comes onstream, sales will certainly grow,” predicted Kirk Hwang, president. He added that KNH’s total nonwovens and composite production prior to the recent line additions was 16,000 tons, a figure that will expand to 26,000 tons this year.
 
Another recent capacity boost for KNH was its addition of a meltblown line in Taiwan at the end of 2006. The line was installed in anticipation of increased demand for the material in facemask and room air cleaning filtration media markets as well as in the water treatment industry, which is being targeted with a meltblown composite product.
 
In its core wipes business, where sales are on the rise, the company is vertically integrated. Thanks to its in-house converting capabilities, KNH sells 70% of its wipes to the skincare market, with the remaining 30% targeting medical and hygiene applications.
 
Geographically speaking, KNH’s main focus continues to be Asia, and the company is increasing its focus on the expanding Chinese market. “In China, customers become more sophisticated and demanding. We expect sales to grow in this region,” commented Dr. Hwang. He added that China currently represents one-third of KNH’s business with two-thirds of sales coming from other areas of Asia. “China’s share is increasing in our business,” he added.
 
In response to high raw material costs, KNH continues to rely on innovation as a means of overcoming pricing challenges. The company’s strategy is to create thinner fabrics while simultaneously adding value in the form of specialty attributes such as antimicrobial or odor removal features. “The key is to lower basis weights without compromising performance,” explained Dr. Hwang. “This is one way we protect product value.”
 
In the hygiene sector, this strategy means combining film and nonwoven capabilities on one production line. The company has added two extrusion systems to its nonwovens lines in order to cut out the lamination step and consequently save costs on adhesive. KNH brought a film/nonwovens line onstream in 2004 to produce polyethylene/nonwoven laminates for hygiene applications.
 
One continuing area of interest for KNH is wastewater treatment. The company has filed several patent applications for its biological reaction bed, which includes both meltblown and carded fabrics. The product, which targets the food processing and textile (printing and dyeing) industries, is used to grow bacteria in a process similar to fermentation. Wastewater treatment is becoming more important to Asian countries as they look toward modernization and try to clean up heavily polluted areas. KNH has been supplying a melt­blown/needlepunch/spunbond composite membrane for these applications. The material forms the filtration media in products that use bacteria to convert debris in wastewater to carbon dioxide and water.
 
In the airlaid sector, the company continues to operate two facilities, one of which offers film coating capabilities. Although they originally targeted fem care applications, products from the airlaid/film line are currently being supplied to the adult incontinence market.
 
Looking forward, KNH expects its new capacity to expand possibilities in the medical and personal care areas. “Because we expect raw material costs to continue to rise, we will continue to focus on ultra fine fibers in an effort to cut basis weights.” Moving forward, Dr. Hwang said that KNH plans to increase the  percentages of wood pulp in the composition of spunlace and airlaid nonwovens.


Location: TAIPEI, TAIWAN


Sales: $80 Million


Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, chairman and owner; Kirk Hwang, Wang, general manager China operations; Alvin business unit officer

Plants

Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, needlepunch, spunlace

Brand Names

Carnation brand for hygiene; Co-Fiber for products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

Describing 2008 as a good year was company president Kirk Hwang. Sales growth was 25-30%, depending on the exchange rate, thanks to increased demand for spunlaced nonwovens in wipes and airlaid nonwovens in the feminine hygiene and adult incontinence markets. Moving into 2009, the company has seen a decline in the hygiene markets and the company is now working to adjust its annual forecast in the wake of the economic crisis.

One year after completing a plant expansion in Shanghai, China that nearly doubled its capacity there, KNH already has plans in place to construct a new nonwovens production and converting operation in the western part of China. On the nonwovens end, this site will initially make spunlaced and meltblown nonwovens, the two most sought-after technologies in China but eventually airlaid will likely be added to the operation.

“We are very careful when it comes to growth in China,” Mr. Hwang said. “We are taking it one step at a time. In the past 10 years, we have focused all of our efforts on Shanghai, and this is the first time we have a second factory in China.”

On the spunlace side of KNH’s business, growth has largely been driven by the wipes market, mainly in China. The company is currently making about 8000 tons of the material per year and that figure should hit 10,000 by the end of this year as more capacity on its new line is utilized. “We are still using the machine for new product development,” Mr. Hwang added.

Wipes has continued to drive growth. Overall, baby care wipes decreased, but at the same time adult wipes and medical wipes improved. “Part of it is that technology has allowed wipes to be more affordable, particularly in Asia.”

“China has a lot of spunlace but it’s segmented into different quality categories,” Mr. Hwang said. “Only a small percentage of spunlace is actually qualified for good manufacturing practices. The majority of the spunlace is okay for general practice when microbial control is not required but in hygiene, microbial control is required and we see a shortage there.”

Meanwhile, airlaid has continued to thrive thanks to demand for feminine hygiene and adult incontinence items. However, there has been some uncertainty in wood pulp pricing, making business in this area difficult, Mr. Hwang said. This has allowed manufacturers to increase the ratio of superabsorbent polymers in airlaid latex technology.

Also contributing to KNH’s recent growth is the market for meltblown nonwovens, which is used in face masks. These masks have seen heightened demand due to the swine flu epidemic and other infectious disease threats.

“Because of swine flu, the demand for masks has increased many, many times. We have a line running at full capacity to support mask manufacturing,” Mr. Hwang said.

Looking ahead, Mr. Hwang sees expansion both geographically and technologically for KNH. By region, the next big Asian investment, he predicts, will be India, which is currently being served from KNH’s Taiwanese plants. “There could come a time when it makes sense to begin producing nonwovens there,” he explained.

From a technological plant, the company’s next generation product will likely be spunbond nonwovens which will serve as a replacement for air-through bonding applications in the hygiene market. “We will focus on high conductivity of liquid and fluid materials, technology currently used for microfiltration, and apply it o hygiene,” Mr. Hwang said. “This is still in the works, but we think our next generation product for this application will be spunbond.”

With most of its sales in Asia, KNH has been reacting to current market situations but at the same time has been maximizing its current capacity utilization, ensuring cash flow prices and focusing on emerging markets. “It’s kind of a defensive position we are taking but for the long term we continue to invest money for the next generation product.”

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

Sales: $80 million

Description: Key Personnel
J.C. Tai, chairman and owner; Kirk Hwang, president; George Wang, general manager China operations; Alvin Hu, wasterwater business unit officer; Y.S. Chiu, technical vice president

Plants
Taipei, Taiwan, Shanghai, China

Processes
Air through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunch, spunlace

Brand Names
Carnation brand for hygiene; Co-Fifbe for industrial specialty products

Major Markets
Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

While its converting operation was flat, roll goods sales increased about 8% at Taiwan’s KNH thanks to the successful completion of a second spunlace line. This trend is expected to continue as a third spunlace—largely dedicated to wipes—and a third production facility containing meltblown equipment comes are added.
“Most of our growth in 2009 was achieved  because of demand for wipes so we are planning to add a third line right now,” said president Kirk Hwang. “It was a good year for wipes, growing fast in Asia and we don’t have enough material to supply the third line.”
This new line will be designed to handle wood pulp and possibly recycled materials to not only respond to environmental concerns but also to take advantage of government incentives promoting the use of recycled content in consumer products, Mr. Hwang added.
Other new areas of interest include the medical market, which has been well supported in Asia, particularly in wound care and blood filtration. Under development also is an operating room pad to absorb fluids underneath the patient.
KNH’s medical business will also benefit from the introduction of elastic nonwovens, which are being made through a collaboration with a major U.S. company.
In October, KNH added another factory in the western part of China. Currently, the operation is mainly a converting operation handling nonwovens sent from KNH’s Shanghai plant but KNH plans to add meltblown there next year which will be followed by airlaid and eventually air through bonded materials.
According to Mr. Hwang the driving force behind these investments is demand from China, Indonesia and India, which are all becoming major consumers of nonwovens as disposable diapers and wipes increase in usage. While there are a number of new lines being added in these areas, most of them are replacing older, less productive lines. “With modern, state-of-the-art equipment, one line can replace five or six old ones and help companies save on labor costs,” Mr. Hwang said. “In the old days, the labor and the line costs were so cheap, no one cared, but as they are getting more expensive they start caring more about this.”
Another key market for KNH continues to be filtration; however, the company has spun off the converting operation and focuses only on roll goods production. “By having a roll goods and a converting operation in the same company, we were basically distancing some of the potential buyers who saw us as their competition,” Mr. Hwang said.
With most of its sales in Asia and Australia, KNH’s operations are centered solely in Asia but that’s not to say a U.S. site isn’t a possibility. The development of a proven process of converting recycled materials into nonwovens would open the door into this market as the U.S government is strongly promoting this type of technology.
Beyond its roll goods business, KNH operates an end use business serving disposable markets such as baby diapers, feminine hygiene and, most recently adult incontinence. In 2009, this portion of the business suffered a big setback because of raw material price icnreases. “Our finished goods were flat last year because of the 30% increase in raw material now they are coming back,” Mr. Hwang said.



Taipei, Taiwan
www.knh.com.tw
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $100 million

Key Personnel: J.C. Tai, chairman and owner; Vicki Tai, president; George Wang, general manager, China operations; Alvin Hu, technical vice president; Kevin Chen, assistant vice president of business development

Plants: Taipei, Taiwan, Shanghai and Chengdu, China

Processes: Air-through bonding, thermal bonding, meltblown, airlaid, needlepunch, spunlace

Brands: Carnation brand for hygiene; Co-Fiber for industrial specialty products

Major Markets: Hygiene, industrial, agriculture, geotextiles

Sales continue to rise for KNH Enterprises. The Taiwan-based maker of nonwovens and converted products for the hygiene market credits growth to the ramping up of a third spunlace line as well as investment in Western China. In 2011, nonwovens sales reached $100 million, up from $90 million the year before.

“A lot of the growth is because of our new spunlace line and we have gotten some new customers,” says Kevin Chen, assistant vice president of business development. “North America is also becoming a big market for us.”

Within the spunlace business, the majority of KNH’s sales revolve around wipes and medical applications but the company is making efforts into new areas like feminine hygiene. Entry into this market, while difficult, is being helped by the advancements line number three can offer. These include patterning, which can make the spunlace, resemble a fabric more closely, as well as the addition of pulp, lessening KNH’s dependence on the volatile rayon market.

While KNH is holding off on adding any additional spunlace capacity, it has been working on broadening its global footprint through a new facility in Western China, which could be followed by a facility in the middle region of China. The initial focus on these expansions will be carding technologies, which will allow KNH greater expansion in China.

Beyond disposables, filtration is emerging as an important market for KNH where facial masks, water treatment facilities and semiconductor applications are emerging as important areas.

“The challenge with filtration is it can be a problem to penetrate the big markets so we must really keep looking at a new product,” Chen says.

As it continues to focus on new markets like filtration, medical or home care, KNH has the advantage of being a truly global company with roots in Asia. This will allow the company to capitalize on growth in Asia as an experienced local producer, a strategy that will not be without its challenges.

“There are definitely a lot of new players—more competition—but we have our niche as a provider of nonwovens but also a converter of end products,” Chen says. “We are not just selling nonwovens, we are offering proven solutions with our expertise.”