Nonwovens Industry
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Propex Fabrics


Location: Austell, GA

Sales: $92 million

Description: Key Personnel
Brad Mortimer, president; Edmund Merchlinsky, general manager- industrial fabrics; Rush Clark, vice president & general manager-supply chain; Mike Jeziorski, business manager, geotextiles; John Dowdell, general manager, floor coverings; Ralph Clements, vice president and general manager, manufacturing, research and engineering

Plants
Hazlehurst, GA; Nashville, GA; Seneca, SC

ISO Status
All nonwoven fabric plants are ISO 9002 certified; R&D is ISO 9001 certified

Processes
Needlepunched, RFX fabric process

Brand Names
AdBac, Aptra, Duon, Petromat, RFX

Major Markets
Geotextiles, furniture fabrics, packaging, automotive, carpet backing, industrial applications


With its plans to be sold put on hold, roll goods producer BP Fabrics and Fibers Business Unit, Austell, GA, has been focusing on streamlining its operations and meeting its customers’ requirements to maintain its leadership position in the nonwovens industry. In November 2001, BP temporarily halted efforts to sell its Fabrics & Fibers business unit, a plan announced in January 2001, due to economic conditions. While a number of parties were reportedly interested in purchasing the unit, which produces woven and nonwoven materials, financing problems led the company to believe it wouldn’t get a fair valuation for the unit. The company will reportedly evaluate the sale of this unit in the future.

“There were a number of companies interested in this business,” explained Edmund Merchlinsky, general manager of industrial fabrics. “When BP elects to move forward with our sale, I expect there will continue to be a number of interested parties.”

The proposal to sell was a part of BP’s strategy to focus on its core petrochemical business. At the time the fabrics and fibers unit was put on the selling block so too was the company’s Plastics Fabrication group. In April, this led to the sale of four of BP’s German plants to RKW, Worms, Germany. Included in the sale was BP’s European nonwovens business, named Amoco Deutschland, which operated facilities in Gronau and Was­serberg, Germany. This sale also included BP’s facilities in Nordharn and Michelstadt, which specialize in producing the films for hygiene and medical applications and agricultural films and round bale nettings, respectively. Also in April, BP sold its performance films business to Parkside Flexibles, Staf­fordshire, U.K., a leading supplier of flexible packaging to consumer brands. Included in this sale were BP’s Darton, U.K. site which produces 18,000 tons of polyethylene films per year, and its Zlotow, Poland facility, where a wide range of flexible packaging materials are manufactured.

Turning back to its nonwovens production, BP Fabrics & Fibers is preparing itself for a rebound in the nonwovens industry as it waits for its parent company to put it back on the market. In terms of sales, about 15-20% of the unit’s business is related to nonwovens while the remaining centers around woven applications. The division produces approximately 300 million square yards of needlepunched nonwovens for the North American market and was able to remain successful despite the difficult economic climate. Still, practically every one of BP’s major business units—which include bedding and furniture, geotextiles, automotives and carpet backing—felt the impact of the economy.

BP’s activities within the furniture segment directly mirrored economic conditions. Because furniture is a segment often hit first by recession and consumer confidence problems, many furniture companies were forced to consolidate and some retailers ceased operations, making it a challenging year for the segment.

Meanwhile, the geotextiles segment has been characterized by flat or negative growth in recent years after having seen strong growth in the years leading up to 1999. Now that the boom times have ended for geotextiles, the market is characterized by a profusion of competitors as well as severe overcapacity issues. Despite these factors, company executives feel that BP is well poised for future growth in this market because of its leadership position and strong market channels. Once growth resumes in geotextiles or some of the excess capacity leaves the market, BP executives fully expect to benefit from this strong position.

BP’s automotives business primarily consists of interior fabrics and this segment was affected by reduced automotive builds as many domestic automotive companies curtailed production to reduce their inventory levels in 2001. So far, 2002 has been more optimistic as automotive builds have begun to rebound.

The carpet backing arm of the business has received a boost from the introduction of Matrix, a needlepunched composite floor covering for carpet backing applications requiring high dimensional stability. For instance, Matrix is ideal for niche areas such as carpeting with strong surface graphics. “This is designed for applications that require increased dimensional stability,” Mr. Merchlinsky explained, “for commercial areas that are more de­manding and need toughness.”

While most of its key markets were adversely affected by the poor economy, BP executives said it is a true testament to its strategy that the company was able to remain successful in 2001. Much of this success is related to the company’s intense commitment to its customers. “In every industry that we work in, we work closely with our customers,” Mr. Merchlinsky explained. “We want to develop products that support their needs, and this requires a strong technology base. All of our customers are the leaders in their fields.”

While BP has not made any significant investments in expanding capacity production capabilities, the company has been investing in its most important asset—its employees. With an eye toward the future, BP has improved its training programs and upgraded the skills of its operators. Executives said that this strategy will help them the most once the economy recovers. “This is what we need to do in this business environment,” Mr. Merchlinsky said. “Frankly, I don’t see a lot of growth in our core businesses until the economy improves.”

For now the timeline for a turnaround is uncertain and the past several months have been characterized by a series of ups and downs, with some months registering pluses and some months charting negatives. Because no one has a crystal ball, BP executives will focus on new applications and possibly new geographies while it waits for two things—the economy to recover and a decision from its parent company to sell.

Location: Austell, GA

Sales: $80 million

Description: Key Personnel
Brad Mortimer, president business unit leader; Edmund Merchlinsky, general manager-industrial fabrics; Rush Clark, vice president & general manager-supply chain; Mike Jeziorski, business manager—geotextiles; John Dowdell, general manager—floor coverings; Ralph Clements, vice president and general manager, manufacturing, research and engineering

Plants
Hazlehurst, GA; Nashville, GA; Seneca, SC

ISO Status
All nonwoven fabric plants are ISO 9002 certified; R&D is ISO 9001 certified

Processes
Needlepunched, RFX fabric process

Brand Names
AdBac, Aptra, Duon, Petromat, RFX

Major Markets
Geotextiles, furniture fabrics, packaging, automotive, carpet backing, industrial applications

BP Fabrics and Fibers Business Unit reported slightly lower sales of nonwoven fabrics in 2002, caused by a reduction in North American sales as well as the divestment of its European business. Nonwovens executives are not put off by these decreases, recognizing the challenges that exist in BP’s core markets, geotextiles, furniture, bedding and automotive seatings.

“We participate in some pretty tough markets,” explained Edmund Merchlinsky, general manager of industrial fabrics. “Everybody has been expecting a turnaround, but so far, it hasn’t happened.”

The company’s largest end use market for nonwovens, geotextiles, has been characterized by declining demands. BP is trying to offset these issues by exploring new areas of the segment that are ripe for growth. For instance, BP has developed software to help designers learn how BP products can benefit their projects. This software can be accessed directly through BP’s website, www.geotextile.com. Additionally, the company has been sponsoring seminars to educate decision makers on the merits of using geotextiles. “The market penetration is less than only 50%,” said Mr. Merchlinsky. “Broad educational efforts need to be made to get potential customers to understand the products.”

Meanwhile, BP’s activity in the home furnishings market, where it provides interior construction fabrics, has been negatively impacted by economic  conditions. Recovery in this market historically has preceded an overall economic upturn and executives would view increased furniture business as a harbinger to total recovery. As it waits for this recovery to occur, BP has been working directly with customers on new products as well as developing fabrics to meet pending antiflammability regulations.

Also impacting the furniture business is the industry’s large-scale exodus to China. Like other textile-based businesses, furniture upholstery has moved east in recent years, in search of lower-paid workforces and commerce-friendly governments.

The only area of BP’s nonwovens market recording growth is automotives where it produces interior fabrics for seating applications. Business in this area has been boosted both by increasing car production rates in North America as well as increased use of needlepunched nonwovens in this area. While there are may other areas in automotives where needlepunched materials could penetrate are used, BP began with this subsegment because it mirrors its business in home furnishings.

Also influencing BP’s business is its potential to be sold. In November 2001, BP temporarily halted efforts to sell its Fabrics & Fibers business unit, which was announced in January 2001, due to economic conditions. While a number of parties were reportedly interested in purchasing the unit, which produces both woven and nonwoven materials, the economic environment financing problems led the company to believe it wouldn’t get a fair valuation for the unit. “We expect that we will be put back on the market when the time comes,” Mr. Merchlinsky predicts. “I think the company is just reviewing the conditions properly before making any big moves.”

Despite its interest in selling the unit, BP continues to consider Fibers & Fabrics an important part of its overall business, and has  is selectively investing in improving its machinery and equipment and other aspects of the operations. “BP understands that no one is going to want to buy a rundown business,” Mr. Merchlinsky explained. “If the unit were not kept up, it would only end up costing money rather than saving money.”

While BP has not added any new nonwovens capacity to its operations—it currently produces about 300 million square yards of needlepunched nonwovens for the North American market—it is constantly working on projects to improve its product quality and uniformity. Mr. Merchlinsky said operations are constantly being reviewed to gauge which components are in need of upgrading.

Economic conditions, nevertheless, have led to some restructuring efforts by BP. In February, the company announced that its would reportedly lay off about 20% of its workforce in Seneca, SC. While executives did not specify how many workers were affected by the move, industry watchers estimate that as many 50 jobs were lost in the plan. The Seneca facility produces both woven and nonwoven materials for carpet backing geotextile and fibers for furniture and bedding applications.

Mr. Merchlinsky said the reasons behind the downsizing were two-fold. For one, is to remain cost competitive. Production improvements made staffing requirements less than before; for another the company is committed to remaining cost competitive in response to tightened margins, and created by the layoffs, will help offset pricing pressures in many of the company’s core markets.

Other measures being taken by the company to offset problems in its core markets include working directly with its customers, educating potential consumers and research and development efforts. “It’s all about creating fabrics that allow our customers, both current and future, to satisfy their needs,” Mr. Merchlinsky explained. “We believe this is something that will open up a lot of opportunity down the road.”


Location: Austell, GA

Sales: $80 million

Description: Key Personnel
Brad Mortimer, president business unit leader; Edmund Merchlinsky, general manager-industrial fabrics; Rush Clark, vice president & general manager-supply chain; Mike Jeziorski, business manager—geotextiles; John Dowdell, general manager—floor coverings; Ralph Clements, vice president and general manager, manufacturing, research and engineering

Plants
Hazlehurst, GA; Nashville, GA; Seneca, SC

ISO Status
All nonwoven fabric plants are ISO 9002 certified; R&D is ISO 9001 certified

Processes
Needlepunched, RFX fabric process

Brand Names
AdBac, Aptra, Duon, Petromat, RFX

Major Markets
Geotextiles, furniture fabrics, packaging, automotive, carpet backing, industrial applications

Up on the selling block again is BP Amoco’s Fabrics and Fibers Unit. The Austell, GA-based producer of wovens and nonwovens for a number of markets was originally put on the market in 2000. The sale was put on hold in November 2001 because the sellers felt that adverse economic conditions would devalue the business.

Now that the economic tide has shifted, executives have regained their confidence in the unit’s ability to fetch a fair premium and put it back on the block in early 2004. While executives would not comment on how soon a deal could be struck, they would say that the business is being courted by several possible suitors, many of which were interested during the first sale.

Even as it has openly expressed interest in selling its Fabrics and Fibers Unit, BP has continued to hold interest in the unit, considering it an important part of its overall business. The unit currently produces approximately 300 million square yards of nonwovens annually, all of which is consumed by the North American market.

By end use, the largest market for BP’s nonwovens is geotextiles, which has been characterized in recent years by declining demands. BP has been offsetting these declines by exploring ripe growth areas. For instance, BP has developed software to help landscape designers learn how BP products can benefit their projects. This software can be accessed directly through BP’s website, www.geotextile.com. The company also sponsors seminars to educate decision makers on the merits of using geotextiles. Currently, only about 50% of geotextile projects use nonwovens.

In the home furnishings market, where BP provides interior construction fabrics, economic conditions have also negatively impacted sales. But, an upturn in this market is expected as economic upturns have historically provided market surges.

The one steady growth market for BP’s nonwovens business is automotives where it produces interior fabrics for seating applications. Business in this area has been boosted both by increasing car production rates in North America and the increased use of needlepunched nonwovens in this area. While there are many other areas in automotives where needlepunched materials could penetrate, BP entered the market through this subsegment because it mirrors its business in home furnishings, according to executives.

Location: Austell, GA

Sales: $82 million

Description: Key Personnel
Donald Mercer, CEO; Jim Bryja, vice president, sales and marketing; Edmund Merchlinsky, vice president, business management; Rush Clark, vice president, supply chain; Tom Lahey, sales manager, Geotextiles; Ralph Clements, vice president, manufacturing and engineering; Maryellen Queen, vice president, new business development; Phil Barnes, CFO; John Stover, General Counsel

Plants
Hazlehurst, GA; Nashville, GA; Seneca, SC

Processes
Needlepunched, RFX fabric process

Brand Names
AdBac, Duon, Petromat, RFX, Matrix, ProGuard, Petrotac

Major Markets
Geotextiles, furniture fabrics, packaging, automotive, carpet backing, industrial applications

Propex Fabrics Inc., formerly known as Amoco Fabrics and Fibers Company, is an Austell, GA-based needlepunched fabric manufacturer. Amoco Fabrics and Fibers was purchased by a group of investors on December 1, 2004.
 
Former parent BP plc had placed the company, a maker of woven and nonwoven substrates, on the selling block in 2001 but canceled the sale after a few months when market conditions made fetching a fair price unlikely. The unit was put back on the market early last year. So far, the transition from a subsidiary of a multinational corporation to a stand-alone company has been smooth.
 
“I believe we have had little immediate impact from the company’s transition to new ownership,” said Edmund Merchlinsky, vice president, business management. “While under BP ownership, we operated with a great deal of autonomy. Where we had some integration with our parent, for example, in IT systems, we made changes in our systems to disengage and allow independent operations and a seamless transition for our customers.”
 
In 2004, sales of nonwoven fabrics increased about 3% in terms of volume to 300 million square yards. Key product applications include geotextiles, furniture, carpet backing and automotives.
 
Despite competition, demand for nonwoven geotextiles grew in 2004, offsetting slight declines in other nonwoven products sold by Propex. “We see nonwoven geotextiles as a very competitive business in North America,” said Mr. Merchlinsky. “There is excess supply and strong price competition. New product offerings are limited. Some new products use nonwovens as part of a composite. For example, we offer two high performance paving fabrics, Pro-Guard and Petrotac —which include a nonwoven fabric as part of a composite structure. We see geotextiles as having good growth opportunities.”
 
Meanwhile, demand for nonwoven fabrics in the furniture and bedding industries continues to be impacted by the ongoing migration of the furniture manufacturing industry to Asia. One bright spot in this market, however, is the flame retardant legislation regulating the bedding industry in California, legislation that is expected to be followed by a nation-wide law. “We are evaluating our nonwovens technology to help our customers economically meet these requirements,” Mr. Merchlinsky said. “These flame resistance requirements are expected to expand to the entire U.S. within several years.”
 
Propex’s other key nonwovens application, automotive, has remained relatively constant due to flat production levels in North America.
 
Beyond these core areas, Propex assesses the value new products outside of these core areas can bring to its business. One example of this is Matrix, a differentiated carpet backing designed for carpets requiring high pattern definition and made from a woven/nonwoven composite structure.
 
While new product development is important, Propex is placing emphasis on improving the quality and competitiveness of existing products. “Our developments in nonwovens manufacturing technology are targeted on reducing waste and other manufacturing costs, as well as improving fabric uniformity and quality,” Mr. Merchlinsky said. “Product developments have focused on product improvements, generally designed to improve cost or performance, as well as developments using different materials than polypropylene.”
 
In addition to needlepunch nonwovens production, Propex can weave, film coat, laminate and emboss fabrics, allowing it to create products that add value to its customers. “Propex will continue to support and look for opportunities to grow in its core businesses,” Mr. Merchlinsky said. “We also believe we have opportunities we can develop with new products and with materials other than polypropylene.”
 
Currently, Propex purchases polypropylene from its former parent as well as a number of other suppliers. In the last several years, increases in polypropylene pricing have challenged Propex and other suppliers of polypropylene-based fabrics. “Al­though polypropylene is the primary raw material for the majority of the fabrics we offer, we believe longer term growth for our business will result from development of new products and working with alternate raw materials,” Mr. Merchlinsky said.

Location: Ringgold, GA

Sales: $200 million

Description: Key Personnel
Joe Dana, president and CEO; W. Michael Coffin, executive vice president and COO; Phil Barnes, vice president, CFO and treasurer; Lee McCarter, executive vice president and CFO; Hugh McClain, vice president of U.S. sales; John Stover vice president and general counsel

Nonwovens Plants
Ringgold GA, Hazlehurst GA, Seneca SC

ISO Status
ISO 9002 Certified
ISO 14001 Certified

Process
Needlepunch

Brand Names
Geotex, Petromat, Proguard, Petrotac, Duon, Synfab Actionbac, Polybac, Earthscape, Matrix, RFX, Xtinguish

Major Nonwovens Markets
Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents

FOLLowing Its acquisition in January 2006 of SI Corporation, Propex Fabrics changed its name to Propex Inc. In the face of strong competition and varying dynamics in all of its end use markets, nonwovens sales volumes at the combined SI and Propex in 2005 were relatively flat compared to the prior year at over 500 million square yards.
 
With nonwovens representing approximately 20% of Propex’s overall business, the combined entity is a leading producer of polypropylene-based fabrics and fibers for geosynthetics, furniture and bedding, automotive, concrete reinforcement, carpet backing and a variety of other industrial end uses. SI Concrete Systems, SI Performance Technology and SI Geosolutions are now combined with the previous Propex Fabrics divisions, forming four Propex business reporting segments—Geosynthetics, Furnishings, Industrial Products and Concrete Systems.

“The acquisition creates a streamlined organization that is stronger and better equipped to drive success and secure a stable, profitable future for customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers,” offered Bob Tlumak, director of marketing. “The combined entity is market-driven and dedicated to innovation, service excellence and proactive market development.”
 
Other benefits expected to result from the acquisition are increased diversification and a broader range of products and services. “As a leading supplier of needlepunched nonwovens in North America, the company has unparalleled capabilities for product development with an array of commercial technologies and conversion capabilities.” Dr. Tlumak added that he also expects the business to benefit from the consolidation of the combined product offerings and cost structure.
 
In terms of manufacturing capabilities, Propex currently operates three needlepunch nonwoven plants, with lines at Hazlehurst GA, Seneca SC and Ringgold GA, but plans are underway to shut down the Seneca site and transfer its manufacturing assets to Ringgold. The transfer will make the Ringgold site the largest needlepunch operation in North America, according to the company.  “We have been investing capital in our nonwovens business to continue to improve our cost structure, upgrade operations to maintain leading quality and support the commercial production of new products,” remarked Dr. Tlumak.
 
Turning to the subject of the economy and its impact on Propex’s core markets, Dr. Tlumak pointed to the upholstered furniture sector, where manufacturing continues to migrate to the Far East, attracted by low labor costs and capital availability. “We see this trend continuing, a trend that is reducing the demand for our products in North America.” He added that automotive manufacturing in the U.S. is down slightly from last year. On the positive side, Dr. Tlumak indicated that the geosynthetics market is enjoying growth from continued investment in civil construction for both site development and transportation markets.
 
When it comes to product differentiation, a key strategy for Propex has been making the most of its varied capabilities, which span from weaving, embossing and fiber spinning to film coating and laminating. These processes can be combined with needlepunched fabrics to offer an innovative range of products including Matrix carpet backing, a proprietary differentiated system designed for artificial turf requiring high tuft bind and made from a woven/nonwoven composite structure.
 
“Propex looks to set ourselves apart from the competition by creating advantages for our customers by offering consistent and reliable high quality products and services with proven performance,” said Dr. Tlumak. “We are committed to growing the markets we participate in and bringing business to our customers with focused marketing efforts. We also offer consultation and expertise in our markets with technically trained sales personnel and support staff as well as collaboration with our customers to bring innovative solutions to the market that enhance their offerings and improve their profitability. In this way we are focused on driving sustainable, profitable growth for both our customers and ourselves by delivering value to the marketplace.”

Location: Ringgold, GA

Sales: $231 million

Description: Key Personnel
Joe Dana, president and CEO; W. Michael Coffin, executive vice president and COO; Lee McCarter, executive vice president and CFO; Mac Bridger, executive vice president worldwide sales and marketing

Nonwovens Plants
Ringgold GA; Hazlehurst GA; Seneca SC;

ISO Status
ISO 9002 Certified ISO 14001 Certified  

Process
Needlepunch  

Brand Names
Geotex, Petromat, Proguard, Petrotac, Duon, Synfab, Actionbac, Polybac, Earthscape, Matrix, RFX, Xtinguish  

Major Nonwovens Markets
Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents  


With worldwide sales up 13% in 2006, another solid year was had by Propex Inc. The company produces polypropylene-based fabrics and fibers for geosynthetics, furniture and bedding, automotive, concrete reinforcement, carpet backing and a variety of other industrial end uses. Propex’s varied capabilities range from weaving, embossing and fiber spinning to film coating and laminating. These processes can be combined with needlepunched fabrics to offer an innovative range of products including Matrix carpet backing, a proprietary differentiated system designed for artificial turf requiring high tuft bind and made from a woven/nonwoven composite structure.
 
Overall, nonwovens sales—which continue to represent about 20% of Propex’s overall business—were significantly improved with the acquisition of SI Corporation in January 2006. Following Propex’s purchase of SI Concrete Systems and SI Geosolutions, all operations went live on the company’s SAP system in July and a full integration has been achieved.  “Nonwovens continue to be a major factor in most of the markets Propex participates in,” commented Bob Tlumak, director of marketing.
 
He reported that demand is strong in all areas except furniture, where production is still migrating to the Far East, attracted by low labor costs and capital availability. “The new highway funding bill supports growth in geotextiles and the bedding industry seems solid. Automotive is sluggish, but it looks like things are improving.”
 
As for its U.S.-based production sites, last year, Propex transferred its manufacturing assets to Ringgold, GA from its Seneca, SC site. The consolidation, now complete, makes the Ringgold site the largest needlepunch operation in North America. “Much of our efforts have been centered on ensuring a smooth transition from Seneca to Ringgold,” commented Dr. Tlumak. “We are continuing to invest in quality improvements and converting equipment such as printing and coating.” Although Propex operates a total of four business reporting segments—Geosynthetics, Furnishings, Industrial Products and Concrete Systems—nonwovens use is primarily in Geosynthetics and Furnishings (flooring, furniture, bedding and automotive).
 
“There is still overcapacity and stiff competition. We are always working on products offering better value for our customers,” he said. “Demand growth for nonwovens is primarily in the geotextiles and bedding markets.”
 
Commenting on Propex’s growth strategy, Dr. Tlumak had this to say: “We plan to continue to be leaders in the areas that we participate in. Our focus on continuous improvement through LEAN manufacturing and Six Sigma sets us apart. We continuously work to improve performance across the organization and to eliminate waste in all areas of operations. Meeting or exceeding customer expectations is our primary concern. Our Advantage Creators corporate tag-line is a rally cry for all Propex teammates to focus on delivering value to the marketplace and make our customers more successful.” He added that Propex measures DPMU (Defects Parts Per Million Sold) to evaluate how well its processes meet customer expectations.


Location: RINGGOLD, GA

Sales: $210 million

Description: Key Personnel
Woody McGee, president and CEO; Lee McCarter, executive vice president and CFO; William Stanley Brant, Jr., executive vice president of operations

Nonwovens Plants
Ringgold, GA, Hazlehurst, GA, Seneca SC  

ISO Status
ISO 9002 Certified ISO 14001 Certified  

Process
Needlepunch  

Brand Names
Geotex, Petromat, Proguard, Petrotac, Duon, Synfab, Actionbac, Polybac, Earthscape, Matrix, RFX, Xtinguish  

Major Nonwovens Markets
Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents

Escalating fuel, energy and raw material prices have led to a rocky road for what was once the world’s largest needlepuncher, Propex Inc. The company started the year off by filing for bankruptcy and has followed up by attaining financing to operate its business and selling off one of its manufacturing plants. Propex is a combination of the former BP Amoco Fiber and Fabrics operations and SI Corporation, formerly Synthetic Industries.  
 
“During the past year, our entire industry has been hit hard by the general economic decline led by the deteriorating housing market plus the escalating cost of raw materials,” said former company president Joe Dane, who retired this spring after more than 20 years of service to Propex and Synthetic Industries.
 
In January a U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee approved a $60 million credit facility on an interim basis with immediate access to $20 million for Propex. The move provided the company with immediate and sufficient liquidity to operate its business on an ongoing basis. By February, Propex had received court approval for access to the additional $40 million of its $60 million in financing. With this cash infusion, the company has focused on servicing its customers and improving operations. Upon completion, the Chapter 11 restructuring is expected to reduce debt and create additional cash flow that otherwise would be earmarked for debt service. According to Propex, its bankruptcy filing has not impacted its Latin American and European operations.
 
By March Propex was being run by a new president and CEO,  Woody McGee, whose first assignment has been to help the company emerge from Chapter 11. Mr. McGee joins Propex from Cerberus Capital Management, L.P., a leading private investment firm. With extensive experience in executive management and the restructuring of companies in a variety of industries domestically and internationally, his most recent assignment was aiding Global Home Products, a $550 million consumer products manufacturer and importer, to successfully emerge from Chapter 11.
 
Divestment has also been part of Propex’s plan. This summer the company sold its Yonah plant for $3.1 million to Lumite Inc., a geotextiles specialist headquartered in Gainesville, GA and a subsidiary of Greece-based Thrace Plastics Group. Thrace also owns U.K. needlepuncher Don & Low and has operations in Scotland and Greece and Thrace-Linq, based in South Carolina.
Location: CHATTANOOGA, GA


Sales: $175 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Stan Brant, president and CEO, Martin de Vries, president and chief financial officer

Plants
Ringgold, GA

Process
Needlepunch

Major Markets
Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents

Under new ownership this year is Propex Holdings (formerly Propex Inc.), a Chattanooga, TN-based maker of needlepunched nonwovens for a variety of industries. After voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2008, Propex was purchased by a fund managed by Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minneapolis, MN private equity firm in April 2009.

Under the name Propex Holdings, the company continues to aggressively pursue business opportunities in existing markets—which include geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotives, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates and sorbents. In connection with the sale, Propex has permanently shed more than $380 million of debt and long-term liabilities.

Stan Brant is leading the company as president and chief executive. He most recently served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer for Propex., responsible for directing all of the company’s geosynthetic, concrete, furnishing and industrial fabrics and fiber manufacturing activities. He replaced Wood McGee who served as president and CEO for one year with the chief objective of helping the company emerge from bankruptcy protection.

Propex was formed in December 2004 when a group of investors led by Houston-based The Sterling Group, L.P., San Francisco- based Genstar Capital, L.P. and Houston-based Laminar Direct Capital, L.P., purchased BP Amoco’s Fabric and Fibers unit. It makes woven and nonwoven materials for the geotextiles, furniture, carpet backing and automotives markets.

The company became significantly larger in January 2006 when it purchased fellow needlepunch manufacturer SI Corporation, including its SI Concrete Systems Corporation and SI Geosolutions Corporation divisions. At the time, the company said the purchase was in sync with its intention to create a highly diversified and balanced company, which will become the best of the best.

Not long afterwards, Propex decided to consolidate its operations, closing the Seneca, SC plant as part of a restructuring and consolidation plan involving its U.S. needlepunch nonwovens manufacturing activities. Seneca manufacturing assets were relocated to Propex’s facility in Ringgold, GA, which was formerly owned by SI Corporation.
Location: Chattanooga, TN

Sales: $165 million

Description: Key Personnel
Stan Brant, president and CEO, Martin deVries, executive vice president and chief financial officer

Plants
Ringgold, GA

Process
Needlepunch

Major Markets
Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents

Eighteen months after being bought out of bankruptcy protection by a Minneapolis, MN-based private equity fund, needlepunch specialist Propex Holdings, Chattanooga, TN continues to grow its presence across its four major product categories—Flooring Solutions, Geosynthetics, Concrete Solutions and Performance Technologies.
Continuing its strategy of aggressively pursuing business opportunities in existing markets, the company has launched steady stream on new products and innovations in the past 12 months.
In March, the company celebrated one year under new ownership by announcing it was ideally positioned to leverage its global and U.S. assets for optimal growth and profitability.
“Propex has achieved and maintained its historical market dominance by investing in the development of innovative technology, building on its core competencies of scientific know-how and manufacturing operations excellence, and ultimately, delivering sustainable solutions to our customers," said David Gartshore, vice president of sales for Propex Furnishing Solutions division, which is responsible for the company's sales of primary and secondary backings for the carpet industry.
In its first year under new management, Propex introduced Polybac EX3 Advantage, an ecoefficient primary backing that offers improved performance while using 33% fewer natural materials.
Gartshore says, "As the largest independent backing producer in the industry, Propex has an unparalleled history of product design and innovation." He predicted that the company's robust development efforts will result in several product introductions in 2010 that will further Propex's commitment to sustainability and contribute to the strength of its current market-leading brands. This first year of new management also saw the company strengthen its leadership position with the addition of several key management roles.
Mr. Gartshore’s optimism about the future of Propex is echoed at all levels of corporate management. At the company's first international sales meeting held recently in Chattanooga, TN, executive vice president Ralph Bruno said Propex is “creating sustainable health in each of the company's business segments, which ensures our customers that that we are a strong, long-term supplier they can rely on to help grow their business.”
Another highlight was the launch of Opus Roof Blanket at the  2010 International Roofing Expo in New Orleans, LA in February. This blanket, which was  in development and testing for the last six years with constant feedback from roofing contractors, creates an entirely new category in roofing underlayment.
“Unlike felt paper and plastic sheeting underlayment, Opus Roof Blanket was developed with roofing contractors in mind,” says executive vice president Ralph Bruno. “The unique composition of Opus gives it the most slip-resistant surface technology, meeting a top concern for roofing contractors. Additionally, the one-of-a-kind “blanket” surface makes it easy for roofers to snap a chalk line.”
In addition to these benefits, Bruno says roofers can expect to see many more advantages versus felt paper and plastic sheeting underlayment when they use Opus on their next job. “Opus is lightweight and easier to work with, cleaner with less wasted material, provides more coverage per roll, and is faster to install,” said Bruno.
“I’m looking forward to launching Opus at the IRE,” he added. “When roofers get this product in their hands, they’ll quickly realize it is vastly different and a far superior product than both felt paper and plastic sheeting underlayment. Opus truly is in a category of its own.”
The product is being distributed by Wolf, York, PA.
Meanwhile, in the carpet backing area, Propex was awarded a U.S. patent in March, showing that its latest technology provides improved performance, a plush feel and many other advantages that offer value to both its customers and the consumer.”
With the market-leading brands Actionbac and Polybac carpet backing products, Propex is the largest independent backing producer in the industry. Polybac primary backing provides a dimensionally stable foundation for superior tuftability, pattern definition and versatility. The industry standard for secondary backing, Actionbac carpet backing effectively provides long-term stability in almost any carpet installation and is crucial in extending the life of the carpet. Innovation remains the anchor of Propex’s success in providing high performance materials and solutions for the flooring industry.


Chattanooga, GA
www.propexinc.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $140 million

Key Personnel: Michael Gorey, president and CEO, Ralph Bruno, executive vice president, Sales and Marketing; Martin deVries, executive vice president and CFO

Plants: Ringgold, GA

Processes: Needlepunch

Major Markets: Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents

An adjustment in production demand, a relocation and an investment for growth are among recent headlines issued by needlepunch producer Propex Operating Company. Just last month, the Chattanooga, TN-based company announced it had retained the services of The Highland Group, a global consulting firm with expertise in implementation and operational excellence.

“Earlier this year, we introduced the new Propex logo and new tagline, ‘The Evolution of Infrastructure,’” says Ralph Bruno, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “To enhance the acceleration of this initiative, we have retained the services of the Highland Group.”

The Highland Group will assist Propex in gathering input through in-person visits and phone interviews with key market stakeholders. Together, the Highland Group and Propex will decide how to combine products, brands, engineering services and a world-class distribution network.

A leader in needlepunch technology, Propex is owned by a private investment fund managed by Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minneapolis, MN-based private equity firm. Wayzata purchased Propex in 2009 after a restructuring process. Under this new ownership, the firm has continued its strategy of aggressively pursuing business opportunities in existing markets.

One recent development was the launch of Gridpro Biaxial and Uniaxial geogrids for the geosynthetics market. These geogrids are manufactured to meet all industry specifications and help build on Propex’s promise to deliver the most complete portfolio of products to the industry.

Also included in Propex’s geosynethics range, which is manufactured in Ringgold, GA, are woven and nonwoven erosion control products.

In June, the company announced it was adjusting its production schedule in response to weakness in the geotextile market, caused by lower precipitation levels, a few abnormal weather events and reductions in military and government spending.

“As part of our strategic growth initiative, balancing production levels with marketplace demand will help to establish discipline in the geotextile and infrastructure markets that we serve,” says Mike Gorey, president and CEO.

Beyond geotextiles, Propex serves the flooring, furniture, bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates and sorbents markets.

Within roofing, Propex launched its Opus Roof Blanket at the 2010 International Roofing Expo in New Orleans, LA. This blanket, which was in development and testing for the last six years with constant feedback from roofing contractors, creates an entirely new category in roofing underlayment.

“Unlike felt paper and plastic sheeting underlayment, Opus Roof Blanket was developed with roofing contractors in mind,” notes Bruno. “The unique composition of Opus gives it the most slip-resistant surface technology, meeting a top concern for roofing contractors. Additionally, the one-of-a-kind ‘blanket’ surface makes it easy for roofers to snap a chalk line.”

In addition to these benefits, Bruno says roofers can expect to see many more advantages versus felt paper and plastic sheeting underlayment when they use Opus on their next job. “Opus is lightweight and easier to work with, cleaner with less wasted material, provides more coverage per roll and is faster to install.”

Meanwhile, in the carpet backing area, Propex was awarded a U.S. patent in March 2010, showing that its latest technology provides improved performance, a plush feel and many other advantages that offer value to both its customers and the consumer.

With the market-leading brands Actionbac and Polybac carpet backing products, Propex is the largest independent backing producer in the industry. Polybac primary backing provides a dimensionally stable foundation for superior tuftability, pattern definition and versatility. Actionbac carpet backing effectively provides long-term stability in almost any carpet installation and is crucial in extending the life of the carpet.

Innovation remains the anchor of Propex’s success in providing high performance materials and solutions for the flooring industry.

In other news, in July, the company relocated its headquarters to warehouse row in Chattanooga, TN, a series of restored warehouse structures transformed into a contemporary destination for modern fashion, urban design, loft-style offices and gourmet dining.

“As a global company headquartered in Chattanooga, we are very pleased to be moving into the heart of the city and region, by relocating to Warehouse Row,” Gorey says. 
Chattanooga, GA
www.propexinc.com
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $140 million
 
Key Personnel: Michael Gorey, president and CEO, Ralph Bruno, executive vice president, sales and marketing; Martin deVries, executive vice president and CFO
 
Plants: Ringgold, GA
 
Processes: Needlepunch
 
Major Markets: Geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates, sorbents
 
A maker of needlepunch nonwovens at a large site in Ringgold, GA, Propex continues to have its hand in a variety of industries. In addition to more traditional needlepunch markets such as geosynthetics, flooring, furniture and automotives, Propex has recently expanded into the sportswear space through an agreement with Bauer Hockey, the world’s leading manufacturer of ice hockey equipment.
 
This multi-year partnership grants Bauer exclusive rights to Propex’s Curv Composite Technology for use in its elite level skates.
 
“Utilizing state-of-the-art materials for our equipment is a priority because players are always looking for maximum performance and protection, and they know our brands meet these demands,” says Kevin Davis, president and CEO of Bauer Performance Sports. “Our partnership with Propex is a continuation of this commitment, and we’re pleased this exclusive relationship has been extended.”
 
CURV Composite Technology captures exceptional mechanical properties by incorporating a process for weaving different composite materials that does not require additional reinforcement, such as with an additional structure, to maintain stiffness. As a result, the product also yields high tensile strength and outstanding impact resistance at a significantly lower weight than many other composite materials.
 
“Propex is thrilled to be exclusively partnered with the leading hockey skate manufacturer in the industry and believes Bauer has used CURV Composite Technology in a way that showcases the technology’s key properties and benefits,” says Dave Gartshore, business vice president for CURV Composite Technology at Propex. “We anticipate many examples of ground-breaking, innovative product developments happening throughout
 
In more traditional spaces, Propex announced last fall it had been awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent Office for the yarn manufacturing technology it developed and currently uses in its proprietary EX3 line of lightweight carpet backings.
 
The patented technology allows Propex to efficiently produce uniquely textured tape yarns for use in applications such as carpet backing, geotextiles and packaging. For example, in carpet applications, EX3 backings made with this technology enable carpet manufacturers to produce patterned carpets with higher resolution using lightweight backings. Carpet manufacturers also benefit from 20% larger rolls, meaning fewer backing changes are needed on tufting machines. EX3 also translates to a reduced carbon footprint including as much as 12% less energy consumed during manufacturing.
 
“As an established leader in the industries we serve, Propex is thrilled to have yet another example of a protected technology patent offering our customers a differentiated technological advantage,” says Dave Gartshore, business vice president for Furnishings at Propex. “We are also continually looking at ways to leverage this technology in other Propex products and solutions in the future.”
 
Amidst these accomplishments, Propex, which is owned by a private investment fund managed by Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minneapolis, MN-based private equity firm, has continued its strategy of aggressively pursuing business opportunities in existing markets. Recent developments include the launch of Gridpro Biaxial and Uniaxial geogrids for the geosynthetics market. These geogrids are manufactured to meet all industry specifications and help build on Propex’s promise to deliver the most complete portfolio of products to the industry.
 
Also included in Propex’s geosynethics range, which is manufactured in Ringgold, GA, are woven and nonwoven erosion control products. In June 2012, the company announced it was adjusting its production schedule in response to weakness in the geotextile market, caused by lower precipitation levels, a few abnormal weather events and reductions in military and government spending.
 
“As part of our strategic growth initiative, balancing production levels with marketplace demand will help to establish discipline in the geotextile and infrastructure markets that we serve,” says Mike Gorey, president and CEO.
 
Beyond geotextiles, Propex serves the flooring, furniture, bedding, automotive, agriculture, laminates, vinyl substrates and sorbents markets.