Nonwovens Industry
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Suominen


Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $76 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Kari Parviainen, president and chief executive officer; Harri Myllylä, senior vice president, marketing, sales and business development; Esa Palttala, vice president, production and materials management; Margareta Huldén, vice president, product and process development; Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, chief financial officer, finance.

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Novelin, Fibrella

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical (wound care)

The year 2001 was characterized by slightly lower sales brought on by a dip in capacity for Suominen Nonwovens (formerly J.W. Suominen Oy), Nakkila, Finland. The company’s sales came in at $76 million compared to $80 million in 2000.
 
The capacity decrease was brought on by the closure of the company’s older thermal bonding line, but Suominen is currently upgrading its existing thermal bonding and spunlacing lines. “We have been modernizing our spunlace lines and this will boost our capacity in this segment, which is our core business,” explained managing director Kari Parviainen.
 
The additional spunlaced capacity will mainly target the wipes market, which Mr. Parviainen described as the most important segment for Suominen. Other key markets for the company’s spunlaced business include medical and hygiene applications. Currently about 80% of the company’s output is spunlaced, an area that Suominen helped pioneer 15 years ago. The remaining 20% is in the thermal bonded area, where the main focus of the business is backsheets for hygiene items. Suominen also offers a coextrusion coating option through one of its thermal bonding lines to produce textile-like backsheets for hygiene applications.
 
The modernization and improvement project was the result of careful observance of the European nonwovens industry, where an oversupply situation and increased competition are key issues, according to Mr. Parviainen. “We have really upgraded and modernized our spunlaced capacity to maintain our leadership position in Europe. We chose not to invest in a new line but to instead improve what we currently have to be competitive,” he explained.
 
In 2001, the company’s spunlaced business was down slightly because some of its machines were shut down for a portion of the year to be modernized and this temporarily led to lower outputs. Now that the modernization project is complete, Suominen expects its spunlaced sales to take off on the heels of a growing wipes market, both in Europe and North America. “Supply has increased, as has competition,” Mr. Parviainen explained. “But, this modernization has led to increased quality, improved runnability and increased capacity, which should help us move forward.”
 
Future growth will also be heralded by innovation. Suominen’s research and development team has been concentrating on providing more functionality to spunlaced materials used for wipes. The result is a layered product that contains polypropylene and features excellent liquid release and absorbing properties, according to Mr. Parviainen.
 
By geography, the majority of Suominen’s sales are currently conducted in Europe but North America and the Far East are also important to the company, which currently operates one plant in Nakkila, Finland.
 
In terms of raw materials, Mr. Parviainen said that prices were generally stable during the first half of 2001, but prices for oil-based materials such as polypropylene and polyester fell during the second half. Suominen continues to manufacture its own polypropylene in-house and, with the addition of a new production line in 2001, is able to produce all of its polypropylene internally. “This allows us the advantage of tailoring the fiber properties to the needs of our end use products,” Mr. Parviainen explained.
 
Looking ahead, Suominen will continue to concentrate on increasing sales and improving its profitability. Much of this success is expected to come with the strength of the wipes market in Europe and North America.
 
“The main area we are focusing on is spunlaced because we are strong in that area,” Mr. Parviainen said. “We are putting more effort there, and that should improve the quantity and the quality. The future will be challenging, but we are ready for it.”

Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $84 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Harri Myllylä, senior vice president, Esa Palttala, vice president, Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging and Webbing products; Margareta Huldén, vice president, products and process development; Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, chief financial officer of finance, Suominen Non­wovens: Teppo Lainio, production director, Kari Granfors, sales director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Novelin, Fibrella

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical

A 5% sales increase and a 15% earnings jump added up to a successful year for Nakkila, Finland-based Suominen Nonwovens. Roll goods sales were $84 million million compared to $76 million million last year. Operating profit was approximately $11.5 million.
 
These promising results, which were achieved despite fluctuating pricing levels and increased competition, were mainly due to increased efficiencies as well as a capacity upgrade program by which the company’s existing production lines, in both the spunlaced and thermal bonded segments, were upgraded. “Thanks to modifications, product quality rose, runnability of the lines improved and capacity increased,” explained Esa Palttala, vice president of Suominen Corporation, responsible for nonwovens.
 
The plan to upgrade the company’s four spunlaced lines and four thermal bonded lines was begun in 2001 and is expected to be complete sometime this year. This modernization project was chosen over a plan to install a full-fledged production line. Executives felt that, while some additional capacity was needed, a full line would bring Suominen into an overcapacity situation.
 
Currently about 80% of nonwovens output is spunlaced where main markets include wipes, healthcare and medical. Of particular interest to this portion of the business has been honing the technology to meet the needs of the market. “We are continuously developing new products to meet customers needs,” Mr. Palttala explained. “Research and development is extremely important to differentiate yourself in this market.”
 
While a great deal of spunlaced capacity is currently coming onstream in Europe, increased demand is meeting this capacity. Much of this demand continues to be caused by a proliferation of wiping products in Europe and around the world. “Baby wipes, the segment that began this boom, has leveled off, but now newer segments are growing like personal care, home care and industrial wiping throughout Europe, North America and Southeast Asia,” Mr. Palttala added.
 
The remaining 20% of Suominen’s output is thermal bonding, although this technology was reduced somewhat in 2001 when an older line was closed. Some of this capacity was replaced, however, through the aforementioned modernization program. This market has lately been characterized by competition from spunbonded materials, particularly in topsheets for hygiene items. Suominen has been examining niche areas such as feminine hygiene and adult incontinence for these products to recoup some of its losses.  
 
Suominen’s total nonwovens output is currently produced at its plant in Nakkila, Finland. While further expansion plans have not been made, executives have admitted that it would make sense to expand outside of Finland in the future. In terms of geographical penetration, the majority of sales are conducted within Europe but other important markets include the U.S. and Japan.
 
For now the company will continue to focus on aligning its new business organization, which was begun in March 2003. As a corporation, Suominen is now comprised of three major areas, nonwovens, flexible packaging and webbing products. Each is responsible for its own operation but supported by common product and process development, purchasing, logistics and financial performance. “Suominen’s operations are based on a lean organization,” Mr. Palttala explained. “By lean, we mean that Suominen seeks to minimize purely administrative functions. Management must take place close to the actions on a level of everyday operations.”
 
Currently the nonwovens segment is the largest of the three areas, comprising more than half of sales. Suominen will continue to focus on its core areas of wipes, health care and medical applications, to continue growth, particularly in Europe.

Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $87.5 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Harri Myllylä, senior vice president, Esa Palttala, vice president, Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging and Webbing products, Margareta Huldén, vice president, products and process development; Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, chief financial officer, finance.
Suominen Nonwovens: Teppo Lainio, production director, Kari Granfors, sales director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Novelin, Fibrella

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical

A 13% drop in 2003 nonwovens sales for Suominen Nonwovens can reportedly be blamed on price competition in the market for spunlaced nonwovens. While demand for these products, mainly from the European wet wipes market, continued to grow, new players lessened Suominen’s marketshare. Additionally, sales of thermal bonded nonwovens for the hygiene and healthcare markets declined.
 
This lower capacity utilization across Suominen’s production lines in Nakkila, Finland led to uneven production loads for a part of the year, which ultimately impacted profits. This situation, however, was resolved by the end of the year.
 
Still, for the first six months of 2004, nonwovens sales at Suominen continued their decline due to weak pricing. Net sales dropped 4% to E37.9 million. These lower costs could not offset increased sales volumes of hydroentangled wiping products caused U.S. gains and substantial increase in the sales volumes of hygiene and healthcare products.
 
In October 2003, Suominen acquired Dutch wet wipes converter Codi International, the third largest wipes manufacturer in Europe. This acquisition has allowed Suominen to move forward with its strategy of wet wipes manufacturing, an area in which it previously supplied nonwoven roll goods. The Codi acquisition is now an independent business area called Suominen Wet Wipes, which is worth about E60 million. According to Codi’s financial statements for 2002, nets sales were E85.2 million while operating profit was E6.7 million. It has an average staff of 346 employees. Sales are split between baby care products and personal hygiene and household cleaning wipes.
 
Currently about 80% of nonwovens output is spunlaced and  main markets include wipes, healthcare and medical.  
 
The remaining 20% of Suominen’s output is thermal bonding, although its capacity was reduced somewhat in 2001 when an older line was closed. Some of this capacity was recouped through the aforementioned modernization program. This market has lately been characterized by competition from spunbonded materials, particularly in topsheets for hygiene items. Suominen has been examining niche areas such as feminine hygiene and adult incontinence to regain marketshare.
 
For now, the company will continue to focus on aligning its new business organization, which began with the Codi Acquisition. As a corporation, Suominen is now comprised of four major areas: Suominen Wet Wipes, Suominen Nonwovens and Suominen Flexible Packaging Group. Webbing Products, formerly its own division, has been integrated into other business operations.  Each is responsible for its own operation but supported by common product and process development, purchasing, logistics and financial performance.
 
Currently the nonwovens segment is the largest of the three areas, comprising more than half of sales. Suominen will continue to focus on its core areas of wipes, health care and medical applications, to continue growth, particularly in Europe.

Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $93.5 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Esa Palttala, executive vice president, Wipes and Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging; Pekka Rautala, vice president, Wet Wipes Business Unit, Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, CFO
Suominen Nonwovens: Sakari Santa-Paavola, commercial director, Teppo Lainio, production director, Margareta Huldén, product and process development director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Fibrella, Novelin

Major Markets
Wipes, hygiene, medical

Net sales decreased 3.2% to €75 million last year despite increased volumes for Suominen Nonwovens, Nakkila, Finland. The decrease was blamed largely on cost competitiveness among wipes producers in the European market as well as an upturn in the private label market. This decrease follows a more substantial 13% drop in nonwovens sales reported in 2003, which was blamed on the entry of new players into the company’s core markets.
 
“Private label markets have been a major part of market growth, but at the same time they have driven prices down,” explained Esa Palttala, executive vice president, Wipes and Nonwovens.
 
Nearly 80% of Suominen’s nonwovens output centers on spunlaced technology for the wipes market, which has been plagued by increased capacity in Europe particularly in recent months. Despite this, the company was able to grow sales in this segment thanks largely to gains in the U.S. market, which has not yet seen the capacity surge reported in Europe. However, with several new production lines scheduled to come onstream in the short term in the U.S., executives are concerned that overcapacity could become an issue. Furthermore, Suominen, which produces 100% of its nonwovens in Finland, could have trouble competing with U.S.-made goods. Still, the company has nothing to announce concerning U.S. operations at this point,  according to Mr. Palttala.
 
“You have to be sure that you can really make profitable business before this kind of strategic decision,” he said. “We are very pleased with our business in North America and we can serve our customers from overseas for the time being.”
 
Instead of adding new lines, in fact, Suominen has been relying on a line modernization program to increase its nonwovens output. Just by improving and debottlenecking its four existing spunlaced lines, the company could increase its capacity by up to 20%, according to Mr. Palttala.
 
Earlier this year, Suominen combined its nonwovens business with its wet wipes unit, which it purchased from Codi International in October 2003. The integration is reportedly intended to allow the company to more effectively use the operational synergies formed by the two units, Wipes and Nonwovens, as well as Flexible Packaging. The wet wipes business will supply wet wipes to international brands and private label customers while the nonwovens business unit will manufacture nonwovens for wipes, hygiene and health care companies. Integration will be furthered by using Suominen’s own nonwoven material and product applications.
 
This is another step forward in Suominen’s strategy of forward integrating into wipes manufacturing. Last year, the business was hit by reductions in sales volumes and prices, causing sales to drop 15.7% to €81.3 million. According to Mr. Palttala, this loss will be recouped as the company continues to work toward forming more partnerships with retail chains to compensate for some of its branded customers’ loss in marketshare.
 
“We are trying to improve cost efficiency by concentrating on the number of products we offer,"" Mr. Palttala said. “Wipes are the majority of our business and they have been plagued by slower growth but now we are trying to regain marketshare and achieve future growth in baby, personal and household markets.”

Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $85 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Heikki Bergholm, president and CEO, Esa Palttala, executive vice president, Wipes and Nonwovens; Juha Henttonen, vice president, Flexible Packaging; Pekka Rautala, vice president, Wet Wipes Business Unit, Arto Kiiskinen, vice president, CFO. Suominen Nonwovens: Sakari Santa-Paavola, commercial director, Teppo Lainio, production director, Margareta Huldén, product and process development director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Fibrella, Novelin

For Suominen Nonwovens, net sales dropped 9% to $85 million in 2005 compared to $93.5 million in 2004 as sales volumes were affected by challenges to branded wet wipes manufacturers in Europe. “Both the trend in sales prices and continued strong rises in the prices of oil-based raw materials and energy eroded financial performance,” said Sakari Santa-Paavola, vice president and general manager.
 
By technology, thermal bonded nonwovens lost ground to alternative materials in hygiene products resulting in a clear sales decline while volumes in spunlaced nonwovens were slightly better than the previous year. Despite saturation of spunlace in the European market, Mr. Santa-Paavola said wipes is still an important and viable business for Suominen, whose spunlace operation accounts for roughly 80% of its sales. “On the horizon of the spunlace business there is still new light in sight, mainly due to growth of its current product range and geographical expansion,” he said
 
While Europe remains Suominen’s primary market, the upswing in the usage of spunlaced nonwovens in the U.S. wipes market has meant good news for Suominen, particularly as the U.S. spunlace market is not as saturated at Europe’s.
 
“The U.S. is an important export market for us, Europe being Suominen’s main market area. Growing demand of spunlace in the U.S. has been positive news for the whole nonwovens industry. With the help of Suominen’s logistics solutions we have been able to act as a local supplier in the U.S.”
 
Suominen recently completed a debottlenecking project of its spunlace operation, increasing its capacity by 20% and allowing the company to efficiently process lighter nonwovens. Also to this company’s advantage is its ability to offer its customers individual products by having a large variety of PP, PET, PLA, viscose, cellulose pulp and cotton blends as well as a number of finishing techniques.
 
“Suominen’s wet wipes business is successfully rounded but there is still room for improvement. Integration is evolving according to previous plans,” Mr. Santa-Paavola added.  Three years ago, Suominen forward-integrated into wet wipes production with the acquisition of Codi International, a Dutch wipes converter. In 2005, this unit produced about 100 million packs of wipes and net sales decreased by one-fifth. Challenges here included structural changes in retail business as well as generally slower growth in the marketplace.
 
In summer 2005, Suominen complete the final stages in the construction of a new product facility for wipes and since then all production lines have been operating at full capacity. In 2006, having finished rationalization measures, Suominen’s wet wipes business has begun to restore profitability. The target is to retain the marketshare lost during 2004-2005 and achieve growth particularly in personal care wipes but also in baby and household cleaning wipes, according to Mr. Santa-Paavola.
 
Much of this recovery has been achieved through research and development. “Suominen is constantly investing in product and process development to be able to offer its customers more innovative products and solutions. Pilot lines for each production technology (PP fiber, thermal bonding, hydroentanglement, converting and multi-layer film) makes it possible to run all development stages in house.
 
“By making good use of our competitive R&D, and raw material and process variations, we are able to offer our customers individual products. Close and continuous cooperation with customers and suppliers ensures that new and innovative ideas are brought to the market quickly.”

Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $84.5 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Suominen Corporation: Kalle Tanhuanpää, president and CEO, Suominen; Nonwovens: Sakari Santa-Paavola, vice president and general manager Margareta Huldén, product and process development director, Henri Laitervo, sales director

Plant
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001, 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand Names
Fibrella, Biolace, Novelin

Sales remained flat at €67.3 million for Finnish nonwovens manufacturer Suominen Nonwovens in 2006. The maker of spunlaced and thermal bonded nonwovens reported sluggish sales during the first half of the year followed by increased demand during the third and fourth quarters. This trend has continued into 2007 with first quarter sales clocking in 6% higher than the first quarter of 2006, according to Sakari Santa-Paavola, vice president and general manager. “We have made a lot of efforts to be successful and grow our sales and we have been successful,” he said.
 
While Suominen’s spunlace business has been growing steadily on wipes demand, the other portion of its business, thermal bonded has been marked by slow growth and slackened demand in recent years but this situation is changing, said Mr. Santa-Paavola. “It seems that there is a demand for thermal bond in the higher end of the feminine hygiene market, and it has been easy for us to create a product that meets the denier requirements and other demands of this market.”
 
Suominen is constantly making improvements on the quality and production levels of its equipment to make sure that it gives customers the ability to differentiate products.
 
Meanwhile, Suominen’s spunlace business continues to grow thanks to increased wipes demand. In this technology area, Suominen operates four lines, all in Nakkila, giving it the flexibility to manufacture a variety of different products using a number of finishing techniques and raw material types. This year, Suominen will add the ability to hydroentangle cotton through the addition of a more sophisticated water filtration and recycling system. This move responds to increased interest among marketers and consumers of wipes in cotton.
 
Flexibility with raw materials has also helped ease the burden of volatile raw material costs for Suominen. While industry watchdogs predict that viscose pricing levels have plateaued, at least for the time being, few expect costs will drop, meaning that companies throughout the spunlace supply chain have had to accept new pricing structures. “Pricing has become more accepted,” Mr. Santa-Paavola said. “Customers are now valuing things like strong research and development and service and not considering price as the first thing.”
 
Raw material innovation, in fact, has led to the creation of a new wipe substrate—called Biolace —made from natural or renewable fibers such has viscose, cotton, pulp and PLA, which is produced from corn starch during a fermentation process. Biolace represents a first step toward a new single-use and disposability mentality, according to the company. By combining raw materials from renewable re­sources with Suominen’s unique energy-saving production processes and providing nonwovens able to biodegrade 100% in available municipal compost facilities, Suominen is offering a new alternative to the wipes market.
 
Biolace is just one part of Suominen’s corporate-wide environmental consciousness. In its Flexible Packaging division, a stylish matte film that includes lime as filler and enables users to write on the surface with a normal ballpoint pen is available, while in the Wipes division, a wet wipe lotion using more environmentally friendly ingredients is offered.
 
Speaking of Wet Wipes, this portion of its business—acquired from Codi International in 2003—continues to perform well despite severe price competition in the European wet wipes market. Suominen Nonwovens’ contribution to this business continues to grow as well and collaboration between the two divisions has enhanced the company’s ability to meet its customers’ demands.
 
“Our company structure is different from that of our competitors,” Mr. Santa-Paavola said. “We are a one-stop shop to our customers with our Flexible Packaging division and our wipes converting business. This gives us a benefit in the speed we can complete all of the steps because everything is coming from one place.”


Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $104 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Petri Rolig, president and CEO; Paul-Erik Tolvo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wipes and Nonwovens; Sakari Santa-Paavola, general manager of Suominen Nonwovens; Peter Kolster, general manager, Suominen Codi Wipes; Olaf van Stempoort, director of sales, Suominen Wipes; Henri Laitervo, director, marketing and offering management, Suominen Wipes; Mikko Pellinen, vice president and general manager of Suominen Flexible Packaging

Plants
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001; 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand names
Fibrella, Biolace, Novelin

Nonwovens sales were up significantly for Finland’s Suominen Corporation thanks to strong demand in North America as well as continued demand in Europe for its spunlaced nonwovens. Meanwhile, the company’s thermal bonded businesses—a supplier of coverstock material for hygiene items—remained flat.
 
With sales of  €77 million and a sole operation in Nakkila, Finland, Suominen is content with its status as a smaller supplier of thermal bonding as well as a maker of specialty, binder-free nonwovens that can be tailor-made to meet the needs of any wiping or cleaning application.
 
“In thermal bonded, we have a smaller share and we know we are not a major player but we are fine with that status,” said Henri Laitervo. “In spunlace, demand is still strong and there is enough business to go around.”
 
Having avoided making “plain vanilla” spunlace nonwovens, Suominen has been able to escape much of the pricing pressures facing this market and has instead offered a value-addded substrate for wipes manufacturers looking for a customizable material. In addition to its Fibrella spunlace brand, last year the company introduced Biolace, which is made from natural or renewable fibers such as viscose, cotton, pulp and PLA, which is produced from corn starch during a fermentation process. Biolace represents a first step toward a new single-use and disposability mentality, according to the company. By combining raw materials from renewable resources with Suominen’s unique energy-saving production process and providing nonwovens able to biodegrade 100% in available municipal compost facilities, Suominen is offering a new offering to the wipes market.
 
This combined with the introduction of its Amerfeel film and an environmentally friendly wipe lotion has enabled Suominen to offer its customer a fully eco-conscious product. In fact, this ability to be a one-stop shop—achieved through synergies between its nonwovens, wipes and flexible packaging divisions—is one of Suominen’s strongest selling points. Currently, Suominen Wet Wipes consumes about €9-10 million, of 15%, of Suominen nonwovens’ total sales.
 
Speaking of wet wipes, this portion of Suominen’s business, based in The Netherlands, continues to perform well, comprising about 32% of the company’s total sales. As wipes growth is expected to continue at levels ahead of the GDP, executives expect its wipes buiness to.
Location: NAKKILA, FINLAND


Sales: $107 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Petri Rolig, president and CEO of Suominen Corporation; Paul-Erik Toivo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wiping; Mads Kiilerich, director operations of Suominen Nonwovens; Margareta Huldén, director products

Nonwovens Plants
Nakkila, Finland

ISO Status
ISO 9001; 14001 environmental certification

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand names
Fibrella, Biolace, Novelin

Reporting a slight sales decline was Finland’s Suominen Nonwovens, a maker of spunlaced and thermal bonded nonwovens. While deliveries of thermal bonded hygiene materials as well as demand for wound care products increased, sales of spunlaced nonwovens felt pressure from North American suppliers.

Despite this, the company describes the spunlace market as encouraging. “The demand for our premium products was satisfactory,” said vice president and general manager Paul-Erik Toivo. “We could benefit from our long-time focus is on innovation and quality, partly offsetting the impact for the general slowdown in the marks during the last quarter of 2008.”

Suominen Nonwovens has responded to these slowdowns by streamlining its product portfolio, launching new valued added production and producing only against customer orders. Helping more so, Mr. Toivo explained is the long-term growth trajectory present in the wipes market. “Our customers are actively exploring new solutions and concepts in many segments, accordingly we see our business developing favorably also in the future.”

The bulk of Suominen’s spunlace output targets the wipes market and the company has chosen to play on the high end of this market with innovative products. One of these is Biolace, Suominen’s 100% biodegradable spunlace material launched two years ago, which continues to do well as things like sustainability and environmental friendliness are becoming increasingly important for everyone. “As a responsible producer, our aim is to provide customers and end users with products that meet their demands while using all raw materials and other sources as efficiently as possible. We also work hard to reduce the amount of energy and water used in our production processes and we recycle our waste. Our customers share our vision for a more eco-friendly future.”

Other innovations include price competitive spunlace with reasonably lower basis weights as well as launches of new materials in Suominen’s Fibrella spunlace range based on proprietary customer projects. “Quality will be further emphasized in our business proposition,” said Mr. Toivo. “Our state-of-the-art pilot lines are highly appreciated by our customers and a core element in our joint innovation efforts.”

The other portion of Suominen’s business, thermal bonded nonwovens, falls under the Novelin brand name. These nonwovens serve markets as a surface material in a variety of hygiene products. While marketshare in general been declining in Europe for the past several years, sales have been stable in 2008 and Suominen is exploring new applications for its thermal bonded products.”

“The production process at Suominen Nonwovens is constantly developed and our cost-base is continuously streamlined. Recently-made investments to our production lines have improved our cost competitiveness further,” said Mr. Toivo. “All this, in conjunction with our strive for innovation and increased customer proximity, makes us well positioned for profitable growth.”
Location: Nakkila, Finland

Sales: $72 million

Description: Key Personnel
Petri Rolig, president and CEO of Suominen Corporation; Paul-Erik Toivo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wiping; Juha Jokinen, director sales of Suominen Nonwovens; Mads Kiilerich, director operations of Suominen Nonwovens; Margareta Huldén, director products of Suominen Nonwovens Plants

Plants
Nakkila, Finland

Processes
Hydroentangled, thermal bonded

Brand names
Fibrella, Biolace, Karelin, Novelin


Sales clocked in at €57 million for Suominen Nonwovens, a Finnish producer of thermal bonded and spunlaced nonwovens. The drop in volume was partly due to lower volumes in eastern markets and above average deliveries to the North American market in 2008 compared to 2009. Additionally, the lower cost of raw materials impacted the topline correspondingly as nonwovens manufacturers were not able to use the lower cost of raw materials to their benefit in a manner that contributed to the company’s overall long-term profitability.
Despite this drop, executives described 2009 was a very good year financially as its efficiency improved and working capital was reduced. As Suominen’s active sale work and rapid product innovations allowed it to develop new business during 2009. Nonwovens also improved its production efficiency through various small investments and proactive development work.
Other key efforts included inline and machine upgrades, increased sales efforts and improved employee competencies, said Paul-Erik Toivo, vice president and general manager of Suominen Wiping. “We are supplying the market with emphasis on added value products and these have clearly performed better compared with low quality and lower price products.”
With a good percentage of its business represented by spunlaced nonwovens, success or failure in disposable wipes is largely tied to Suominen’s results. According to Mr. Toivo, customers in this segment have been able to manage their businesses well even as private labels continue to challenge brands, resulting in slowly eroding retail values per pack and the subsequent need for cost engineering and target oriented innovation.
“One could almost say there is a kind of polarization in the market, whereby premium products are doing well, as are low cost ones but products positioned somewhere in the middle are facing difficult times,” Mr. Toivo said.
Looking ahead, Mr. Toivo predicted that pricing pressures in spunlace will only continue in Europe as new capacity additions continue to come onstream, adding to an already existing overcapacity situation in the market.  However, demand will continue to increase, solving this issue, as the benefits of spunlace will allow it to target new markets.
One of the ways Suominen is achieving this is through a modernization plan, which not only added capacity to its operation, but also improved its quality and efficiency by cutting energy and water costs, which are sustainable benefits in line with Suominen’s environmental concept.
Speaking of environmental concepts, a few years ago, the company added a Biolace range of sustainable products, which are all the time attracting more interest and demand. Other value added products include embossing, alternative raw material blends as well as a continuous development of new substrates. “This close cooperation with our customers is catering to their needs via specialty products and is one of the key elements in developing Suominen’s nonwovens business further.”
These efforts have also allowed Suominen to expand beyond wipes, most notably in the wound care segment. “We have attracted new customers and are currently working on new products for this market,” Mr. Toivo explained. “The challenge the market faces is the increasing competition from “ready to sell” products supplied from among others China.”
In addition to spunlace, Suominen continues to operate a modest thermal bonded business where it is seeing a rebound with demand for value added products. One recent development, Karelin, includes new varieties for thermal bonded products that satisfy the needs for active skin care performance on top of fulfilling the basic needs of the material.
According to the company, Kareline, which is available in basis weights ranging from 18-35 gsm, is ideal for baby care, fem hy and incontinence products where it can bring softness and textile-like feel to the end products, minimizing the feel of plastic. Additionally, Karelin can be tailored to customer needs. This can be done, for example, by adding soothing and caring agents as well as antibacterial and odor-free features. Karelin can have either a hydrophilic or hydrophobic nature.

Nakkila, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $131 million

Key Personnel: Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwovens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Juha Jokinen, vice president, Business Development, Mimoun Saim, vice president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Larry Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Innovation, Technology & Investments

Plants: Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain; Paulinia, Brazil (scheduled to become part of Suominen in the third quarter of 2012)

Processes: Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled

Major Markets: Wipes, medical, hygiene

In 2011, Suominen Nonwovens transformed itself from a small, one-site nonwovens manufacturer into the world’s largest maker of spunlaced nonwovens with sites spanning the globe. This transformation was achieved through the purchase of Ahlstrom’s former Home and Personal Care, or wipes, business in a €170 million deal.

With manufacturing assets in Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Carolina, Brazil, Finland, Spain and Italy, Ahlstrom’s wipes business reported sales of about €291 million per year, more than four times Suominen’s 2010 nonwovens sales which were reported at €59.1 million.

While the deal (excluding the Brazilian operation) did not close until late October, Suominen Nonwovens sales already received a nice bump in 2011, increasing from €59.1 million to €102 million ($130 million) last year. Pro forma sales for the period are estimated at €375 million ($485 million).

“The acquisition will virtually quadruple the size of the business adding significant volumes in North and South America and Asia, as well as in Europe and the Middle East,” says Alistair Brown, director of marketing and communications. “We cannot make an estimate of 2012 sales but we anticipate retaining and growing the business of both the merged companies.”

The wipes market remains highly competitive, globally, but at the same time, shows volume growth of between single and double figures in various geographies around the world, Brown adds. “By remaining flexible in our operations and providing products to our customers, wherever they are in the world, from geographically spread locations we expect to keep Suominen Nonwovens at the forefront of the global nonwovens wiping market and to extend its presence in other segments.”

As it works to integrate two businesses, Suominen has already had to take some measures to improve performance. In June, the company announced it would close two lines at the original Suominen site in Nakkila, Finland, where it would also streamline administrative and support staff, impacting about 76 employees. According to executives, these measures will impact one thermal bond and one spunlace machine and lead to a write down of about €3 million, which will result in improvement of the site’s overall profitability.

“As part of our announced Summit Program, instigated to return our business to profitability, we made a decision to streamline our Nakkila operations in order to improve this situation and, at the same time, to make our total operational platform more ideally suited to meeting our global customers’ volume demands,” Brown explains.

Meanwhile, all of the acquired plants are operating as planned. The Mozzate, Italy, plant experienced the temporary closure of one production machine as a result of a fire, but it is back to business as usual. Due to bureaucratic difficulties, the acquisition of the Brazilian site has been delayed, but executives expect to complete the phase of the purchase by the end of the third quarter.

The combination of Suominen and Ahlstrom brings together a number of brands, including Hydraspun flushable substrates and Biolace eco-friendly nonwovens. The integration of these brands has been seamless, reflecting Suominen Nonwovens’ strong presence and activity in the sustainable nonwovens market segment. The company will continue to support, grow and develop these brands throughout the world. As for technologies, the acquisition of the Home and Personal Business area from Ahlstrom has been completely complementary to Suominen Nonwovens, according to Brown, and, in no way, duplicates available technologies. “Additionally, the technical and operational expertise from both sides has melded very well to use experience in different technologies to jointly develop all our operational and new product development activities,” he adds.

This joint expertise will help Suominen Nonwovens—as the needs of its customers change—strive to create sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions to customers’ needs and to seek increasingly effective products. In fact, Suominen’s total global growth strategy revolves around its corporate guiding principles of trust, expertise and partnership.

“In combination with flexible, global operations and the broadest range of technologies and processes available from any company in the wiping arena, we are confident that we have all the right resources in place to make our growth strategy achievable,” Brown concludes. “Suominen Nonwovens is the leading global manufacturer of nonwovens for wipes and we will continue to strive to remain so. Our expertise in nonwoven technologies will also allow us to look at other market segments where that expertise and our assets enable us to produce differentiated and value-adding new products.”
Nakkila, Finland
www.suominen.fi
2012 Nonwovens Sales: $602 million
 
Key Personnel: Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president, Suominen Nonwovens; Timo Hiekkaranta, vice president, Sales; Karen Castle, vice president Sales North America; Saara Soderberg, vice president, Business Development, Marketing and Innovation; Mimoun Saim, vice president, Operations Europe and Sourcing; Larry Kinn, vice president, Operations Americas and HSE; Laurent Pennequin, vice president, Finance and Administration; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Technology Development & Investments.
 
Plants: Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Windsor Locks, CT; Alicante, Spain
 
Processes: Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled
 
Major Markets: Wipes, medical, hygiene
 
Sales climbed for Suominen in 2012 as it continued to integrate Ahlstrom’s former home and personal business, which was acquired in 2012. Not only has this acquisition brought Suominen’s sales up to $602 million, it has propelled it to the top of the nonwovens industry, making it the largest maker of spunlaced materials for the wipes market.
 
“This rapid growth was not without its own challenges,” says director of marketing and communications, Alistair Brown. “The creation of what was effectively a whole new company included a crucial task to merge a mix of international company cultures.”
 
In its new form, Suominen, which is based in Nakkila, Finland, operates three nonwovens plants in the U.S. in Wisconsin, Connecticut and South Carolina, and others in Brazil, Italy, Spain and Finland, a considerable change from the one-site producer it was prior to the acquisition.
 
“The integration comprised also the retention and development of customer relationships around the globe. Becoming truly global after being mainly focused on Europe was another important step in the process of creating New Suominen,” says Brown. “Significant markets, such as the U.S. and Asia, were reassured by a global marketing campaign to support Suominen Nonwovens statement of, ‘Now the biggest name in nonwovens for wipes.’”
 
As the biggest producer of nonwovens for wipes, Suominen this year launched the “We Love Wipes” campaign to strengthen its understanding of the need of consumers and consequently ensure it is better able to serve its customers and increase the share of the higher value added products in its portfolio. Bolstered by a campaign hub website at www.welovewipes.com as well as a variety of social media activities, We Love Wipes also aims to raise the overall awareness of wipes and the wide range of uses for them.
 
“Innovation at Suominen is not just about products but about changing the way business is done and challenging traditional long-held views. The market is very dynamic and it is clearly in our interest to become faster to market with the right products. This is one aspect we aim to further improve, with the support from the consumers, the genuine experts of wipes,” says Jean-Marie Becker, executive vice president of Suominen Nonwovens at the time of the campaign launch.
 
On the new product front, in April Suominen launched Exodus and Hercules Nonwovens for personal care and industrial applications as part of its strategy to strengthen its share of the higher value-added products. Both products provide customers with a quality performance in industrial and household wipes and contain cellulose and synthetic fibers, a combination that ensures optimized strength and absorbency with dimensional strength.
 
“Despite its toughness, Hercules Nonwoven has a soft, cloth-like feel, which makes it perfect also for cleaning hands quickly and conveniently while working. Both are available in four basis weights.
 
“We are always improving nonwoven product characteristics in such areas as texture, feel and cleaning through enhancements to the technologies we use in our processes,” Brown says.
 
Another area strong on Suominen’s radar is flushability. In June, the company said it would invest €2.5 million to increase the production capacity of Hydraspun substrates, some of which are defined as flushable by industry guidelines developed by INDA and EDANA, the industry associations.
 
“Suominen is constantly looking at the markets in which it operates,” Brown says. “Where we see opportunity to add value with nonwoven products will determine where we take our future offering.”