Nonwovens Industry
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Textilgruppe Hof


Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $67 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Manfred Knieling, managing director; Rudolf Schlotter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director-Techtex, sales director, technical nonwovens; Gunther Hoffman, president-Hof Textiles, Inc.

Plants
Hof, Germany; Mittweida, Germany, Lincolnton, NC

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Dry laid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetatherm, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit, eswegee 2000 series

Major Markets
Interlinings, automotives, filtration, coating substrates, filtration, substrates, noise reduction barriers, secondary carpet backings, electrical insulation

With end use markets split evenly between interlinings and technical applications, Textilgruppe Hof, Hof/
Saale, Germany, experienced an 8% sales increase in its roll goods business in 2001. This sales increase was achieved despite a slowdown in the European economy during the fourth quarter last year that has continued into 2002. After failing to grow in 2000, Hof’s sales in the interlinings segment also remained flat in 2001 due to a combination to an overall weak economy and lower demand for interlinings. This situation, however, has begun to look up and the company expects to see improved performance for the remainder of 2002.
 
The company’s interlinings market remained stable throughout 2001 and has since begun to pick up again. “We are already seeing progress,” said Manfred Knieling, managing director at eswegee.  “During the first half of 2002, we went back to what we consider ‘normal’ business because we managed to increase our marketshare, despite the automotive industry’s manufacturing being on a lower level.” The company’s major market for interlinings is in Europe, primarily throughout Romania and Poland.
 
As for technical industries, this segment is seeing double digit growth with an increase of about 10% since last year, according to Mr. Knieling. Technical applications are responsible for 50% of the company’s sales, while the remaining 50% are derived from the interlinings market. Within its technical applications segment, 90% of Textilgruppe Hof’s sales are derived from the automotive industry, while the remaining 10% come from other markets such as filtration and composite structures.
 
The company’s U.S. subsidiary, Hof Textiles, Lincolnton, NC, had an approximate 20% increase in sales to technical applications because of new products and customers. As a result of exports, however, technical application sales in Europe have recently declined, due to weakened demand in the automotives industry. “Our growth in the technical nonwovens business was more than 10% for most of 2001,” Mr. Knieling explained. “But during the last two months of 2001, the business slowed down, especially in the automotives industry, due to less demand from the consumers.”
 
To keep up with the economy, Hof will rely on new investments slated to be complete during the next two years. “We are looking to improve our quality, productivity and capacity,” Mr. Knieling said. The company has already begun to add new investments onto its older lines. So far, five million dollars has already been invested into improvements for eswegee’s older lines. “It is more important for us to offer higher quality, improved productivity and increased capacity to generate more competition,” Mr. Kneiling explained. Aside from updating its older equipment, the company is planning on investing in new nonwovens production with finishing machines but won’t give any specific details.
 
Last year, the company completed the last part of a DM 30 million, three-year investment program for its production facilities in Hof/Saale, Germany, Mittweida, Germany and Lincolnton, NC. This initiative included new finishing equipment, wider lines and other capacity improvements at the eswegee plant for interlinings and technical applications, as well as a new line for technical applications. With this large scale capital investment plan  now officially complete, company executives are seeing positive results. “This latest investment program has helped us increase our capacity and productivity and has delivered improved product quality and profit,” said Mr. Kneiling. “In other words, it has made us more competitive in this industry.”


Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $71 Million

Description: Eswegee Vliesstoffe GmbH
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Hof/Saale Germany
Telephone: 49-9281-490
E-mail: info@eswegee.com
Web: www.textilgruppe.com

Techtex GmbH Vliesstoffe
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Mittweida, Germany
Telephone: 49-3727-9530
E-mail: info@techtex.com

Hof Textiles, Inc.
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Lincolnton, NC 28093
Telephone: 704-732-3525
E-mail: info@hotextiles.com

Key Personnel
Manfred Knieling, managing director; Rudolf Scholtter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex, sales director, technical nonwovens; Gunther Hoffman, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetatherm, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series

Major Markets
Interlinings, automotives, filtration, coating substrates, filtration, substrates, noise reduction barriers, secondary carpet backings, electrical insulation, foam replacement for car interiors

Sales remained flat on increased exports and decreased domestic sales for German roll goods producers eswegee, Hof/Saale, Germany. The company currently sells about 55% of its output outside of Germany compared to 53% in 2001. This increase has largely been credited to increased demand in Eastern European countries including Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and Lithuania, where Hof has enlarged its sales network and imported its organizational structures, according to managing director Manfred Knieling.
 
By end use, Hof’s business is split into two categories, apparel interlinings and industrial. In 2001, these two segments were approximately equal to one but declines in inerlinings sales increased the industrial side’s percentage in 2002, according to executives. “Interlinings sales went down 9% in 2002, mainly due to the weak economy in Germany and other European Union countries as well as a significant number of bankruptcies of both domestic and international garment manufacturers,” explained Detlev Käppel, sales director of technical nonwovens. “It has almost been impossible to regain the volumes that we have lost due to bankruptcies within a short period of time.”
 
This situation has been exacerbated by the extreme pricing pressures put upon nonwovens manufacturers in the face of a general overcapacity situation within the interlinings segment, he added.
 
Conversely, sales in the industrial segment were described as acceptable in 2002, charting a slight increase over last year. Hof was able to strengthen its market position on new projects and products with the majority of products targeting automotives. In automotives, Hof’s product range is diverse includes hoodliners, dash liners, headliners, package trays and trunk applications as well as carpet backings, foam replacement nonwovens for car seating fabrics and nonwovens for pressure sensitive tapes. Beyond automotives, industrial markets include filtration, noise reduction, carpet backings and electrical insulation.
 
“The growth of technical sales was continuous in 2002,” Mr. Knieling explained. “We will continue to focus on more technical applications rather than ‘me too’ products for the future.”
 
The industrial business has also been augmented through a $15 million, three-year investment program at Hof’s three production sites in Hof/Saale and Mittweida, Germany and Lincolnton, NC. Including new finishing equipment, wider lines and other capacity improvements for both interlinings and technical applications as well as a new line for technical applications, this project, which was completed 2002 is helping the company defend its market position for interlinings as well as industrial segments.
 
Now that this project is complete, the company is focusing on another investment program, this time targeting capacity expansion as well as equipment refurbishment. “All of the plants will be affected evenly,” Mr. Käppel explained. “The investments are planned to help both segments—interlinings and industrial— to enhance quality, lower cost and give us the chance to grow into new areas with new products,” Mr. Kappel explained.
 
As for the size of the investment, executives would only say that it was in the double-digit million dollar range.
 
Also contributing to Hof’s future growth is a range of multi-axial fabrics for the composites industry. Developed in 2001, these products are used in the blades of wind generators in sports, boating and aeronautics. Made from filament rovings, which are laid into different angles and reinforced with stitching, these products comprise glass, carbon or other aromatic polyamides. “There are a lot of synergies between these products and our existing nonwoven products,” Mr. Knieling explained.
 
Additional new products include materials for fusing fabrics, which were developed on Hof’s double-spot coating machines, nonflammable nonwovens for automotive applications and Dilour stitchbonded nonwovens for a range of technical markets.

Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $81 Million

Description: Eswegee Vliesstoffe GmbH
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Fabrikzeile 21, 95208 Hof/Saale Germany
Tel: 49-9281-490
E-mail: info@eswegee.com
Web: www.textilgruppe.com

Techtex GmbH Vliesstoffe
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Mittweida, Germany
Tel: 49-3727-9530
E-mail: info@techtex.com
Web: www.textilgruppehof.com

Hof Textiles, Inc.
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Lincolnton
Tel: 704-732-3525
E-mail: info@hoftextiles.com
Web: www.textilgruppe.com

Key Personnel
Manfred Knieling, managing director; Rudolf Scholtter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex, sales director, technical nonwovens; Gunther Hoffman, president—Hof Textiles, inc.

Plants
Hof/Saale, Germany, Mittweida, Germany, Lincolnton, NC

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetatherm, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series

Major Markets
Interlinings, automotives, filtration, coating substrates, noise reduction barriers, secondary carpet backings, electrical insulation, foam replacement for car interiors

Consolidated nonwovens sales in 2003 within the eswegee group, a division of Textilgruppe Hof, were $81 million, compared with $71 million last year. This rise was attributed partially to more favorable currency rates but also to gains in Hof’s industrial business. More than half, 57%, of sales were exported, showing a continued climb in the company’s export business.
 
Hof’s nonwovens business is split between interlinings, comprising 42% of total sales, and industrial, representing 58% of sales. The interlining business reported another difficult year because of weaker consumer demand, weak economies and a fashion climate demanding fewer nonwovens in interlinings. This led to some of its customers declaring bankruptcy. The company responded by strengthening and reorganizing its sales force and cost structure to adjust to current market conditions. Much of these problems are conducive to eswegee’s domestic business and the picture is much brighter for exports. Executives pointed to continued efforts to widen the company’s sales network geographically and claimed potential for future growth, particularly in Eastern Europe.
 
Problems in interlinings have not stopped eswegee from developing new products. These include “SP2C” and “EASY CARE,” two lightweight and soft interlinings with special coatings to enhance performance in fashion fabrics as well as a 100% PES-based needlefelt product line developed to fill a need for heavier interlinings, according to managing director Manfred Kneiling.
 
“According to our view, the global nonwovens industry will remain very interesting with growth potential left for specific products rather than ‘me too,’” he added. “Our goal is to provide our customers the best ‘total cost solution.’”
 
On the industrial side, sales have been on the rise and are expected to continue for the time being. Eswegee’s main market for industrial nonwovens is the automotive industry, where products are used for acoustical applications such as hoodliners, dash liners, headliners, package trays and boot applications. Recent developments include a new generation of moldable nonwovens used in trunk applications and wheel arch covers in cars. These offer a unique surface structure, less weight, good acoustics and cost competitiveness over existing products, as well as nonwovens with high temperature-resistant coatings and acoustic performance for automotives.
 
Hof’s services to the automotives business are being expanded by an ambitious, $15 million capital investment program. The plan, which will also impact the interlining portion of the business, targets all three Hof sites, in Hof/Saale and Mittweida, Germany and Lincolnton, NC. Already two lines have been added to the operation with another set to come onstream this year, according to executives.
 
“The investments are planned to help both segments, interlining and industrial, enhance quality, lower cost and give us the chance to grow into new areas with new products,” said Detlev Käppel, sales director of technical nonwovens.
 
Beyond automotives, Hof’s industrial business includes products targeting filtration, where the company is developing new composite products, and carpet backings. These markets are also benefiting from new pressure-sensitive tapes products at Hof’s stitchbonded plant Techtex GmbH Vliesstoffe in Mittweida, Germany.


Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $91 million

Description: Textilgruppe Hof AG
Hof/Saale, Germany
Tel: 49-9281-4980
E-mail: info@eswegee.com
Web: www.textilgruppe.com

Eswegee Vliesstoff GmbH
A company of Textilgruppe Hof
Fabrikzeile 21, 95208 Hof/Saale Germany
Tel: 49-9281-490
E-mail: info@eswegee.com
Web: www.textilgruppe.com

Techtex GmbH Vliesstoffe
A company of Textilgruppe Hof AG
Mittweida, Germany
Tel: 49-3727-9530
E-mail: info@techtex.com
Web: www.textilgruppehof.com

Hof Textiles, Inc.
A company of Textilgruppe Hof AG
Lincolnton, NC
Tel: 704-732-3525
E-mail: info@hoftextiles.com
Web: www.textilgruppe.com

Key Personnel
Manfred Knieling, managing director; Rudolf Scholtter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director-Techtex, sales director, technical nonwovens; Gunther Hoffmann, president-Hof Textiles, Inc.

Plants
Hof/Saale, Germany; Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint

With consolidated 2004 worldwide nonwovens sales topping $91 million, eswegee Vliesstoff Group, Hof/Saale, Germany, saw a sales increase of about 4.5% compared to 2003. The company’s domestic/export sales ratio was almost even, at 57% and 43%, respectively in 2004. Industrial markets remain Hof’s core focus and represent 60% of its business, while interlinings make up 40% of sales.
 
Similar to most roll goods producers, a major challenge for Hof this year came in the form of price increases for all raw materials across the board, from fibers to chemicals. Due to the highly competitive nature of the market, Hof found it nearly impossible to pass these increases onto customers. Furthermore, the company reports its competition has been lowering prices  to sell high volumes, regardless of performance. “The automotive industry still calls for lower prices regardless of what is going on in the raw material market,” commented sales director Detlev Kaeppel. “One result of this is most likely the frequent recalls due to quality malfunctions.”
 
Business in the interlinings sector was described as steady yet challenging due to weaker consumer demand, a tough economy and the use of fewer interlinings by the fashion industry. However, after slow first and second quarters in 2004, Hof did enjoy some increased demand resulting from new designs that use more interlinings. Unfortunately, this trend had already slowed by the end of 2004
 
Hof’s managing director Manfred Knieling predicts that domestic business for interlinings will become more difficult due to fewer remaining garment manufacturers within Germany as well as a dramatic increase in less expensive Asian textile imports (particularly from China) due to lowered import restrictions. In an effort to defend its position in the market, Hof developed a new product line with updated raw material compositions, higher qualities and extremely good bond strengths.
 
As far as exports for interlinings are concerned, Hof remains confident in its current level of success and is reaping the rewards of earlier efforts to strengthen its export division and sales support staff. As a means of securing future growth in interlinings exports, Hof has developed new products such as Bassopoint, a new generation of lightweight nonwovens characterized by a high fusing temperature range (90-130°C) to enhance the performance of fashion fabrics. “Our latest investment, a new high-speed thermal bonding line, enables us to strike back against low-cost imports,” said Mr. Knieling.
 
In the industrial nonwovens sector, Hof benefited from sales growth stemming from new projects and products. The main markets for Hof’s industrial nonwovens continue to lie within the automotive industry where products are used for acoustical applications such as hoodliners, dash liners, headliners, package trays and boot applications. In the future, Hof plans to focus on new products for filtration with its range of multiple technologies.
 
Other market segments are secondary carpet backings and pressure-sensitive tapes, which the company produces at its Techtex stitchbonding plant in Mittweida. The plant’s capacity was recently increased for new Kunit/Multiknit nonwovens to target the foam replacement market for car seats through an upgrade of an older trial machine. The expansion represents an investment of $2.4 million and bumps capacity at the Mittweida plant to 3.5 million square meters.
 
Also new in the industrial arena is a generation of moldable nonwovens used for trunk applications and wheel arch covers in cars. The products offer a unique surface structure, lower weights, good acoustics and prices that are competitive with existing products. “We have seen encouraging results with this product line, which have turned into first orders from customers,” said Mr. Käppel.
 
Another growth area for stitchbonded nonwovens is facing applications such as headliners, package trays and luggage covers. “We have seen good success here and will expand capacity for stitchbonded nonwovens at the Mittweida plant,” stated Mr. Käppel. The company plans to invest $1.5 million to add a new six meter line, which will boost capacity by three to four million square meters.
 
Other new products are nonwovens with low shrinkage rates and composites for the automotives industry. “Growth in technical sales has not yet come to an end. We have some new projects under contract that will target the U.S. automotive industry for the future and we are looking ahead with optimism,” said Mr. Käppel. Among the company’s new projects are new generations of facing products to target headliner and package tray applications as well as new concepts of trunk material for the three big U.S. OEMs.
 
Hof´s capital investments in 2004—which were in the double-digit million dollar range—focused primarily on capacity expansions for both the interlining and automotive markets at all three of the company’s plants. Although Mr. Knieling declined to offer any detailed information about these investments, he indicated that further capital investment plans are already underway in 2005.
 
“The investments are designed to help both segments— interlinings and automotives—enhance quality and lower costs. They also give us the chance to grow into new areas with new products,” Mr. Knieling commented. He added that Hof will continue to focus on its strategy in Asia for both interlinings and technical nonwovens. He referred to the company’s offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong as the first steps, with more decisions likely to follow.
 
Overall, Mr. Knieling expects the global nonwovens industry to remain very interesting with growth potential remaining for specialized rather than “me too” products. “Our goal is to provide our customers the best ‘total cost solution,” he said.

Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $87 Million

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

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

Processes
Hydroentangling, needlepunch

Brand names
Lidro, Norafin, Rn’S

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

Continued growth can be expected for the coming years for Jacob Holm Industries. Sales of $87 million were relatively unchanged in 2005 as the company commissioned and started production on its new spunlace line in new facilities in Asheville, NC and looked toward boosting its Special and Technical Applications (STA) unit. However, sales are expected to jump this year as the new North American spunlace line is fully commercial, according to Jacob Holm Group CEO Peter Oppermann.

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

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


Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $90 Million

Description: Key Personnel
Harald Stini, managing director; Rudolf Schlotter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex and Global sales director eswegee, technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.

Plants
Hof/Saale, Germany; Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint

Launching a brand new nonwovens technology, unveiling a joint venture in India and building a new production facility has kept eswegee Vliesstoff Group, Hof/Saale, Germany, quite busy this year. The company’s initial foray in the spunlace market brings the debut of a new brand of spunlace nonwovens, Zetajet, which will be produced on a new line in Reichenbach, Germany. Located between the company's Hof/Saale and Mittweida plants in the state of Saxony, the 12,000 square meter greenfield plant, which came onstream in January, is part of the company's eswegee business and employs about 30 people.
 
The new facility represents an investment of €25 million and capacity on the new line will be several thousand tons. The company describes the spunlace configuration as a new set-up for this technology. “Our understanding is this kind of machinery is totally new,” said managing director Harald Stini, who has taken over the company’s reigns following the retirement of Manfred Knieling. “We will use our expertise in technical markets to further expand our product range,"" he said. Materials made on the new spunlace line will target automotive, filtration and other specialty end uses. As the plant itself uses only one-quarter of the available land, there is plenty of room for expansion, an issue eswegee plans to address as the need arises.
 
The company expects the new line, which has not yet reached full utilization levels, to be running full-swing by mid-2007. “We want to move forward in a synchronized fashion and are in the process of setting up three shifts,“ explained Techtex managing director Detlev Käppel. He referred to the highly flexible new line as a multifunctional system that can achieve a variety of different technical properties in terms of tensile strengths, elongations and additional finishing/coating treatments.
 
For eswegee, sales outside of the shrinking apparel/interlinings market remain the driving force for the company. Currently, non-apparel sales generate more than half compared to the total revenue of Hof’s nonwoven group.
 
Stemming from its intensified focus on technical nonwovens, another strategic initiative underway at eswegee is building an Asian platform. “Suppliers need strategic platforms all around the world, particularly in the automotive market. That’s why we must have production in Asia,” opined Mr. Käppel. “Automotive production is increasingly shifting to Asia. Last year China produced 7.2 million cars but over the next two years, China’s goal is 14 million cars. Compare that with Germany, which manufactured 5.8 million cars in 2006. Every major car company is setting up production in Asia,” he said.
 
As a result of this strategy, in June 2006 eswegee teamed up with Indian nonwovens manufacturer Supreme Nonwovens in a joint venture to supply both interlinings and industrial products in Asia. The Mumbai-based company runs a plethora of nonwovens facilities throughout India and has reportedly enjoyed double-digit growth every year. “Supreme Nonwovens is a family-owned company, so we have a similar way of thinking,” commented Mr. Stini. “They have their specific market and culture and we would like to leverage that. If we can gain from it, we will,” he said.


Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $98 Million

Description: Plants
Hof/Saale, Germany (eswegee Vliesstoff),  Mittweida, Germany (Techtex), Lincolnton, NC (Hof Textiles, Inc.)

Key Personnel
Harald Stini, managing director; Rudolf Schlotter, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex and Global sales director eswegee, technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zeta­mold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint

Ranking number 36 this year is eswegee Vliesstoff group, Hof/Saale, Germany, which enjoyed solid 6% growth in 2007, driving sales to $98 million. One recent thrust at the company has been continuing to build its portfolio of industrial spunlace applications based on its new Zetajet nonwovens, which are produced on a new line and plant in Reichenbach, Germany. The total investment was reported to be €25 million. Located between the company’s Hof/
Saale and Mittweida plants, the 12,000 square meter greenfield plant came onstream in January 2007. Materials made on the spunlace line target automotive, filtration and other specialty end uses.
 
Overall, eswegee enjoyed another good year in its industrial markets and continued to see success in acoustic automotive applications. Despite ongoing uncertainty in raw material pricing and continued pressure on suppliers, eswegee is enjoying its close relationship with car makers such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW and other OEMs whose sales are growing steadily. “This is a nice position for the future,” observed global sales director Detlev Käppel.
 
The company’s industrial business, which is achieving double-digit growth rates, split between its U.S. base, eswegee Hof’s and Techtex Mittweida’s facility in Germany. Four key technologies are used exclusively in Mittweida to produce industrial products—Malivlies, Maliwatt, Multiknit and Zetajet. One especially active product segment has been foam replacement products. “OEMs recognize the advantages of nonwovens over foam—better comfort, climate control and air permeability,” said Techtex managing director Detlev Käppel. “BMW began, the others followed and these products are now accepted. We’re harvesting the advantages of our efforts now and we’re hopeful that this success will continue.”
 
In the area of interlinings, which continues to represent a core focus for eswegee, the picture is a familiar one. “Interlinings is still a difficult market,” noted Harald Stini, managing director eswegee. “It reached rock bottom and has stabilized, but there was a substantial drop in sales. It’s levelled off now.” While volumes in Europe remained the same, the company reports that sales in the Eastern hemisphere and Asia were good. Another positive area of growth has been Eastern Europe, where the domestic market is growing as the average income grows.
 
Mr. Stini added that some customers—frustrated with the complexity of logistics from Asian suppliers—are reverting to Egypt and other countries in North Africa. “The hype over China being paradise is slowly fading as customers realize the disadvantages associated with products sourced from Asia. The customer base in Europe may slowly return and this is a reason to be optimistic. “But overall the pressure is still there.” He added that “demand for high quality and sensitivity to fashion as well as shipping issues are major factors that may partly swing the market back to Europe.”
 
At its Techtex facility in Mittweida, the company plans to upgrade its stitchbonding capabilities and add capacity in 2008-2009. “We already committed to some upgrades at the end of 2007 and this progress will continue into next year,” commented Mr. Käppel. He added that a decision has been made to increase capacity for Maliwatt and Multiknit/Kunit products.
 
As for Lincolnton, NC-based Hof Textiles, the business continues to play a leading role in North America as a supplier of automotive engine compartment components. The company’s nonwoven-based automotive acoustic parts provide effective noise reduction for a wide frequency range, superior appearance and excellent processability for a variety of different molding processes. “Innovation and growth are supported by numerous investments in new technology and capacity expansions to constantly increase the value of Hof’s nonwovens for our customers and the North American automotive industry,” noted Lothar Hackler, president of Hof Textiles.
 
In India, the company’s joint venture with Mumbai-based manufacturer Supreme Nonwovens continues to progress well. Established in 2006, the business supplies both interlinings and industrial products in Asia. “We complement each other well and the new technologies from eswegee are a benefit,” stated Mohan Kavrie, Supreme’s managing director. “This partnership exposes us to the European and U.S. market.”
 
He added that the joint venture has a diversified focus, offering all standard nonwoven technologies except spunbond—needlepunched, spunlace, stitchbonded, hot air thermal bonded, highloft and wet and dry chemical bonding. “The Indian market is still small and we are a leader,” said Mr. Kavrie. “So far, there are not a lot of outsiders doing business in India; we expect it mostly to be joint ventures for the near future. It is unlikely that a foreigner without an Indian partner would be successful in India, but at the same time, it is difficult for Indian companies to grow without foreign partners,” he said.
 
Looking ahead, the partners plan to remain focused on the Indian market for many years to come. “Our key advantage is technology as we offer a lot of systems. We can produce the entire process from fiber to finished good—all in India. We hope together to explore other application sectors as well as other geographical areas.


Location: HOF/SAALE, GERMANY


Sales: $98 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex and Global sales director eswegee, technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.

Plants
Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany; Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC

ISO Status
ISO 9001, ISO 14001, VDA 6.1

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint Major Markets Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, interlinings

With sales holding steady at $98 million in 2008, Textilgruppe Hof´s nonwoven division held strong this year as both the technical nonwovens and interlinings product groups coped with difficult market conditions brought on by the global economic crisis. Due to a solid business environment throughout the first three quarters of last year, the company was far above budget but faced a serious downturn in the last quarter of 2008. “The drop in revenue was exacerbated by customers’ attempts to reduce inventory levels to almost zero for the remaining months of the year, which led to even fewer orders,” explained managing director Harald Stini and Detlev Käppel, global sales director of eswegee and managing director of Techtex. The silver lining in the cloud for Hof has been an end to the hype over increasing raw material prices, which seem to have leveled off for the time being.

Despite ongoing uncertainty in the global economy, eswegee has taken advantage of its long-term relationships with customers such as Tier1 and OEMs with which it has been working on various new projects for the future. The question remains how the financial crisis will affect its customer base, including the OEMs, moving forward.

Overall, Hof´s industrial business is still growing and due to massive past investments, the company considers itself well prepared for the future. Hof’s new plant in Reichenbach, Germany was not affected by the economic downturn and is currently operating at nearly full capacity. Helping to spur this growth are newly developed product groups for automotive and other market segments.

For automotive end uses, Hof has developed a new generation of lightweight acoustic nonwovens to help customers reduce total weight and improve acoustic properties of the final parts. New styles for injection molding, automotive underbody shields, wheel arch liners, trunk trim and package trays were also developed. “All nonwovens can be treated online with a new finishing technology to meet the stringent regulations for flame retardancy such as PV 3357 from VW or UL 94 for Japanese OEMs,” commented Ms. Käppel.

In the area of roofing, other new products have been developed with high MD/CD tensile strength, high water vapor permeability and high temperature stability to enhance overall performance of the final composite.

When it comes to stitchbonding, Hof’s four stitchbonded technologies (Malivlies, Maliwatt, Kunit and Multiknit), make it a market leader in terms of product diversity and individual “tailor-made” solutions. At its stitchbonded plant in Mittweida, Hof enjoyed three very strong quarters in 2008 but saw a slowdown in the last three months of the year. “Overall, we still managed to achieve a respectable growth in sales compared to last year,” Mr. Käppel said. “Our investments to further expand capacity for specific product groups helped us reduce costs and offer enhanced quality to our customers.” He added that despite the currently difficult economical environment, the company plans to expand and upgrade capacity in 2009.

While its interlinings business was off to a good start in the first six months of 2008, business declined in the second half, reflecting the overall consumer climate in the garment industry and the ongoing strength of imports for “ready-made” garments from Asia to Europe. “We also expect 2009 to be a very difficult market environment,” reported Dr. Stini. He pointed to production overcapacities for interlinings on the supply side and a still-shrinking customer base for such products in central Europe.

As for Hof Textiles, the company has seen another year of growing sales for technical nonwovens, especially for automotive applications. As other suppliers exited the market, Hof was able to grow marketshare in North America and make numerous investments in new technology and capacity to fuel innovation and growth in the North American automotive industry. “New, innovative products and continued investments, together with our excellent customer service and technical expertise, supported significant ongoing growth in sales and marketshare in 2008,” stated Lothar Hackler, president of Hof Textiles.

Progress also continued in 2008 in India where Textilgruppe Hof owns a 45% share of a joint venture with Supreme Nonwoven Industries. All market segments—filtration, automotive and interlinings—showed upward trends throughout most of the year. Fortunately, the business was only slightly impacted by global financial troubles, a situation that mirrors the overall economy in India. “Our joint venture remained fairly robust due to the somewhat closed economy in India with relatively few exports to other regions of the world,” Dr. Stini said.

Location: Hof/Saale, Germany

Sales: $98 million

Description: Key Personnel
Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director—Techtex and Global sales director eswegee, technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president—Hof Textiles, Inc.

Plants
Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany, Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC

Processes
Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace

Brand Names
Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint

Major Markets
Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, interlinings

While sales were certainly impacted by the global economic picture at  Textilegruppe Hof, executives admit that the severity of the downturn was exagerated by customer fears in the automotives business. “Nobody wanted any inventory so sales dropped dramatically—almost 50% of sales were lost,” said global sales director Detlev Käppel. “But, once the inventories were depleted, sometime after February or March, things started to pick up and this trend has continued. We had never seen a drop happen so fast but we were extremely surprised by how fast it started turning around.”
In fact, the turnaround happened so quickly, Hof had trouble filling its orders as raw materials were difficult to come by.
For its part, Hof used the downturn to reassess its business and think about new investment. In the U.S., where the company operates out of Lincolnton, NC, the focus was on the modification of materials for acoustical insulation once only sold in Europe, while in Germany, Hof used the time to fix a couple of things and prepare for growth.
“We are not the most versatile company making automotive scrim for acoustical insulation in North America,” Mr. Käppel explained.
This versatility has proven to be particularly advantageous during the recovery period when Hof has been able to gain marketshare, filling orders left by at least one former competitor that was forced to leave the business during the difficult times. And, sales are expected to be boosted further in North America as BMW expands in Spartanburg, SC and Volkswagen comes to Cha­tanooga, TN.
Among its larurels are products that adhere to highly specific flammability regulations currently enforced in Japan and soon to be enacted in the U.S. as well as the ability to make high stretch acoustical materials offering exceptional coverage in automotives.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Hof continues to benefit from its new spunlace line, which Mr. Käppel describes as completely different from what is generally considered spunlace. “These materials are good for automotives because they feature such great sound absorption,” he said. “It is allowing us to offer new products and new technologies.”
The goal of entering spunlace, Mr. Käppel added was not to displace other technologies but to expand into new roles. Beyond automotives, the new technology is showing some gains in roofing, where it is compensating for a slower-than-expected start in automotives.
When it comes to stitchbonding, Hof’s four stitchbonded technologies (Malivlies, Maliwatt, Kunit and Multiknit), make it a market leader in terms of product diversity and individual “tailor-made” solutions. In this business, the company has focused on investing to expand its capacity for specific product groups, reduce costs and enhance quality to its customers.
Meanwhile, a subject of much focus is India, where Textilgruppe Hof owns a 45%  share of a joint venture with Supreme Nonwoven Industries. All market segments—filtration, automotive and interlinings—showed upward trends throughout most of the year. Fortunately, the business was only slightly impacted by global financial troubles, a situation that mirrors the overall economy in India. “We are expecting to see strong domestic growth in the next couple of years,” Mr. Käppel said. “We are looking at double-digit growth every year.”
Throughout all of its businesses—in all markets and all regions—Hof continues to benefit from its diversity as well as its ability to respond swiftly to changes in market directions. “We have such a great portfolio, really better than we have ever had before,” Mr. Käppel explained. “That’s what our customers want and this has really allowed us to have an overall great performance even in these difficult conditions.”



Hof/Saale, Germany
www.textilgruppehof.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $150 million
*including sales from Indian joint venture


eswegee Vliesstoff GmbH
Hof/Saale, Germany
www.eswegee.com

Techtex GmbH Vliesstoffe
Mittweida, Germany
www.textilgruppehof.com

Hof Textiles, Inc.
Lincolnton, NC
www.textilgruppehof.com

Key Personnel: Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Käppel, managing director of Techtex and global sales director eswegee, Technical Nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president of Hof Textiles, Inc.

Plants: Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany, Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC

Processes: Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace

Brands: Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint

Major Markets: Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, interlinings

Overall sales growth for Hof’s nonwoven division continued in 2011 for all market segments, according to company management. While the economic environment—especially in the automotives sector—allowed for growth, the company’s corporate strategy in terms of investments and capacity expansions has also paved a path to gain future market share, says Harald Stini, managing director.

“Other reasons for our success in 2011 were our strong customer commitment and close relationships through a year of high demand, particularly in the automotive area,” says Detlev Käppel, managing director of Techtex and global sales director of eswegee. “Whereas some of our competitors struggled to fulfill their delivery commitments to their customers, Hof was able to stick to its customer agreements and delivery schedules.”

Major challenges in 2011 included a significant increase in the cost of raw materials, notes Stini. “However, we managed together with our customers to achieve a win-win-situation by external balanced price adjustments and internal savings through higher productivity and alternative material solutions.”

The company’s Hof plant ran up to capacity in 2011 for all nonwovens technologies (binder-bonded, thermally-bonded, needle-punched). New products include lightweight needlepunched nonwovens for automotive applications and other industrial markets such as filtration and construction, as well as new lightweight interlining styles designed to keep up with the latest fashion trends for fabrics.

The spunlace plant at Reichenbach ran 24 hours per day, seven days a week and products designed for industrial applications have been well accepted by the market. “Due to our own tailor-made machinery, we are able to run products from 35-400 gsm,” Käppel notes. “The specific fiber orientation contributes to good coverage at low weight and enhanced acoustic properties, which is requested for final automotive parts.”

“Corporate plans for capacity expansions for all technologies both at Hof and Reichenbach are on the table and will be decided by our management within 2012,” says Stini.

The company’s interlining business stabilized and will be a strategic market segment in the future, says Stini. “Although market conditions for Europe are not very rosy, we are convinced that not all demand can be covered by Asia. And with our joint venture in India we have all the pre-requisites needed to grow further, especially in Asia. Talking about India, we can also add that further market growth was achieved with our joint venture in 2011 and we still see more opportunities for the forthcoming years.”

Significant building investments and capacity expansions were implemented in 2011 at the Techtex stitchbonded plant in Mittweida, Germany. The company increased capacity for all technologies utilized, Malivlies, Maliwatt, Kunit and Multiknit. Applications for this overlapping stitchbonded technology include interior facings for trim parts such as headliners or package trays, as well as foam replacement styles in car seats (under the woven seat fabric and/or under leather).

BMW, Audi and Mercedes brands have recognized the specific features of this product line, which provides good air permeability, less fogging, comfortable seating climate, recyclability and cost savings compared to other sandwich constructions, the company says. Hof has also developed a new product group that can be laminated under genuine leather as well as for PUR artificial leather seats.

“Stitchbonded nonwoven for cable harnessing in automotive is another strategic market segment where our products provide good abrasion resistance, acoustic and insulation features,” notes Käppel.

Hof has also undertaken plans to position itself within the Chinese automobile market, which has become the largest globally in terms of production units. Due to confidentiality reasons, specific plans may not be released until later this year.

Hof Textiles Inc., based in Lincolnton, NC, is a nonwovens supplier of thermal and acoustic components for the North American automotive industry. Innovation and growth are supported by numerous investments in new technology and capacity to increase the value of Hof nonwovens for customers, resulting in strong 45% growth for the company’s core automotives business.

Demand in the North American automotives industry for advanced thermal and acoustic componentry nonwovens continues to be strong and the company says it will continue to respond with major investments in additional capacity and new innovative products. According to Lothar Hackler of Hof Textiles, the business will double current production capacity within the next 18 months to support aggressive growth targets.