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.