Nonwovens Industry
Welcome to Nonwovens Industry
FacebookRSSTwitterLinkedIn
Print

Vita Nonwovens


Location: Meulebeke, Belgium

Sales: $140 million

Description: Key Personnel
Filiep Libeert, main board of director of British vita PLC< Chairman of Vita Nonwovens; Luc Maes, managing director of Europe; Alan Ball, managing director of U.S., Luc De Meyere, financial controller; Manuel Brackevelt, chief engineer; Hugo Christiaen, purchasing

Plants
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.K., U.S.

ISO Status
ISO 9001:2000

Processes
Drylaid chemically bonded, drylaid thermally bonded stitch bonded, needlefelt, impregnation

Appearing as a complete entity for the first time in this survey is Vita Nonwovens, which is a division of British Vita PLC, located in Manchester, U.K. In the past, this company which includes Belgian roll goods manufacturer Libeltex Group, U.K.-based Vitafibres and U.S.-based Vita Nonwovens., has been ranked in this survey only on its Libeltex sales. British Vita has owned Libeltex since 1979 and recently streamlined all its nonwovens and textile businesses under the “Vita Nonwovens” division.

While the bulk of roll goods sales are achieved through Libeltex, the company has made significant investments throughout its nonwovens businesses during the past few years. In addition to its Libeltex sites—one in Belgium, three in France and one in Sweden—Vita Nonwovens operates two facilities in the U.K. and three in the U.S.

Total nonwovens sales in 2002 were $142 million. While most of the company’s sales are conducted in Europe, sales beyond Europe are increasing steadily, particularly in the U.S., but also South America, the Far East, the Middle East and Australia, according to executives.

Among the company’s strategies for growing its nonwovens business is focusing on higher valued added goods rather than traditional, commodity-style products. Among the value-added areas where success has been registered are hygiene, automotive, filtration, geotextiles and acoustics.  

“We have been growing our marketshare in commodity products but have been focusing our new machinery investments on value-added technical products,” explained Filiep Libeert, of British Vita’s main board of directors. “In the commodity products, you have to compete on cost and we continue to put great efforts in staying the lowest cost producer. This and innovation have always been at the core of our success. More importantly,  growth will come from more technical products and we have therefore invested substantially both in production lines and innovative products over the last few years.”

Currently about 30% of nonwovens output targets commodity markets such as bedding and furniture products and while these markets continue to growth in volume, the company’s true growth is coming from technical nonwovens.

To move into new markets Vita Nonwovens has been focusing on research and development across all of three of its divisions—Libeltex in mainland Europe, Vitafibres in the U.K. and Vita Nonwovens Inc. in the U.S. The result of this innovation has been the formation of proprietary technology featuring a drylaid/thermalbonding/needlepunch process that targets technical applications.

For instance, in Libeltex’s French plant, the company recently added technology to expand its capabilities in both industrial and technical markets. Entry into these markets is compensating for lagging demand, overcapacity, delocalization and shrinking markets in furniture and bedding, which was once Libeltex’s largest customer.

Also boosting Libeltex’s share in technical applications is the Texidel business, which was acquired in early 2000. It was through this purchase that Libeltex acquired its French needlepunching plants and also became a stitchbonded nonwovens producer. Furthermore the Texidel site’s proximity to the Belgian operations made it a perfect match for the company. Proximity is one of only several factors the company considers when acquiring new business or expanding its existing operations. Others include growth prospects, customer needs and technology development.

“We have been developing a market from a sales opportunity point of view,” Mr. Libeert explained. “Then we invest and install machinery to compete in that market. Sometimes that means installing the equipment near the existing export markets so we can grow within the surrounding markets.”

For instance, in North America, Libeltex acquired Prelude which was part of Cone Industries, and renamed renamed “Vita Nonwovens Inc.” Since acquiring this U.S. business, the company has made several investments. In addition to the five large lines in High Point, NC that came with the purchase, two old lines were replaced by two new lines in the last three years. Vita Nonwovens added a Greenfield facility in San Antonio, TX, in November 2002. Featuring the aforementioned drylaid technology, this facility has allowed Vita Nonwovens Inc. to be closer to its North America customers. The company has continued this process by opening a second North American Greenfield site in Fort Wayne, IN. These sites reflect the importance of North America to Vita’s growth strategy, according to executives.

“Our intention is to expand as we need it,” Mr. Libeert explained. “The customer is in charge now, though we have to listen carefully so we can grow with them. We only get sales as we innovate. This is the way to move forward.”

Sensing that there is enough room for growth within Europe and North America, other regions are of lower priority to Vita. While some business is conducted there, no immediate plans to expand production beyond Europe and North America are being examined.

Looking ahead, Mr. Libeert said the company’s growth will come from three sources—organic means, acquisitions and innovative manufacturing technologies.
Location: Manchester, U.K.

Sales: $162 million

Description: Key Personnel
John Oliver, Vita Group CEO; Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens CEO

Plants
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.

ISO Status
ISO 9001:2000; ISO / TS 16949

Processes
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermally bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation

Sales decreased from $170 million to $162 million for Vita Nonwovens due to the closure of the company’s U.K. subsidiaries. However, without these closures, the company reported growth of 5.6% of continuing operations due largely to healthcare, automotive, filtration and industrial application gains and despite a slowdown in the Western European furniture and bedding markets.

With plants remaining in Belgium, France, Sweden and the U.S., Vita Nonwovens targets a number of markets with its proprietary technology. Its largest nonwovens division, Libeltex, continues to grow, driven by healthcare and industrial specialties market. The strong growth prospects of this division led the company’s executive board to abandon plans to sell Libeltex, saying it could add greater value to the company as a division rather than being sold as a separate entity. As part of this retention strategy, a program of investing in the people and production capability of the company is being formulated to ensure the company maintains its position at the forefront of European nonwovens technology, according to executives. Libeltex operates five plants, one in Belgium, two in France and one in Sweden.

Meanwhile, the group’s U.S. subsidiary, Vita Nonwovens, has continued a turnaround phase in 2006, allowing it to end the temporary closure of its Fort Wayne, IN site. The site was opened during an aggressive North American investment period for the company earlier this decade. This included the acquisition of Prelude Nonwovens, High Point, NC, and the addition of four new production lines there as well as the creation of greenfield facilities in San Antonio, TX and Fort Wayne. Both of the greenfield sites contain proprietary drylaid technology and have allowed Vita Nonwovens to be closer to their North American companies.

In recent years, the Vita Group has been transformed  from a public to a private company. Fort Worth, TX-based Texas Pacific Group purchased the group (then British Vita) in June 2005, and it was subsequently delisted from the London Stock Exchange. According to executives, this change in ownership brought with it a vision that included the goal of becoming a more efficient and preferred supplier in the field of specialty nonwovens.

Moving forward, Vita Nonwovens sees hygiene, automotive, filtration and other technical industrial applications as the clear focus for growth. The company is also carefully considering the development of new products and services to meet the future needs of its customers, which may include looking at new market sectors and new geographies. “We are exploiting the available technology with breakthrough products for acoustical and thermal insulation,” said CEO Wim Warnier. “And we are studying the relocation to geographical markets, where we believe that demand for highloft nonwovens is likely to grow.”
Location: Manchester, U.K.

Sales: $190 million

Description: Key Personnel
Joe Menendez, Vita Group CEO
Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens CEO

Plants
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.

ISO Status
ISO 9001:2000; ISO / TS 16949

Processes
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermal bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation

Sales increased from $160 million to $190 million in 2007 for Vita Nonwovens, Manchester, U.K., mainly driven by the dynamic U.S. market in the bedding industry and by continued sales development in healthcare, automotives and filtration.

According to executives, the group’s bedding and furniture business was impacted by a slowdown in Western Europe caused by customer migration to Central Europe but this situation is stabilizing. The capacity freed up by this trend is now being used for new product developments in acoustic applications for building and automotive applications.

Two years ago, Vita Nonwovens closed its U.K. subsidiaries but it continues to operate plants in Belgium, France, Sweden and the U.S. Vita Nonwovens targets a number of markets with its proprietary technology. Its largest nonwovens division, Libeltex—with operations in Belgium, France and Sweden—continues to grow, driven by healthcare and the industrial specialties markets.

Vita Nonwovens has launched a retention strategy for nonwovens, which includes investing in both the people and production capabilities to ensure the company maintains its position at the forefront of European nonwovens technology. Earlier this year, investments were made in the healthcare division, where a new production line set-up allows the company to provide breakthrough innovative products for the hygiene industry. Vita Nonwovens’ European business, Libeltex, operates four plants, one in Belgium, two in France and one in Sweden.

Meanwhile, the group’s U.S. subsidiary Vita Nonwovens has continued a turnaround phase allowing it to end the temporary closure of its Fort Wayne, IN site. In the course of 2008, additional production capacity will be installed to cope with increased demand in such markets as high quality technical waddings for the automotive and filtration markets in the U.S. Vita Nonwovens operates three plants in the U.S.: High Point, NC, San Antonio, TX and Fort Wayne, IN. All sites contain proprietary drylaid technology and have allowed Vita Nonwovens to be closer to its North American customers.

Moving forward, Vita Nonwovens sees hygiene, automotive, filtration and other technical industrial applications as the clear focus for growth. The company is also carefully considering the development of new products and services to meet the future needs of its customers, which may include looking at new market sectors and new geographies.

Since 2005, The Vita Group has been transformed from a public company to a private company. According to executives, this change in ownership brought with it a vision that included the goal of becoming a more efficient and preferred supplier in the field of specialty nonwovens.

“We are exploiting the available technology with breakthrough products for acoustical and thermal insulation,” said CEO Wim Warnier. “And we are studying the expansion into new geographical markets, where we believe that demand for highloft nonwovens is growing. The role of nonwovens in our focus markets has not reached the end of its potential. The year-on-year industry growth rates confirm this explicitly. As an innovative supplier with sound customer focus and in-depth understanding of the advantages of nonwovens, such as weight, versatility, economical and environmental friendliness, it’s our goal to offer the right solutions to an ever-more demanding market environment.”
Location: MANCHESTER, U.K.


Sales: $170 Million


Description: Key Personnel
Joe Menendez, Vita Group CEO
Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens CEO

Plants
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.

ISO Status
ISO 9001:2000; ISO / TS 16949

Processes
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermal bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation

Sales decreased from $190 million to $170 million in 2008 for Vita Nonwovens, Manchester, U.K., largely due to the impact of the economic downtown in the second quarter 2008. Despite these troubles, the company continues to report growth in the healthcare and filtration divisions in Europe and the bedding and furniture markets in the U.S.

This growth is expected to continue thanks to the completion of a new line—geared toward technical markets—which was recently installed in the U.S. Vita Nonwovens continues to operates three North American sites in Fort Wayne IN, San Antonio, TX and High Point, NC, which are reportedly fully utilized. “Vita Nonwovens North America is responding to the downturn in the economy by instituting a strategy for nonwovens that includes being sensitive to market changes and responsive to customers’ needs,” said a company spokesman..

Despite dismal market conditions in the U.S. last year, the company reported growth in this market, investment in its employees and plants are still the focus for retaining its preeminent position.

Meanwhile, the company’s European sites, operated through its Libeltex subsidiary in France and Belgium, are serving novelty healthcare applications while continuing to work on innovative product development solutions in hygiene, filtration and furniture and bedding.

Vita Nonwovens closed its U.K. plants a few years ago to narrow its focus on North American and Western and Eastern Europe. Speaking of Eastern Europe, executives reported less reduction in demand in this emerging markets than in Western Europe and the U.S., which were affected by de-stocking, particularly in automotive, construction and furniture and bedding. “The biggest impact has been in the automotive sector where low demand for new cars has been exacerbated by the car manufacturers’ high stock levels,” said the spokesman. As a division, our exposure to this market is limited and therefore has not had a dramatic impact on our business.”

Still, Vita has had to institute a number of cost-cutting measures throughout its business. During the fourth quarter, these initiatives impacted its employment as reductions were made in temporary jobs or through voluntary redundancy.

Moving forward, the company plans to concentrate its activities in core regions in North America and Europe. Future plans in 2009 through 2010 call for entrance into new product and market segments. “We continue to believe that nonwovens haven’t reached their full market potential yet. Changing attitudes with regard to environment, health and well-being are creating inroads into new market segments.”

The focus for future growth will continue to come from the company’s core product groups in hygiene, automotive, filtration and other technical industrial applications.

“Our research and development teams are closely linked to our commercial team to ensure that development applications bring increased value to our customers.”
Location: London, U.K.

Sales: $162 million

Description: Key Personnel
Joe Menendez, Vita Group CEO; Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens, CEO

Plants
Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.

Processes
Drylaid, chemical bonded, drylaid thermal bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation


Sales were marginally lower for nonwovens producer Vita Group. The U.K.-based company, which has plants in the U.S., France, Belgium and Sweden, reported that sales dropped 4.7% to $162 million for the year, which was considered good news amidst a global economic downturn.
Company spokeswoman Alison Vesey said Vita was able to manage the economic downturn through its strong market diversity. While some of its businesses—namely automotives and construction—suffered, others—like healthcare—performed well in 2009.
“Our healthcare markets of hygiene and medical products remain robust during the economic crisis,” Ms. Vesey said. “In line with overall trends, our automotive business has recovered somewhat but remains weak compared to 2007 levels. Construction markets continue to be very slow for new builds, while building on renovation and improvement projects is holding. Demand for our filtration products has recovered somewhat and we are starting to see growth.”
While even the hard-hit businesses saw some recovery late in 2009, some of this recovery is seen as the result of government intervention programs and not considered certain. “Our view is that the outlook remains uncertain with a lack of medium-term visibility therefore measures such as cost control, restructuring and innovation remain the drivers for value protection and value creation in our business,” Ms. Vesey said.
Vita Nonwovens continues to operate three facilities in North America—Fort Wayne, IN, San Antonio, TX and High Point, NC, which are all running well. Business here received a boost last year when a new production line was added to allow the company to diversify from bedding and furniture into automotives and building and construction. While North America continues to be considered fragile, Vita considers this market, particularly furniture and bedding, a core market to its operation and has strengthened its position there through innovation, supply chain excellence and improved quality management and processes.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Vita Group continues to operate sites in France, Belgium and Sweden through its Libeltex subsidiary, which serves novelty healthcare applications and focuses on innovative product development in hygiene, filtration and furniture and building and construction. The group closed its U.K. sites a few years ago to focus on North America and Europe.
“Having a presence on both sides of the Atlantic gives us a global perspective,” Ms. Vesey said. “The Middle East and North Africa region shows some growth potential. Additionally, we are studying some Asian Pacific opportunities. We believe there is untapped potential within our current product-market propositions and we will explore these further to support our strategy for value leadership.”


London, U.K.
www.vitausa.com
2011 Nonwovens Sales: $159 million

Key Personnel: Joe Menendez, Vita Group CEO; Wim Warnier, Vita Nonwovens CEO

Plants: Belgium, France, Sweden, U.S.

Processes: Drylaid, chemical bonded, thermal bonded, needlefelt, through air bonded, impregnation

Sales increased slightly to $159 million at Vita Nonwovens amid volatile raw material prices and stable volumes and market shares, as the company continued to focus on product diversification throughout all of its core markets.

In hygiene, this focus led to the launch of a new generation of acquisition and distribution layer material, branded Slimcore, in April 2011. In building and construction, Vita developed insulation materials under the Infinso and Enguard brand names in Europe and the U.S, respectively; and new wheelhouse liners and underbodies have been developed for the automotive sector. “All of this new product development has contributed to margin improvement,” explains spokeswoman Alison Vesey. “The nonwovens division anticipates further innovation-driven growth in these segments during 2012 despite the challenging macroeconomic environment.”

In 2011, earnings were slightly weaker for Vita Nonwovens due to rising raw material prices. To help support itself, Vita Nonwovens—in addition to product diversification—was able to raise prices to some extent.

With manufacturing sites in Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, France, Belgium and Sweden, Vita Nonwovens continues to operate on a global platform, a fact that has helped its business weather macroeconomic pressures. For instance, while furniture and bedding saw weakening demand in traditional markets like the U.S. and Western Europe, sales to Eastern Europe were strong. Likewise, hygiene sales continued to increase in new territories like the Middle East and North Africa.

The developed world has also seen its share of triumphs, including North America, where Vita’s strong management team has allowed it to remain successful even in the downturn, Vesey reports. “Constant focus on markets and customers has led new business development initiatives into automotive and insulation markets. This, coupled with lean management programs, waste reduction efforts and improved supply chain efficiency initiatives has enabled the business to drive forward, despite the economic conditions.”

In recent months, Vita has taken measures to boost this business further with investments at its site in Fort Wayne, IN, to support growth in the automotive industry. These include an extension of the company’s capacity and converting capabilities.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the group continues to focus on new lean management programs, waste reduction efforts and improved supply chain efficiency to drive margin improvements and mitigate raw material and energy price increases. In addition, Vita has made a number of investments at these sites to help grow its business with more differentiated value added products, which has proven to be a sound strategy, according to Vesey.