2014 Nonwovens Sales: $1.2 billion
Marco Levi, president and CEO; Sakari Ahdekivi, CFO; Fulvio Capussotti, business area leader, Building and Energy; Jari Koikkalainen, business area leader, Filtration; Omar Hoek, business area leader, Food and Medical
Belgium: Malmedy; Brazil: Louveira; China: Binzhou, Longkou; Finland: Karhula, Mikkeli, Tampere; France: Bousbecque, Brignoud, Orleans, Pont-Audemer, Saint-Severin; India: Mundra; Italy: Turin; Fabriano, Russia: Tver; South Korea: Hyon Poong; UK: Chirnside, Radcliffe; US: Bethune, SC; Madisonville, KY; Mt. Holly Springs, PA; Taylorville, IL; Windsor Locks, CT; Osnabrück, Germany; Bärenstein, Germany; and Ställdalen, Sweden; Falun Sweden
Wetlaid (Trinitex), microglass, nanotechnology (Disruptor), composites, creping/micrexing, spunmelt/spunbond, parchmentizing, coating, calendaring
Transportation filtration, diagnostic filtration, water filtration, wall coverings, building, automotive, food packaging, beverage, medical, flooring and masking tape
Ahlstrom’s net sales in January-December 2014 fell 1.3% to just over €1 billion. Higher selling prices and improved product mix positively impacted net sales but were not enough to offset lower volumes in the building and energy and medical business. However, the company is proud of achievements like improving product mix and increasing selling prices as well as progress with new product launches and improved sales mix. In 2014, 15% of Ahlstrom’s sales were generated by new products.
“Our strategy is inspired by global megatrends such as resource scarcity, emerging needs in healthcare, and demographics and urbanization. The megatrends offer us a wealth of opportunities and our current and future product offering is driven by them, manager of financial communications and investor relations Juho Erkheikki says. “Following the top management change in 2014, we have focused on near-term improvement through our roadmap that includes commercial excellence, go-to-market process, simplification and building up the new Ahlstrom. While we have made progress toward our long-term financial targets, we still have a way to go to uncover the full competitive potential of this company.”
In early 2015, Ahlstrom decided to trim its reporting units from four to three by combining its two filtration-related segments—Advanced Filtration and Transportation—into one unit. Ahlstrom’s three main units are now Building and Energy, Food and Medical and Filtration.
“The three business areas have stronger operational alignment, including responsibility for sales and marketing, technical customer service, product development and operations,” Erkheikki says. “The split made good sense strategy-wise at the time, but now we felt that more simplicity was needed.”
Following the completion of the Label and Processing demerger in 2013, Ahlstrom initiated a right-sizing program to bring down costs to reflect its new size and scope. The plan was to achieve approximately €39 million in annual costs savings in continuing operations, targeting both selling, general and administration (SGA) costs and production overheads. In addition, approximately €11 million in savings were derived from costs transferred to Munksjö Oyj, bringing the total target to €50 million. All the actions relating to this program have now been taken.
After several years of investing ambitiously in the filtration market through—both acquisition and expansion, Ahlstrom has not made a purchase since 2012 when it bought Munktell to accelerate growth in advanced filtration particularly in life science and laboratory applications. Instead, the company has looked toward the development of new products, like Pleast2Save, Captimax and SafeCabin for growth.
“New product introductions have enlarged many of our product portfolios and also opened up new market segments for us,” says Noora Blasi, marketing manager, Filtration. “ As an example, Ahlstrom Captimax is a novel synthetic solution for fuel filtration and it positions us as a key player in the synthetic filter media solutions market.
This product is specifically designed for fuel filtration, but there are many other opportunities for this type of media. “
Ahlstrom Pleat2Save offers HVAC markets a new, durable product. The superior durability comes from the products predominant synthetic structure. It makes the pleating process for product much easier therefore bringing cost savings in time and materials. Ahlstrom SafeCabin is a complete range of filter media for cabin air applications. SafeCabin for particulate filtration and SafeCabin™
Carbon for combined particulate, gas and odor removal. We have a full range of filter media for OEM, OES and After Market.
Ahlstrom’s Building and Energy business covers a wide range of materials that make buildings and structures solid, such as carriers for vinyl floorings and reinforcements for windmill blades as well as wallcoverings and a wide range of materials for specialty applications.
While 2014 sales were challenging for this business, more recent conditions have been more positive. In the second quarter of 2015, Ahlstrom reported a 8.5% increase in sales due to higher sales of flooring, glassfiber and specialty flooring applications.
Ahlstrom AceBlade, in both glass and carbon versions, has been introduced to wind energy customers with considerable interest. Testing and approval is currently ongoing.
Another important segment in this unit is wall coverings. In 2014, Ahlstrom started up a line dedicated to this market in Binzhou, China. The investment not only expanded Ahlstrom’s capabilities in this market, it also provides it with immediate access to the fast growing Chinese wallcovering market. “
Within this segment, Ahlstrom launched EasyLife Spray & Up, a new wall covering product,which is quick, easy and clean to use, requiring no additional adhesive or specialist tools.
“We have had positive market feedback on EasyLife Spray & Up. The product delivers quick, easy and clean installation,” says Calum Mayland, marketing manager, Building and Energy. “It is dedicated designed to support the installation of latex digital images, printed by HP Latex machines, for segments of wall décor and interior retail graphics.”
Also within building and energy were Ahlstrom’s efforts in the battery separator but, in October 2014, the company announced it would no long invest in its joint venture partner Porous Power Technologies because U.S.-based subsidiary has not been able to develop its nonwoven battery separator solution into a product that would be qualified by potential customers. Ahlstrom had acquired a 49.5% stake in Porous Power Technologies in 2011.
Ahlstrom’s food business continues to be driven by a growing needs to be more sustainable and ecofriendly while at the same time catering to a need for convenience in food and beverage packaging Ahlstrom is taking advantage of these trends by focusing research and development efforts on products that add these characteristics up—convenient like a tea bag, or a single serve espresso capsule or pod, but also their sustainable version, using PLA a biodegradable plant based resin in our products, or genuine vegetable parchment, like in our NatureMolds, where we have very good sales growth.
Ahlstrom NatureMold, launched in February 2014, is a new sustainable molding material that offers food processors and brand owners many unique benefits.
New developments within Ahlstrom’s medical business include VaporCool. The product is made from a soft SMS fabric treated with adaptive technology to create a smart fabric designed for conversion into single-use surgical scrub suits. Described as a soft, textile-like, dynamic fabric that offers outstanding comfort, when worn in direct contact with the skin, the fabric works as an extension of the wearers’ body, helping to regulate their body temperature. When hot, the fabric boosts evaporation providing a cooling effect; when cool, the fabric holds in moisture acting as an insulating layer.