2019 Nonwovens Sales: $360 million
Dr. Christian Heinrich Sandler, CEO; Wolfgang Höflich, board member & chief production officer; Dr. Ulrich Hornfeck, board member & chief commercial officer; Tobias Baumgärtel, president, Sandler Nonwoven Corporation
Sandler AG, Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany
Sandler Nonwoven Corporation, Perry, GA, U.S.
Carded, waddings and drylaid nonwovens, thermally bonded, meltblown, needlepunched, air-through bonded, spunlaced, coating, embossing and aperturing, composites
Sawabond, sawaloom, sawaloft, sawaflor, sawatex, sawascreen, sawaform, sawasoft, sawasorb, fibercomfort, bio textile by sandler, enAIRsave
Investment continues for Sandler Group. The Schwarzenbach/Saale, Germany-based company has announced new lines on both sides of the Atlantic as part of its efforts to meet its customers’ demands.
In September 2019, Sandler started construction on a new line at its U.S. site in Perry, GA, which is expected to start production later this year.
Plans included the construction of a 135,000-square-foot building, which houses production and warehouse facilities and was completed earlier this year. The new manufacturing line for nonwovens will target hygiene applications. The investment will create 70 new jobs in different departments at the Perry site.
Expanding its U.S. plant will enable Sandler to continue to grow in the local market. “Sandler nonwovens made in USA allow us to continuously develop and advance our longstanding business relationships to companies in the North American market. This investment is the next step towards establishing a competence center for nonwovens production here in Perry,” says Tobias Baumgaertel, president of Sandler Nonwoven Corporation.
Sandler opened the U.S. site in 2016, creating its first manufacturing site outside of Germany. The investment has allowed Sandler to expand its business relations with customers in North America by optimizing onsite services.
For now, the Perry site’s main focus continues to be hygiene but executives say that could eventually span the whole gamut of Sandler’s technological expertise, creating a smaller replica of the Schwarzenbach site.
This investment is part of a larger corporate-wide investment announced during the company’s 140th anniversary in May 2019, with Sandler planning to invest €90 million at its sites in Germany and the U.S. over the following two years.
In April, the company announced another component of this investment plan—the construction of a high-tech nonwovens line for the production of nonwovens for mouth-nose-protection masks. The new line, which manufactures meltblown nonwovens, will allow Sandler to produce nonwovens for the manufacture of up to 600 million masks. The investment totals a single-digit million Euro amount.
“The demand for our nonwovens for protective masks is unbroken – and has been for months. Despite around-the-clock production, seven days a week,” underlines Christian Heinrich Sandler, CEO. “On the other hand, we are also aware of the still challenging situation in the health sector and therefore we decided to invest in a further production line for nonwovens for mouth-nose-protection masks at the Schwarzenbach site in Bavaria.“
The German Federal Government is also addressing the shortage of materials in Germany and Europe by promoting such investments through a funding program.
In late August, Sandler formally inaugurated the new production line, which had come onstream two weeks before. The company celebrated the capacity expansion with a small event.
“Indeed, Sandler has been very experienced making filtration materials but not so much face mask material,” says chief commercial officer Ulrich Hornfeck. “This is becoming a very important market and it is one that Sandler should be in. We have a lot of knowledge about this.”
Sandler has been producing nonwovens for air filtration for more than 20 years, successfully establishing its position in the global market. Until now, the product category “nonwovens for respiratory protection masks” did not receive much public attention, “as previous epidemics fortunately affected the country less. Due to the unfortunate development of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand from Germany and all over Europe has now increased significantly and is likely to remain high in the long term. “
However, Hornfeck says he feels investing too much too quickly could be detrimental, especially as its competitors continue to do the same. This is particularly concerning in the meltblown lines where many companies are investing in new lines. “Time will tell if we will need all of the lines that have been announced to come onstream everywhere in the world,” he says. “No one knows how long this crisis will last.”
As business, like hygiene and masks, continues to be strong, the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the global economy is negatively impacting markets like automotives, construction and furniture, however signs of recovery are already showing.
“We have seen challenges in areas like automotives, construction and furniture but we hope to see them recover by the end of the year,” Hornfeck says. “For sure this year has been unusual but we have worked hard to respond to these challenges. The good thing about Sandler is we are present in so many markets and we have so many technologies. When one is challenging, another is doing well. This has been our strategy from the beginning.”
Looking back at 2019, sales remained steady at €322 million despite raw material challenges. Highlights of the year were the development of new nonwovens solutions, which have steadily expanded the product range and the company’s position as a partner to international customers. These include heat-insulating and sound-absorbing materials for the construction industry and room acoustics; efficient filter media for clean air in buildings and vehicles; soft upholstery materials for furniture and bedding; skin-friendly materials for hygiene products; absorbent wipes substrates for cosmetics and household as well as sound insulating nonwovens for more driving comfort in automobiles, buses and trains.
These efforts have focused on developing more bio-based products featuring natural materials like PLA, viscose and bamboo. While this is mostly in disposable segments like wipes and hygiene products, increasing interest is being seen in transportation applications for 100% recycled polyester. This is in part being driven by the single-use plastic regulations being proposed in the EU and in some U.S. states. Currently about 30% of the raw materials used by Sandler are renewable and/or recyclable. “Working on sustainability is something we have to do for our Earth,” Hornfeck says. “It is the most important thing for us to survive.”