2013 Nonwovens Sales: $1.65 billion
Freudenberg Filtration Technologies
Bruce Olson, CEO; René Wollert, CFO; Frank Heislitz, CTO
Weinheim, Germany; Neuenburg, Germany; Kaiserslautern, Germany; Greetland, UK; Swindon, UK; Littleborough, UK; Colmar, France; Parets, Spain; Sant’ Omero, Italy; Cossato, Italy; Hong Kong, China; Suzhou, China; Nantong, China; Chennai, India; Pyungtaek, South Korea; Yang Mei, Taiwan; Tayuan, Taiwan; San Martin/Buenos Aires, Argentina; Durham, NC, U.S.; Jacarei, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa
All locations are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified; locations serving the automotives industry are TS 16469 certified; all sites are OHSAS 18001 certified
Drylaid staple fiber, wetlaid, spunbonded, meltblown, needle punched, thermal bonded, chemical bonded, water entanglement
Celestia, Comfortemp, Evolon, Lutradur, Lutrasil, SoundTex, Vildona, Viledon, Vilene, Vilmed, Vlieseline, Marelli & Berta
Automotive interiors, apparel, energy, geotextiles, building interiors, medical, hygiene and special applications.
As it redefines its interlinings business through a restructuring program and new investments and upgrades lines in the U.S., France and Germany, Freudenberg Nonwovens continues to focus its business strategy on innovations in attractive niche segments and providing engineered customized solutions. In 2013, the company, reported nonwovens sales $880 million of and held its spot as the world’s largest maker of nonwovens. And, Freudenberg continues to defend this position through investment, reorganization, acquisition and new product developments. In January, this meant the beginning of a multimillion-dollar plan to upgrade its spunlaid production with investments in Durham, NC and Kaiserslautern, Germany.
According to the company, the projects, both line enhancements, improve product quality, allowing them to make nonwovens with high quality and improved performance. In Durham, three existing spunlaid lines were retrofitted with advanced production technology, improving the quality of nonwovens used for filter materials, OEM automotive carpeting and carpet backings and increasing Freudenberg’s flexibility in supplying global markets.
“As a result, we are in a position as a technological leader and responding to market demands for high quality materials,” says Frank Heislitz, CTO of Freudenberg Nonwovens.
In Kaiserslautern, an existing pilot line, which provides a good platform for product development at the planning level, was upgraded. This project will lead to improvements in the quality of the product’s physical properties, allowing the business group to proactively serve the needs of its customers.
This will bring benefits in not only automotive, carpet and filter segments but also for customers in the shoe and construction segments.
“Both investment projects in Kaiserslautern and Durham relate to the further technical development of existing lines and follow Freudenberg’s decades-long tradition of continuous process improvement and will enhance product quality,” Heislitz says.
Following modernization, the lines will be able to manufacture nonwovens of a higher quality with improved performance properties.
In other investment news, in May 2013, Freudenberg began work on a new Evolon production line in Colmar, France, the site of the company’s original Evolon investment.
Manufactured through a globally patented technology combining the spinning of filaments with splitting through hydroentanglement, Evolon was developed in the late 1990s and has since been successful in a number applications including high tech cleaning cloths, automotives and, most recently medical areas. The latest investment in this technology was reported at €5 million.
“We can note growth in all application segments with Evolon—bedding, cleaning, packaging, others,” says Ulrich Jahn, site manager in Colmar, France. “This has been one of the reason why we invested in a further production line in Colmar. The new line allows us to increase the production capacity and to supply our global customers in the best way.”
Evolon is also making headway in the UV protection market. This year, the fabric was granted an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 80, the highest rating available under the UV standard 801, the only standard able to verify the durability of UV protection in real-life heavy use conditions.
Providing sunscreening or dim-out effect, Evolon is ideally suitable for curtains, roller blinds, sunshades, awnings, canopies and marquees specifically designed for sun protection. At the same time, Evolon’s medium-weight versions can make outdoor, protective and sportswear garments with an exceptional UV protection factor even in the worst sun conditions. In addition, Evolon feels comfortable, light and breathable and is strong and windproof.
In other news in September 2013, Freudenberg said it would restructure its staple fiber business in Weinheim, Germany. Motivated by undiminished market pressure from the apparel industry to use larger quantities of lower-priced woven and knitted interlinings rather than staple fiber products, the reorganization entails capacity adjustments including the closure of one production line.
“Through the reorganization of the staple fiber business in Weinheim, the production plant has been systematically allocated to the market segments of apparel, filtration, medical, and industrial applications,” says Bruce Olson, CEO of the business group Freudenberg Nonwovens. “This was necessary to ensure a more flexible and focused response to market needs. The reorganization testifies to our comprehensive interlinings know-how and is a clear commitment to the industry. In recent years we have evolved from a nonwovens specialist to a full-line supplier and operate today as a global solutions provider for the apparel industry.”
One key step towards this goal was the acquisition of Marelli & Berta in Italy in 1998, which rounded off the interlinings portfolio through the addition of woven and canvas products. By integrating woven and knitted interlining production in Weinheim, the company became market leader in the menswear segment in the years that followed.
The newly-established company Freudenberg Interlining SE & CO. KG is the nonwoven interlinings specialist for fashion, sportswear, workwear and protective clothing and not only offers customers in the apparel industry a diverse product portfolio, but also a broad range of additional services such as product recommendations, technical support and individual solutions for converted products, tapes and die-cuts.
In July 2014, Freudenberg expanded its interlinings business through the acquisition of the Hänsel brand from Hänsel Textil in Iserlohn, Germany. “With the Hänsel brand, Freudenberg is developing its strengths in interlinings,” says Mohsen Sohi, speaker of the Freudenberg Group board of management. “As a leading global manufacturer of highly-developed textiles, with Hänsel we will be able to offer additional sophisticated interlining solutions.
Hänsel offers numerous special interlinings for manufacturers of ladies and men’s outer garments, childrens’ wear and sports clothing. Products include genuine horsehair canvas, multi-zone interlinings or extremely light wovens and knits.
The transaction involves the acquisition of the brand and all the patents, as well as the purchase of production plants for knits and the relevant distribution companies in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka and Germany.
Freudenberg embarked upon a global growth initiative in the menswear segment, which created a very good performance despite the negative conditions resulting out of the financial and debt crisis. “We noticed an increase in woven and knitted interlinings in line with the rise in textile production in Asia,” Olson says. “The restructuring of our interlining business in Europe has been successfully implemented in 2013 which led to a significant improvement of our financial results.”
Also benefiting Freudenberg’s interlining business is the introduction of two innovative product series—WonderWadding and the XA. Both testify to the intensity of Freudenberg Interlining’s market presence. WonderWadding is an innovative down substitute that is light as a feather and yet voluminous, with an excellent ecological footprint while XA is a new generation of extremely soft, high-performance nonwoven particularly suited to fashionable figure-hugging styles and offers designers a whole range of new applications for many different outer fabrics.
Another recent innovation out of Freudenberg’s interlinings business is its EE technology. “Before a garment goes on sale, it undergoes up to 20 different post-processing steps such as printing, dying and bleaching. That is a tough test for interlinings. Freudenberg has therefore developed the new EE adhesive technology. With the new EE adhesives, interlinings offer excellent performance even when fused at mild temperatures or dyed at high temperatures; consequently, finished garments can even undergo extreme washing processes such as bio-washing or stone washing without encountering any problems.”
Another key focus for Freudenberg is the medical market where growth has been driven by demographics and diseases like diabetes and obesity. With 40 years experience in the medical segment, Freudenberg participates in four main segments: traditional wound care, advanced wound care, stoma care and transdermal.
One of the company’s most innovative products is a combination of hydroactive fibers and nonwovens made of chitosan fibers, a biopolymer derived from the shells of sea crustaceans which helps wounds to heal and stems blood loss very swiftly. This shortens treatment time and cost quite substantially, particularly with reference to chronic wounds.
“The market for medical devices is steadily growing,” saysRené Wollert, CFO. “The growth rates of segments like traditional wound care, advanced wound care and stoma are showing moderate but also very stable growth rates over the years. The business with transdermal delivery systems is growing strongly as the benefits of this technology, which originates in Japan, are spreading to the U.S. and Europe. However budget cuts and general cost pressures in the European healthcare sector are a challenge for the industry to come up with cost effective solutions.”
Balancing the demands of emerging markets, where customers are asking for cost effective solutions which provide good performance with those of more mature markets like the U.S. and Europe, which request higher performance is also a challenge for any globally oriented business. “There is also a trend towards more effective product solutions for complex indications (e.g. chronic wounds) which help to reduce the total cost of treatment. We also see an increasing trend of self-treatment products.”
Freudenberg’s medical business is a part of its industrial division. Besides medical, the company focuses on a range of industrial centered products including battery separators, automotives and cable wrapping.
Within the battery separator market, Freudenberg started out working with nickel-based batteries but more recently turned its sights to the new lithium-ion market that powers today’s resurgent plug-in vehicles. Here, Freudenberg decided to use a nonwoven polyester material as the base of its new separators.
Another product making headlines within the industrial business is Lutradur ECO, a polyester industrial backing made from 100% post consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. This high-quality product range is helping customers and Freudenberg Nonwovens achieve sustainable, “green” operations and design. Lutradur ECO is suitable for many applications, including wall covering substrates, carpet backing, landscape and geotextiles, green roof systems, building and construction, coating and printing substrates and many other end uses.
As it moves into new markets and new end uses, Freudenberg Nonwovens will continue to follow its strategy to grow with targeted engineered solutions and innovations in attractive niche markets.
“We will strengthen the core business by being the preferred development partner for key projects of our customers, also setting the foundation for future growth by investments, acquisitions and strategic alliances,” says Wollert.