2015 Nonwovens Sales: $492 million
Nina Kopola, president & CEO; Tapio Engstrom, senior vice president, CFO; Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, Care; Ernesto Levy, senior vice president, Convenience; Hannu Sivula, senior vice president, HR; Mimoun Saim, senior vice president, Operations EMEA; Larry Kinn, senior vice president, Operations Americas; Margareta Huldén, vice president, R&D; Saara Soderberg, vice president, marketing and product management; Roberto Pedoja, vice president, Tech. & Investments; Dan Dunbar, vice president, Sourcing, Timo Rautakorpi, vice president, CIO; Anu Heinonen, vice president, corporate communications & investor relations.
Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Windsor Locks, CT; Paulínia, Brazil; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Alicante, Spain
Spunlace, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled, SPC
Wiping, medical, hygiene
In the midst of a three-year global growth strategy, Suominen continues to aim at growth as it awaits the completion of a major U.S. investment as well as smaller upgrades in Europe and South America. The manufacturer of primarily spunlaced nonwovens, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, began its three-year global growth strategy in the beginning of 2015. The company originally announced it would invest €30-50 million in this program but in August 2016 the company reevaluated the scope of the total program, estimating that its total value may exceed €60 million due to an unexpectedly rapid increase in labor costs in South Carolina, among other things. Key tenets of the program, which is designed to help Suominen deliver superior value in select market areas and hopefully drive its sales upward to roughly €500 million before its completion, include the construction of a new line dedicated largely to nonwovens for household and workplace use as well as flushable substrates in Bethune, SC as well as upgrades to its sites in Alicante, Spain and Paulinia, Brazil.
In 2015, Suominen’s sales continued to climb, increasing 10% to €444 million, thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar. With sites in the U.S., Europe and South America, Suominen continues to focus on new product development and investment—in both its sites and its people—to achieve growth.
“We definitely focus on research and development through investment in talent and processes bringing new products to our customers,” explains Saara Söderberg, vice president, marketing and product management.
Currently, Suominen operates through two business areas: Convenience and Care. Convenience is by far the larger of the two business areas representing about 92% of sales in 2015 and comprising Suominen’s global wipes businesses. Care, meanwhile, includes Suominen’s activities in the hygiene and medical markets. While it represented just 8% of the company’s global sales in 2015, a strong focus on new product development should help Suominen grow this business in coming years.
“In wipes we are an established player but in hygiene and medical applications, we are a relative newcomer,” Söderberg says. “But we are seeing spunlace providing a nice substitute for spunbond nonwovens in some areas of the diaper—not in the backing or in the core but in the surface areas that touch the skin.”
Within this segment, Fibrella Move nonwovens was launched in October 2015 for the global hygiene market. The material uses state-of-the-art forming, bonding and finishing technologies, offering a major step forward in fluid acquisition and management for feminine hygiene and other absorbent hygiene applications.
“Fibrella Move is another new statement product from Suominen which raises the bar of expectations for materials in the construction of absorbent hygiene products,” says Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, Care. “This launch is a further step in our company’s vision to offer new, high performance nonwovens in our care business, meeting the important standards of our converters and consumers.
Meanwhile, in the medical arena, Suominen has introduced three new Fibrella products. Fibrella Zorb and Fibrella Zorb+ bring added value benefits to the critical care environment and Fibrella Perf is a range of nonwovens for wound care and gentle cleansing with an aperture structure that makes them soft and skin friendly.
Back in its core business, wipes, Suominen has focused on balancing its portfolio within this market. Its largest market for wipes, baby wipes, represented 38% of wipes sales last year, and the company would like to see growth come from other wipe products like personal care, household or industrial.
As part of its efforts to fuel growth in these markets, in April, Suominen launched suominen@work, a product line designed to serve manufacturers of workplace wipes—used in places like restaurants, healthcare facilities and factories. “The key to a good workplace wipe is to provide the user with a time-saving solution that delivers required functionality and provides tangible cost savings in use,” says Eileen Calder, product manager for the workplace market segment.Another category strong on Suominen’s radar is flushable wipes. The company has been offering a product to this category, under the brand name Hydraspun since the 1990s and has worked to continuously improve the technology ever since. In early 2015, the company introduced Hydraspun Dispersible Plus, which breaks up more than three times more quickly than the standard Hydraspun Dispersible substrate, according to the company.
Suominen’s optimism over this technology and the market it serves has best been illustrated by the construction of a new wetlaid in Bethune, SC, which is on track to be installed by the end of this year. According to Suominen, the new wetlaid line, which represents the lion’s share of the company’s growth investment program, will take wetlaid technology to a totally new level in the industry, providing customers with a unique advantages by adding exquisite capabilities for designing nonwovens substrates. This will allow Suominen to increase its share of products with high added value, which is a key component of its growth strategy.
The new line would provide a broad basis weight range and extend from nonwovens made of 100% cellulosic fibers to reinforced composite products and 100% synthetic fiber products—their features being anything from dispersible to durable.
In other investment news, Suominen has upgraded plants in Paulínia, Brazil and Alicante, Spain. In Brazil, an existing line has been upgraded to expand its role in the South American wipes market and diversify its product output for the hygiene and medical markets, while in Spain the investment is targeted at medical and industrial wipes applications.