2016 Nonwoven Sales: $475 million
Nina Kopola, president & CEO; Tapio Engström, senior vice president CFO; Lynda Kelly, senior vice president, Care; Ernesto Levy, senior vice president, Convenience; Hanny Sivula, senior vice president, HR; Mimoun Saïm, senior vice president, Global Operations; Larry Kinn, senior vice president, Operational Excellence; Markku Koivisto, senior vice president, chief technology officer; 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 and Investor Relations
Bethune, SC; Green Bay, WI; Windsor Locks, CT; Paulinia, Brazil; Cressa, Italy; Mozzate, Italy; Nakkila, Finland; Alicante, Spain
Spunlace, wetlaid, thermal bonded, carded, hydroentangled, SPC
Wipes, medical, hygiene
Fresh off a successful three-year growth strategy, which included investment in a new U.S. line as well as retrofits to existing assets in Spain, Brazil and Finland, Suominen Corporation has unveiled its strategy for the 2017-2021 time period. Central to this strategy is achieving profitable growth as well as its continuous effort to increase the share of its products with high added value. To help it achieve these goals, Suominen will rely on the robust competitive edge it developed during this previous growth strategy.
“From now on we can draw on the determined work done in past years,” says Nina Kopola, president and CEO. “Our new investments in product development, marketing and customer interface as well as the largest investments we have ever made in manufacturing technologies on three continents have created a sustainable competitive edge for Suominen and, consequently, a good foundation for our future success. Moreover, the market outlook remains favorable—according to recent independent forecasts, demand for nonwovens will continue to grow, especially in the applications Suominen is focusing on.”
During the strategic period, Suominen will also examine its opportunities to expand its business operations to new regions, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, which is the largest nonwovens market in the world. Suominen currently operates in the Asian markets through sales agents.
Back in the U.S., a new wetlaid nonwovens line recently started up in Bethune, SC, and is a major part of Suominen’s expansion plans. At a reported cost of over €50 million, the new line represents the largest single investment in Suominen’s history, and the new line will continue its growth trajectory in markets as diverse as industrial, household and flushable wipes.
Currently, nonwovens for wipes comprise the lion’s share of Suominen’s sales, led by the baby wipes market which represents about 38% of sales and personal care, which contributed 25% of sales last year. Suominen aims to continue to be strong in baby wipes while growing more rapidly in value added wipe categories like workplace, personal care and household.
“There will be no large or sharp movement or change in direction,” says Saara Söderberg, vice president of marketing and product management. “The direction set is the direction we will continue.”
Part of Suominen’s past direction, or strategy, has been diversification and Söderberg reports that the company’s efforts to target new products with more value added materials has been successful, as they now comprise about 62% of total sales, up from 53% in 2012.
These efforts have led to the creation of products such as Genesis Pro All Purpose, a professional wiping substrate that was created using Suominen’s latest wetlaid technology. Among its attributes are strength, thickness, unbeatable absorption capacity. It is also lightweight but can outperform its heavier competitors in key performance areas.
“This is not a typical nonwoven product but a typical Suominen product since it was engineered with the end-user in mind,” says Eileen Calder, product manager for Workplace applications at Suominen. “That is why Genesis Pro All Purpose delivers results with speed and ease in everyday cleaning tasks that are critical to business performance. The professional employees may just focus on getting the job done, confident that the wipes do not let them down, nor in light neither heavy-duty tasks.”
Genesis Pro All Purpose is available globally and is part of Suominen@work nonwoven product offering, which was officially launched in May 2016 as a line for workplace applications.
Also in the industrial wiping space, Suominen launched Airlace for Workplace in early January 2017. This new product, possible through line improvements in Alicante, Spain, is designed for both wet and dry wipe products where it delivers a superior combination of strength, absorbency and low linting with its optimum blend of cellulose and synthetic fibers. The integration of pulp makes it ideal for cleaning oil spills and grease.
Suominen’s new Designer Series also helps diversify the company’s offerings to the wipes market. Featuring high resolution patterns, the Designer Series was designed by professional designers to fulfill the modern day needs of both consumers and brands when it comes to wipes materials. The wipes substrates’ feature distinct patterns clearly indicating softness or cleaning efficiency or both.
“When the team started with the Designer Series, we took an approach no other company in the nonwovens industry had taken before. We partnered with professional designers whose interpretation really challenged Suominen to test what its improved production technology is capable of,” Vish Mazumder, product development manager, says.
In addition to product development, Suominen is diversifying its market focus. In 2014, the company split into two divisions, Convenience and Care. While Convenience contains the bulk of Suominen’s business, 92% of sales, and represents its more established wipes businesses, Care, representing just 8% of sales, is committed to broadening Suominen’s role in markets beyond wipes like medical and hygiene applications.
“It is small and they are in a position of challenger as they build relationships with new customers,” Söderberg says. “There are very different customers compared to the wipes business, and building relationships takes time.”
This business received a boost in 2016 when its Fibrella Lite product received the RISE Durable Product Innovation Award. Fibrella Lite is a spunlace product that combines strength, softness and stretchability while remaining light weight and is used as a stretchable component in absorbent hygiene materials.
Other key products in the Care division include Fibrella Zorb for surgical wipes, Fibrella Perf for woundcare and Fibrella Wrap, a material for undercast paddings and cushions, which is sold in South America.
“In South America, cotton wadding is the most typical material used under casts and in wound care but it has two major weaknesses: it has no strength and it can be difficult to apply for the clinicians,” says Marika Mäkilä, product manager for Medical applications at Suominen. “Fibrella Wrap has no such weaknesses. Its safety and cleanliness is proven and when we add Suominen’s local production into the mix, we may say that Fibrella Wrap is the superior padding material available in the market.”
Products like Fibrella will help Suominen to expand its role in the spunlace market as new capacity investments continue to drive up supply. “As we focus on more value added technology, the path ahead of us will be strong,” Söderberg says.