2018 Nonwovens Sales: $1.3 billion
Michael Hsu, chief executive officer, Kimberly-Clark; Kim Underhill, president, North America Consumer Business, Kimberly-Clark; Aaron Powell, president, Kimberly-Clark Professional; Elizabeth Metz, vice president, Global Nonwovens.
Corinth, MS; Hendersonville, NC; LaGrange, GA; Neenah, WI; Maumelle, AK; Conway, AK; Beech Island, SC
Corinth, MS; Hendersonville, NC; LaGrange, GA; Neenah, WI
Spunbond, meltblown, SMS, BCW, hydroentangled, film lamination, elastic lamination, airlaid, and Coform
Kimberly-Clark Professional; Protective Fabrics: Block-It, Dustop, Evolution and Noah; Filtration Media: Intrepid, Powerloft, Cyclean; Delivery Systems: Hydroknit
Filtration, construction, acoustics, consumer hygiene, industrial, medical, packaging, protective, sorbents, textile linings and wet wipes
One of the world’s biggest users of nonwoven fabrics, Kimberly-Clark is also a major producer of nonwovens—not only for its consumer products like Huggies diapers and Depend adult incontinence items, but for external customers in markets including filtration, housewrap and critical cleaning. The company’s Global Nonwovens business is headquartered in Roswell, GA, and operates facilities in Corinth, MS; Hendersonville, NC; LaGrange, GA and Tuas, Singapore.
In 2018, K-C announced it would invest $30 million for expansion and improvements to its Berkeley nonwovens manufacturing facility in Hendersonville, NC. The plant produces nonwoven materials for Kimberly-Clark’s North American adult and feminine care brands including Depend, Poise and U by Kotex. The two-year project will focus on expanding the plant’s production capacity and efficiency and is expected to add 14 new jobs at the site, while maintaining current employment.
“The Berkeley Mill team is proud about the role we will play in supporting the future growth of Kimberly-Clark’s adult and feminine care business in North America,” says Ernest Humphries, plant manager, Kimberly-Clark’s Berkeley Mill. “This investment, combined with the commitment of our employees and the support of the local community, will bolster the mill’s competitiveness and position us for continued success.”
Additionally, K-C has added capacity for baby wipes and created a dedicated formulation lab to boost product innovation in Tuas, Singapore. The Tuas site exports to markets across the Asia-Pacific including Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, China and multiple ASEAN countries. It was first opened in 1981. The investment brought the site’s baby wipes capacity from 2.4 million to about 5 million per year, according to reports.
Also in Tuas, K-C has invested heavily in solar technology to improve the sustainability profile of its plant there. The company recently mounted 7730 photovoltaic panels on the plant’s roof. This investment in renewable energy will allow K-C to replace 15% of conventional energy used at the plant, reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by approximately 1600 metric tons per year— equivalent to removing nearly 350 passenger cars from roads annually.
At a ceremony held to inaugurate its solar roof, Achal Agarwal, president, Kimberly-Clark Asia Pacific, said, “Our manufacturing operations in Singapore have long been recognized as a leader in environmental protection. Switching on this solar roof marks a new milestone in our sustainability journey and accelerates our progress towards our goal of achieving a 20% reduction in GHG emissions globally, by 2022.”
In January 2018, Kimberly-Clark initiated a global restructuring program in order to reduce the company’s structural cost base and enhance the company’s flexibility to invest in its brands, growth initiatives and capabilities critical to delivering future growth. The company expects the program will generate annual pre-tax cost savings of $500 to $550 million by the end of 2021. As part of the program, Kimberly-Clark expects to exit or divest some low-margin businesses that generate approximately 1% of company net sales.
The North American sites known to be affected by this plan include its nonwovens manufacturing site in Neenah, WI, one in California, which makes consumer products like Scott toilet tissue and Kleenex, as well as professional products including KimWipes and KayDry wipers, and a facility in Conway, AR. K-C will move production from these sites into other facilities operated by the company in North America.
Additionally, one of its Brazilian sites—an absorbent hygiene plant in Eldorado do Sul, Brazil—will close, and K-C will transfer production to other Brazilian sites in Sao Paulo, Correia Pinto, Camacari and Suzano Mogi das Cruzes.
Moving east, an Ingleburn, Australia, site making Huggies diapers closed this summer, impacting 220 employees. Production will move to K-C facilities in Asia, allowing faster access to the latest research and engineering advancements in diapers and pants.
In Africa, K-C announced plans to close its factory in Lagos, Nigeria, later this year and build a new factory in its place. The decision to build a new factory with enhanced technology and capabilities was driven by strong growth in demand for its products in the region. About 60 permanent employees will be affected by the closure. However, the company insists it remains committed to the Nigerian market where it will expand its team and open an additional office this year.
Looking forward, K-C expects to continue to grow its personal care businesses and has improvements planned for many of its core brands including Huggies diapers and baby wipes, Pull-Ups training pants and Depend adult incontinence products.
“With a strong legacy of innovation, Kimberly-Clark understands the need to maintain a pulse on changing consumer needs and how our products can meet them. With a strong team of PhDs, scientists, engineers, and lean experts, our nonwovens organization is leveraging rapid learning cycles and digital intelligence to deliver breakthrough materials and processes that accelerate innovation from idea to commercialization,” says Elizabeth Metz, vice president, Global Nonwovens.
In July, K-C introduced Huggies Special Delivery diapers, the softest diaper with plant-based materials (3% by weight), designed specifically to provide the best for a baby’s bottom, without compromise. Huggies Special Delivery was created for ultimate skin comfort with the trusted leak protection that parents count on to keep baby’s skin healthy.
“We are inspired by the loving bond that a parent feels with their baby and their desire to provide the very best care to their babies that they possibly can,” says Kristine Rhode, Huggies North America brand director. “These insights led us to create our most perfect diaper, so parents can provide their own perfect care.”
Huggies Special Delivery diapers feature a baby-side liner and waistband made with fibers derived from plant-based materials such as sugarcane, carefully selected to help provide superior absorption and fit. They are free of parabens, fragrance and elemental chlorine, and dermatologically tested and clinically proven hypoallergenic for baby’s delicate skin.
In the adult incontinence segment, K-C’s Depend brand has developed a new line of Depend Fit-Flex absorbent underwear. The new products feature a blush color and a variety of designs for women, and an ultra-soft, flexible fabric for improved comfort.
“We are excited to bring our new beautiful designs and ultra-soft fabric to consumers to help them be there for the moments that matter the most,” says Lauren Kren, senior brand manager for the Depend brand. “Depend believes that incontinence should not be a barrier to living your best life. Instead, users should feel empowered to engage in their favorite activities without the distractions of bladder leakage or discomfort.”
Meanwhile, Kimberly-Clark’s Poise brand recently introduced Poise Ultra Thin Active Collection pads and liners with wings designed for physically active women with light bladder leakage (LBL).