2019 Nonwovens Sales: $1.4 billion
Hans Sohlström, president and CEO; Sakari Ahdekivi, deputy CEO and executive vice president; Omar Hoek, executive vice president, specialties; Daniele Borlatto, executive vice president, Filtration and Performance Solutions
Belgium: Malmedy; Brazil: Louveira; China: Binzhou, Longkou; Finland: Karhula, Mikkeli, Tampere; France: Bousbecque, Brignoud, Orleans, Pont-Audemer, Saint-Severin; Germany: Osnabrück, Bärenstein; India: Mundra; Italy: Turin, Fabriano, Russia: Tver; South Korea: Hyon Poong; Sweden: Ställdalen, Falun; U.K.: Chirnside, Radcliffe; U.S.: Bethune, SC; Madisonville, KY; Mt. Holly Springs, PA; Taylorville, IL; Windsor Locks, CT
Wetlaid (Trinitex), microglass, nanotechnology (Disruptor), composites, creping/micrexing, spunmelt/spunbond, parchmentizing, coating, calendaring
Transportation filtration, diagnostic filtration, water filtration, wall coverings, building, automotive, food packaging, beverage, medical, flooring and masking tape
Net sales decreased slightly in 2019 for Ahlstrom-Munksjö amidst higher selling prices and falling delivery volumes in most of the company’s key areas. At the same time, group profitability decreased slightly, also due to lower volumes, which more than offset high variable costs.
Turning to 2020, Ahlstrom-Munksjö has been active in its response to the global Coronavirus pandemic, leveraging its legacy face mask offerings with other medical technologies to create an additional offering to its medical portfolio.
“The Medical and Filtration Business has tripled our legacy face mask capacity by redistributing allocations, looking outside our traditional manufacturing footprint, repurposing existing product originally not meant for face mask applications, outsourcing non-essential businesses, qualifying external like capabilities that were available and restarting dormant assets,” says Lionel Bonte, vice president of medical.
These masks were developed in sync with the French norm committee (AFNOR) published guidelines to expand the availability of face masks for non-sanitary. Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Reliance Dextex and Reliance SMS range of products were among the first materials validated by French Army laboratories for the use of category 1 civil masks to be used by the population. In addition, Reliance SMS showed best-in-class performance and was declared comparable in performance to surgical masks.
“The French government introduced the ‘Resilience’ program, a national initiative to urgently produce face masks for the French population,” Bonte says. “Within this project, we signed a contract for directly supplying our Reliance SMS material equivalent to 100 million face masks for civil servants (i.e. police, firemen, teachers, etc.) as well as companies active in essential sectors like food, water and waste management.”
According to Bonte, this was accomplished due to the close cooperation with hospitals to repurpose existing material from its Mundra, India, plant not typically used for face masks. The company quickly reallocated capacity on a full asset to meet the urgency and went beyond its original business model by selling directly to hospitals, material readily cut for face masks to be sewn.
“We managed to shift allocation of non-essential businesses to other assets and benefit from declining demand on other business to increase our allocation on face masks, as well as look outside of our traditional asset base to increase capacity while keeping our fix cost flat,” Bonte adds.
In May, Ahlstrom-Munksjö expanded its face mask capabilities through the launch of its Extia Protect product range, specifically designed for face mask applications. The Extia Protect portfolio consists of a full range of high-performance fiber-based solutions for face masks, including filtration layers, cover stocks, lace media and reinforcement layers. Each component of the range has been designed to meet specific requirements of the different type of masks, including respiratory masks, surgical masks, but also civil masks.
“I am very proud of the work accomplished by our team. In only a few months, we have developed a full offering for face mask applications and are now in a position to serve the growing demand for face mask materials globally by utilizing the available capacity we have in industrial platforms across the globe,” says Daniele Borlatto, EVP Filtration and Performance Solutions.
Meanwhile, Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s manufacturing plants serving the Medical business have been experiencing unprecedented levels of demand across the entire medical product portfolio. The company has expanded production, increased capacity and adapted current technology to meet the demand globally to provide the protection needed to help stop the spread of Covid-19. “We constantly monitor the risks related to the supply chain to ensure our manufacturing needs can be met,” Bonte says. “We also have frequent calls with the global medical team to update and align on manufacturing lead and production times and requirements, raw material pipeline and supply chain flow.”
Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s priority in the medical business unit is to deliver high performance medical fabrics that fully protect healthcare workers and patients globally. Its TrustShield product is an example of how it continues to strengthen and enhance its medical product portfolio as the TrustShield products were specially designed around growing market trends.
The TrustShield product portfolio offers a complete range of medical fabrics designed to provide superior protection in the operating room, clinical and laboratory environments. TrustShield fabrics are laser resistant, protect against biological hazards, chemical permeation, and are highly absorbent.
Its fabrics meet stringent industry standards to ensure the utmost protection against several potential health risks as well as delivering a high quality medical fabric that is durable and effective.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s sole focus has not been on medical. Last year the company acquired Sunde/Lucax. The acquisition provides the company with local filter converting capacity in China and a foothold for expanding sales of other products within the Advanced Liquid Technologies business. Having as ocal presence in Asia will shorten delivery lead times and enable Ahlstrom-Munksjö to serve its customers even better. This deal also doubles the company’s sales in oil filters and make it a global leader in this niche business.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö has also invested in new manufacturing capacity for its filtration business. These include a €28 million investment to expand capacity and product capabilities for industrial filtration applications in Turin, Italy; Ställdalen, Sweden and Malmedy, Belgium.
“The investment supports Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s strategic ambition to maintain a leading position in selected niches of the global fiber-based solutions market that offer positive growth outlook and are supported by sustainable market drivers,” says Borlatto. “
In other investment news, the company has spent about €28 million reinforce its market position in biodegradable and compostable tea bag, coffee and meat casing materials. The project includes purchasing a secondhand paper making line to be dismantled and transferred to the Chirnside manufacturing site in the U.K.