2019 Nonwovens Sales: $360 million
Martin Mikkelsen, CEO; Finn Schoning, group vice president, Finance; Roberto Boggio, COO; Christel Dendas, CCO
Asheville, NC; Soultz, France; Old Hickory, TN; Asturias, Spain
The latest news from Jacob Holm is the start of an ambitious, global expansion plan that will add 500 million square meters of new capacity to its global output. The program, which has been dubbed “Project Boost,” was approved by the Board of Directors in May 2020 and is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2022.
“We had some expansion already in the budget for 2020 that we had not yet announced and then we decided to expand the scope significantly,” says CEO Martin Mikkelsen. “Once we had refined the scope and rolled out the numbers it accumulated to that large figure of 500 million square meters, which we felt was well-matched to the increasing market demand for spunlace fabrics.”
The investment program is significant in scope, affecting all production lines at the company’s four global nonwoven production sites. The investment is expected to lead to the creation of at least 57 new full-time positions across the group’s global manufacturing footprint while adding significantly to the size and scope of its output.
“Project Boost is our response to the needs of our partners across the globe for increasing capacity, providing more sustainable substrate choices and continuing to uphold our position as an innovation leader in nonwovens,” says Mikkelsen.
True to Jacob Holm’s commitment to sustainability, the investment will allow the lines to increase their usage of renewable raw materials. Additionally, the upgraded production methodology will reduce waste and improve production efficiency and ultimately lower the carbon footprint of the entire Jacob Holm and Sontara product portfolios.
According to Mikkelsen, Jacob Holm’s sustainability strategy is built from the understanding that true sustainability in nonwovens requires a team approach up and down stream, extending even to consumer education. While Jacob Holm is proud of their ability to run natural and plant-based fibers, there is also an awareness that certain applications will always require the performance that is currently only offered by synthetic materials. “There is a notion that you cannot exit plastics completely but you absolutely can have a more conscientious approach, which is why we are working on greater transparency through sustainability projects like our Jacob Holm eCO2-quation app.”
The decision to significantly expand the company’s global capacity was made as Jacob Holm was in the midst of an aggressive response to the Coronavirus pandemic. In May, the company announced that its efforts to produce much-needed personal protective equipment including face masks and isolations gowns was contributing to a 65% increase in Sontara production. Among these efforts was a partnership with the global sports performance brand Under Armour.
“We very quickly scaled up on production capacity and also fast tracked some debottlenecking projects and other investments we had in the pipeline because we could see our customers were going to need more support from us,” Mikkelsen says.
Jacob Holm also ramped up the certification process, such as EN13795 in Europe, as new regulations surfaced, an effort only possible because of Sontara’s more than 40 years of experience in the medical market.
“The demand remains pretty solid, and we are further increasing capacity to meet it. We also qualified our plant in Asturias, which had not been a major medical producer previously but we were able to utilize our technical expertise from other sites to fast track that process so now we have solid medical grade capabilities in both Europe and North America.”
“This situation is unprecedented,” says CEO Martin Mikkelsen. “However, for Jacob Holm as a company, the only way forward is to lean in to what we know and use the full force of our experience to help contain the spread of Covid-19 and make a positive impact on the well-being of our communities.”
Concurrently, Sontara has increased PPE production partnerships across the U.S. and Europe and has donated the equivalent material of well over a million masks through Spain and France. In addition, they have made donations of disinfectant wipes and meals to emergency personnel within the local communities of their production sites.
Looking back to 2019, Mikkelsen describes it as a basically flat year from a revenue perspective compared to 2018. However, highlights of the year included the company’s reorganization into three business units that roll up into two business areas – Sontara and Jacob Holm. The Sontara area includes the Sontara Professional and Health & Skin Care groups while the Jacob Holm umbrella includes Personal Care in the hygiene and consumer wipes segments.