Today, this business resides on a huge manufacturing site, which is known simply as “The Campus” and occupies 23 acres with 500,000 square feet under one roof. At the time of purchase, the site contained 22 textile looms, flocking lines and six needlepunch lines. Slosman intended to sell all of these lines, content with focusing on his core business—wipes converting—until an opportunity in the nonwovens market came about, leading to the creation of Nonwovens of America (NOA).
“It’s really been amazing,” he said shortly after the purchase. “We’ve never made nonwoven roll goods before so there has been a lot of education.”
Recently, Nonwovens Industry sat down with Slosman to get his take on what’s new in the converting industry.
Nonwovens Industry: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the converting i ndustry since you started out?
Jeff Slosman:The biggest change has been a reduction in the number of smaller regional converters through consolidation and closures.
NWI: How has the recent consolidation among nonwovens producers affected sourcing of material for converters?
Slosman: In some cases, the reduction of domestic suppliers due to consolidation has reduced the options for raw material because of line closures and higher prices for remaining supply thus requiring converters to source raw materials from overseas in order to supply the requirements of our customers.
NWI: How has this trend impacted pricing?
Slosman: The impact has led to unprecedented price increases for certain substrates.
NWI: Do you think we will see more consolidation among converters as a byproduct of the nonwovens consolidation?
Slosman: Any additional consolidation of convertors would not be a result of mill consolidation, but a result of strategic partnering and alliances to complement assets and the location of converting services.
NWI: How have converters dealt with the movement of many industries customers and suppliers to China and other offshore areas?
Slosman:The reduction in the domestic customer base has led to increased competition for the remaining market share. To be successful, convertors have had to focus on their core strengths, be willing to work on tighter margins and have had to increase efficiencies on order to survive the changing market place.
NWI: What are some of the other main challenges facing converters?
Slosman: The main challenge facing converters is the higher cost of doing business in the U.S. This is due to a combination of factors; higher costs from government regulations, higher labor cost, higher health care cost and higher freight cost. Due to competition from both domestic and foreign suppliers, the converters will continue to feel the pressure until the government offers relief to domestic companies by not allowing subsidized products to make their way into the U.S. and by also reducing the cost for all manufactures that are willing to manufacture products and employee people in the States.
NWI: What do you see the biggest challenge your customers have when trying to develop a new product and bring it to market?
Slosman:The biggest challenge is being able to locate a company that can offer them the support and the resources to aid them from conception of an idea to the delivery of the product to market. Not all convertors have the resources to assist with new product development nor have the infrastructure to support a product launch or maintain the support once a product comes to fruition and makes it into the market.
NWI: Is there still room for innovation in nonwovens?
Slosman:Yes, not just with the ability to make lighter basis weights and lower the substrates cost, but true development through the advancement of new technologies that will offer new material attributes. This innovation will not be limited to roll goods. It will also encompass features added to the material by the convertors as well as new innovations in packaging.
NWI: How has National Wiper Alliance been able to grow year on year despite supply issues, slower market growth recession and other economic challenges?
Slosman: National Wiper Alliance continues to grow by working closely with our customers to assist them in growing their business as well as by working with new customers that seek out our diverse converting services.
NWI: On a personal note, how has the integration of NOA changed your outlook and your scope in nonwovens?
Slosman: Now that we are a roll goods producer, it has given me a new perspective that cost pressures are not only at the converter level. Roll goods producers in this country face unfair competition through government policy. An example is the unfair advantage domestic roll goods producers have when purchasing rayon fiber. Rayon fiber is not available domestically and must be imported. Paying a duty on imported fiber that is not on imported roll goods and finished products makes the latter a more economical option. To be competitive with the imported roll goods and to help converters compete with imported finished products, domestic roll goods producers have to be willing to sell at a lower margin to maintain competitive pricing with imported roll goods. Duties and tariffs should be used to protect and promote domestic jobs, not inhibit them.
NWI: What challenges has this growth brought with it?
Slosman: Growth has always brought with it the challenge of having more work that needs to be addressed and getting it done without it being a burden on family and personal health. I am blessed to have a great work team and a strong family support in place to aid in handling the workload that the success has brought with it.