Nonwovens Industry (NWI): Can you describe your key offerings in wipes?
Benoit-Jérome Tessler (BJT): We offer a full range of technical wipers, from tack wipers to dry wipes to presaturated wipes, and we also have wipes for cleanroom and wipes for pharmaceutical, which are sterile.
NWI: What’s new in your wipes business?
BJT: Right now Gekatex is really focusing on cleanroom offerings, which we are developing new products for. Our cleanroom offerings are developing well, mostly in Europe and a little bit in the U.S. The cleanroom market is significantly growing for us; growth is between the high single digits to double digits.
NWI: What unique benefits can you offer your customers?
BJT: What is special and what benefits our customers is we are developing wiping applications for critical applications and critical environments. Most of the time, the customers are coming to us when they have critical manufacturing or a maintenance process, so wherever they need wiping, they’re looking for on demand solutions. We’re offering expertise in developing the raw material, doing the appropriate converting of the raw material and also in providing the final solution for the application including specific folding and packaging to improve usage.
NWI: Has your company made any major changes to its converting operation in terms of new investments or new technologies?
BJT: We are investing between 5-8% of our turnover in R&D, which we split between investments on the development of new products and adding new industrial capabilities. In France, we are implementing new folding and cutting capabilities including web cleaner in line. In China, we have increased the size of our cleanroom capabilities to support swab for wiping.
NWI: What is one of the biggest challenges for your customers?
BJT: For the end user, what we see right now is that in some of their industrial applications they are really demanding to understand what they can achieve with a wipe. What are the standards? We are developing some testing standards to be able to tell the performance of the wipe according to specific applications. We have a lot of customers who right now are asking for certificates on what we are delivering to them—they’re not only buying the wipe, but they’re also buying a quality standard performance, which should be always the same. This is what we’re investing in and where we decided to make sure that the standard is put in place everywhere.
For example, last year one of the biggest automotive manufacturers decided to change the category of criticality of wipes to include them in the same category as equipment that remains in the car after manufacturing, such as nonwovens used for insulation. This implies a more demanding quality control process for wipe manufacturing and higher standardization.
We have customers in aircraft manufacturing, one of the two major ones in the world. They are targeting exactly the same applications with the same wipe, the same supplier in the U.S., Europe and China, and they must be consistent. For them the challenge is to be able to grow the production, and they want to make sure that the product is the same standard all over the world.
NWI: Is there room for innovation in nonwovens?
BJT: Yes for sure – there is room for innovation in developing new substrates. We’re working with four of the 10 biggest nonwovens manufacturers in the world to develop specific new substrate. There is innovation to achieve a better performance in the way you are using the wipe. There is also a lot of innovation in combining a nonwoven substrate with a chemical to have a pre-saturated wipe.
NWI: What’s next for your company?
BJT: Coming up next for our company is to successfully deploy our cleanroom Q+ by Gekatex offering in Europe and the U.S. We are also expecting to have to design solutions for a lot of wiping application challenges given by our clients.