“The rag people really brag about the reusability factor of their products, but in many markets—especially food service—there is a really high cost of reusability,” says Vish Mazumder, product manager workplace at Suominen. “The cost of failure when a rag fails can cause more harm and more expenses and that is what people should be worrying about.”
For Suominen, the industrial wipes category has emerged as an important market where the company has been able to innovate and show its customers how to use their products to make their jobs easier.
“Our overall strategy, one of our main goals, is to make our customers lives better. We all go to work Monday to Friday globally so how we keep our workplaces healthy and clean is a big part of that,” says Mazumder. “We have found that this category is ripe for innovation and our technology base is one of the most diverse in the industry. We are very qualified to achieve this.”
According to research company Smithers Pira, the general purpose industrial wipes category is the largest single sub-segment of the industrial wipes market. These wipes compete with both cheaper paper wipes and reusable textiles (rags or scraps). The segment generated about $3 billion in sales and consumed about 302,000 tons of nonwovens in 2016. By 2021, this is set to increase to a little over $4 billion in sales and 427,600 tons of consumed nonwovens. This growth will come as some of the industrial markets, like automotive and construction, continue to rebound and manufacturers have to service pent up demand from the global recession. Additionally, even in regions with slower than expected economic growth, government stimuli typically target these industries.
According to research group, Kline & Company, the industrial and institutional cleaning wipes market continues to grow, and presents opportunities for companies to tap into this budding segment. All major end-use segments are expected to increase consumption of wipes, which reflects the need for superior cleaning products and to maintain clean and healthy facilities.
The ease of use and convenience that wipes offer will contribute to future growth across all end-use segments, and largely for general-purpose wipes. End-use segments such as health care facilities, foodservice, K-12 schools and colleges and universities will continue to emphasize the importance of clean surfaces and hands to minimize germs and illness at their facilities. Wipes are expected to play a key role in this goal.
Suppliers may target a specific product class or have broader market capabilities. Some manufacturers will seek to gain market share by offering products specific to various end-users, although small and marginal players hope to gain significant share of the wipes market. Acquisitions and mergers could influence the market dynamics and category sales.
Warehouse clubs are significant channel intermediaries, undercutting distributors’ pricing on many products, but still selling primarily to smaller customers. The channel will not transform channel dynamics, but might alter the platforms of delivery, credit, and service. Industrial facilities, small businesses, retail outlets, and recreational facilities tend to buy wipes more often from warehouse clubs than any other distribution channel. Some of these facilities would likely replace industrial cleaning wipes for consumer brand wipes, which would not only serve their immediate cleaning needs, but also cost less.
Other than products being effective and efficient, safety is a preoccupying concern to end users for their own staff, as well as for their guests and visitors. Suppliers can help customers to address the onerous cost of liability insurance. Environmental awareness remains a theme in the industry, along with the marketing of environmental lines. Many end users want green products, but at a cost-neutral price. The sustainability and feasibility of the disposal of wastes are also of concern.
Manufacturers Step Up
Suominen is targeting this category with products like Genesis Pro, a high performance nonwoven for workplace wipes. The development of Genesis Pro leverages Suominen’s wetlaid heritage and builds on the company’s new investments in wetlaid production technology like its new line in Bethune, SC. Billed as the strongest professional wipes material on the market, both wet and dry, Genesis Pro All Purpose has the highest thickness, unbeatable absorption capacity and also the fastest absorption and its lighter weights outperform its heavier competitors in key performance areas.
“We developed Genesis Pro from something we know well. It is our wetlaid wipe product reinterpreted for professional use,” Mazumder says. “What we are delivering for our customers is everything we can expect from a dry wipe at a much better value.”
Genesis Prois available in a range of basis weights. Even in its lightest form, i is extremely strong, which thanks to its absorbency speed, is perfect for mopping up spills, cleaning surfaces and keeping work spaces hazard-free. For the toughest tasks, Genesis Pro AP8000 offers protection for the end-user when dealing with metal shavings, as well as oil, grease and cleaning solvents. It is the thickest nonwoven material for professional wipes, even when wet, making it a superior replacement for shop towels and rags.
Expansion into industrial wipes has not been without its challenges, explains Mazumder. “In consumer products, you can do test markets and focus groups to get a consumer to try a product. If they are encouraged to try it and they like it, they will buy it again. In industrial, it’s a lot of effort to get people to try these products. Everyone is comfortable with what they use and it is difficult to get people out of their comfort zones. It’s not just communicating to one person, it’s multiple levels. However, we have spent a lot of time innovating with our customers and how to use their products and we are getting very positive responses.”
Suominen hopes that its most recent launch, Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens will play an important role in the industrial wipes market moving forward. Described as a concrete step in its Changemaker strategy, this concept makes it possible to embed digital features into Suominen nonwovens.
For example, with Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens product traceability and product safety can be taken to a new level. It also provides brands with a new kind of sophisticated marketing tool. These are only some examples of opportunities the concept offers.
The concept stems from Suominen’s research and development projects that have already led to the launch of High Definition Design Series, a revolutionary pattern selection for nonwovens. Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens concept adds a unique technical capability into the mix and combines artificial intelligence with extremely high definition patterning. With Suominen Intelligent Nonwovens, all kinds of digital features can be embedded into the substrate without deteriorating other functionalities or aesthetic appearance of nonwovens.
When asked about concrete end-use examples, Markku Koivisto, chief technology officer of Suominen, explains: “For instance, if a consumer wants to know the origin of the raw materials of the wipe he just purchased, he could retrieve the data by just scanning the wipe with his smartphone. If a wet wipes manufacturer notices a flaw in a wipe and wants to track the origin of the nonwoven, that could be done again quickly with a smartphone. It is up to us and our customers to imagine what can be achieved with this technology. It can be applied to virtually any application.”
Kimberly-Clark Professional has assessed the benefits of disposable wipers compared to reusable rags and towels. Because rags and towels sometimes leave behind lint, dirt and debits, using them can compromise a manufacturing process and those contaminants can potentially get in the product being manufactured, resulting in rework.
Rags used to wipe down industrial equipment can often contain debris like metal shavings and pins. Rags are also often inconsistent in size, shape and material and occupy more storage space than disposable wipes. Meanwhile, laundered shop towels can retain lead, are not engineered for specific applications and contribute to landfill waste.
Disposable options, like K-C’s WypAll can increase efficiency. They are absorbent enough to make the task of cleaning a piece of equipment or a surface quick, reducing stoppage times.
WypAll X80 Extended Use Cloths feature innovations like high-tech HydroKnit fast-absorbing material and are durable for scrubbing. These contaminant-free commercial cloths are a favorite replacement for industrial cloth towels, which can harbor dangerous chemicals, such as lead (In a Gradient study, 100% of the sampled laundered shop towels tested, lead was detected at levels that may exceed health based exposure guidelines.).
WypAll X80 are made of soft pulp fibers, bonded to a polypropylene base sheet for absorbency and durability, making them suitable for removing dirt, oil, grime and solvents in industrial and manufacturing businesses. The reusable cloths are reinforced for strength when wet and dry. These bulk cloths are a great alternative – safer and more efficient – to replace laundered rental shop towels or and cleaning towels. They can be used for heavy duty machine- and part-wiping, wiping metal shavings, prepping surfaces with solvents and cleaning rough surfaces.
The products feature K-C’s proprietary HydroKnit technology, which is fast absorbing to wick away moisture. The durable wipes absorb more water and oil than textile shop rags and stay strong for superior performance and the disposable cloths clean oil, dirt, grime and solvents, while remaining resistant to harsh cleaning agents. These wipes are fresh and clean every time and are a safer alternative to laundered rental shop towels or cloth rags (which can harbor dangerous chemicals like lead, even after washing).
Kimberly-Clark Professional has been fine-tuning its WypAll line of wipers. The newly renovated WypAll X60 wiper line is designed to have better absorbency with enhanced efficiency when cleaning oil from grooves and crevices.
According to Amit Rosenberg, associate marketing director, Safety and Industrial Channel, North America, Kimberly-Clark Professional, the new X60 offers a clean and consistent wiper every time, absorbs water two times more and two times faster than rags and leaves nine times less lint than rags. “Nonwoven wipers can deliver an engineered product that delivers the clean required with the least amount of material required,” Rosenberg says.
As Kimberly-Clark Professional continues to boost its R&D work, it also continues to find new applications for its wipers. An example of this, he cites, is for premium applications such as in printing and food processing applications, where its WypAll X90 offers high durability, low lint and 99% solvent release properties, which wouldn’t be required in more general wiping applications.
K-C Professional isn’t just seeing growth in the disposable wiping industry, but it’s also seeing the demand for textiles such as rags and shop towels declining, as companies strive for safe, efficient wiping solutions, while also trying to get out from under burdensome laundered towel shop contacts, Rosenberg says. “The emphasis to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S. as well as the need to have a trusted wiping tool for every task will continue to drive growth in the market and challenge manufacturers, like Kimberly-Clark, to continue to innovate for the future,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Berry Global continues to invest it its proprietary Spinlace technology for the global wipes market. In June, the company said it would add 17,000 metric tons of capacity in Mooresville, NC, to meet demand in a range of markets including food service and industrial wipes.
“Unique in the market, this technology provides strength, bulk, a high degree of design flexibility and three-dimensional imaging capabilities for texture and branding,” says Scott Tracey, president of Berry’s Health, Hygiene and Specialties division.
Meanwhile, Jacob Holm’s Sontara wipe brand continues to offer a breadth technology to the global wipes market, especially in a number of high performance industrial-related markets. Jacob Holm acquired the technology from DuPont in 2014. Since then, the technology has helped the company commercialize several new product platforms and the company has hinted it plans to launch a some interesting and diverse new products in markets like automotives and high performance materials in the coming years.
And, Jacob Holm has invested $2 million in its Sontara site in Asturias, Spain. The upgrade will allow the company to pursue increasingly broad technological growth by providing advanced capabilities. The advancement will provide customers with access to a significantly expanded range of customization options.
Meanwhile, the growth for Freudenberg Performance Materials’ Evolon microfilament industrial wipe substrates is driven by the specialty market, for example, highly technical niches in which they can provide the “rare bird” fitting the most specific customer needs in high-performance cleaning and wiping.
Evolon industrial wipes are being used in the automotive and aerospace industries, and in recent months, the substrate has found success in printer head cleaning thanks to Evolon’s exceptional lint-free behavior, mechanical stability, and ability to deliver constant and stable substrate impregnation, according to the company.
Available in a wide range of weights, along with an endless array of unique-looking three-dimensional textures, designs, color-coding and prints, the high flexibility of Evolon industrial wipe substrates has allowed Freudenberg to continue strengthening its positions in high-performance industrial wipes with unique, custom-made products meeting the specific demands of its customers, the company says.
In late 2018, Freudenberg introduced a new generation of Evolon, its continuous filament technology first developed nearly two decades ago. The high-tech textile is made from super-microfilaments that are half the thickness and twice the density of those used in the original Evolon substrates. The new product opens up entirely new applications for the technology.
Evolon New Generation features a perfect balance of breathability, permeability to water vapor and thermal insulation, allowing it to provide the best combination of thermo-physiological properties for unparalleled comfort. The new textile is twice as dense as the original version, significantly increasing its filtration performance.
“We are only beginning to explore the possibilities of Evolon New Generation,” says business segment manager Jean-Francois Kerhault. “We have already identified applications that, up to now, were way beyond the scope of our original microfilament technology. For example, bedding filled with down and feathers, high-end bed linen and packaging for ultra-sensitive parts. Other opportunities should be receiving approval within the next months. In fact, the technical possibilities are enormous.”