Hof/Saale, Germany
2013 Nonwovens Sales: $152 million  

Tenowo Mittweida GmbH
Mittweida, Germany  

Tenowo Reichenbach GmbH
Reichenbach, Germany  

Tenowo Inc.
Lincolnton, NC, USA  

Key Personnel
Harald Stini, managing director; Detlev Käppel, global sales director technical nonwovens; Lothar Hackler, president, Tenowo Inc. NC/USA  

Hof/Saale, Germany; Reichenbach, Germany; Mittweida, Germany; Lincolnton, NC, U.S.;

Drylaid, thermal bonded, needlepunched, saturate bonded, stitchbonded, spunlace  

Variopoint, Unipoint, Unisoft, Zetafelt, Zetastitch, Zetafil, Zetawatt, Zetaloft, Florbond, Zetabond, Zetajet, Zetatherm, Zetamold, Maliwatt, Malivlies, Kunit, Multiknit eswegee 2000 series, Bassopoint  

Major Markets
Acoustics, automotive, filtration, roofing, industrial, composites, interlinings

The big news from Tenowo, the German-based manufacturer of nonwovens for industrial and apparel-related applications, is an all-encompassing investment plan that will expand existing operations in Germany and the U.S. and add a new site near Shanghai, China to its global footprint. These investments, which are expected to come onstream in the next 12 to 18 months should start impacting sales levels in the next couple of years, according to company director Harald Stini.

“The investments won’t translate into growth immediately,” says Stini. “With technical applications, it takes 1 to 2 years to really trickle down.”

In 2013, the company’s sales were $152 million.

“This kind of investment project, which is in the range of €50 million ($67mn), is truly across the board for us,” Stini says.

One of the legs of the investment is a new spunlace line in Reichenbach, Germany where Tenowo currently operates one line, which has been sold out for some time. The new line, which began construction in April, will bring production from 45 million square meters to 100 million square meters. The new capacity will largely target customers in automotive and construction sectors and, to a lesser extent, filtration. The investment, which is on track to be completed in mid-2015, is estimated at €25 million ($36mn).

“We are pleased with the continued strong growth in demand for Tenowo products,” says Klaus Steger, chairman of the board. “In addition to expanding production, we will also be investing in our research and development activities, thus achieving further growth in new market segments.”

Tenowo first entered the spunlace market in 2006 and its first line has reportedly been operating at sold-out status for two years. Unlike most spunlace manufacturers, Tenowo has largely avoided the wipes market, instead choosing to focus on industrial markets.

Beyond the spunlace investment, the company has also announced it will expand production of its needlepunch operations in Hof, Germany and its stitchbonding output in Mittweida, Germany and add a new powder coating line in Lincolnton, NC, U.S.

“The U.S. investment will allow us to get better prepared for the automotives market where we want to launch new and improved products,” Stini says.

While the automotives market in the U.S. is clearly on its radar, Tenowo cannot ignore the potential of China, which already leads the world in car production, and is currently constructing a $15 million line at a new site in Huzhou, China, not far from Shanghai. The line, a combination of needlepunch and chemical bonding technology, was announced last year and is expected to start operations in June.

“We have already been doing business in China from Germany for years so we have a customer base but we are finding that more and more Chinese automotive makers are looking for local producers or at least locally made products.”

Looking at Tenowo’s existing businesses, in 2013, sales remained flat amidst high demand in the automotive arena countered by pricing pressure at both the OEM and Tier 1. Within automotives, Tenowo’s lightweight needlepunch nonwovens as well as its highloft nonwovens, sold under the brand Zetaloft, have contributed to successes. In addition to automotives, the company has been targeting niche applications in filtration and construction.

“Sales have only increased marginally for us because of limited capacity,” Stini says. “As new lines come onstream, we expect it will take 1 to 2 years for things to trickle down and start boosting sales. In technical applications, it can take a little longer for investments to make an impact.”

Meanwhile, the other side of Tenowo’s business, apparel, has decreased in scope in recent years due to competition from China and now represents about 10% of total sales. Here, Tenowo’s strengths are its speed to market and its ability to offer specialty materials. “The story has not changed here,” Stini says. “We still have the business and we take care of it but it’s not a strategic growth area. It just helps us fill our lines.”