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Carpet Talk

Interviews with Rieter representatives give insight into carpet yarn and tufted carpet markets - both domestically and around the world.

TW Special Report

J ean-Paul Clay, carpet yarns process leader at Rieter Filament Yarn Technologies - the man-made filament yarn machinery and systems unit of Switzerland-based Rieter Textile Systems; and Chuck Crow, sales manager, technical yarns, at Greensboro, N.C.-based Rieter Greensboro - Rieter's US subsidiary - recently shared their thoughts on the future of carpet yarn and tufted carpet markets, respectively, in the United States and abroad.

This polypropylene yarn with a soft touch was made on machinery from Rieter Filament Yarn Technologies.

Market Outlook: Carpet Yarn
TW : What is your estimate of world production of bulk continuous filament (BCF) yarn in 2003?
Clay: It is fairly difficult to have an accurate idea of world production. The polypropylene (PP) converting industry is much less structured than other sectors, as it serves a myriad of small companies. From my own personal analysis and the figures from our marketing department, I estimate world production to be around 2.11 million tonnes.

TW : Did these figures change last year?
Clay: Relatively little. We estimate the increase in capacity to be around 2 percent. The current situation is, of course, very difficult because of raw material prices. The price of oil has to fall to $35 a barrel for us to return to a balanced position.

TW : Do installed capacities correspond  to the market's real demand?
Clay: Unfortunately, no. From our analysis, the installed capacities are much higher than the consumption of BCF yarn today. I estimate there is 20 to 25 percent more than the market demands. This surplus of capacities is mainly found in polyamide (PA) 6,6 and 6 raw white goods. With respect to PP, it is, above all, plants dating before 1995 that no longer match current quality criteria. The installed capacities were divided as follows in 2003:
•    53 percent in the United States and Canada;
•    27 percent in Europe and Turkey;
•    12 percent in the Middle East and Asia; and
•    8 percent in the rest of the world.
Jean-Paul Clay, carpet yarns process
leader, Rieter Filament Yarn Technologies

TW : And for 2004?
Clay: For 2004, we have identified large investments in Turkey, in the Middle East, and to a lesser extent in China and the United States.

In the United States, plant utilization has returned to a normal level, and there was a steady demand for PA BCF yarn. 2004 was also a record year for the two leading carpet manufacturers.

TW : Have the market shares for the different types of BCF moved?
Clay: PP BCF has won market shares over PA, due to the investments made in spinning on the world market. Our analysis gives us a new distribution for the different fibers in 2004:
•    52 percent PP BCF;
•    25 percent PA 6 BCF;
•    22 percent PA 6,6 BCF; and
•    1 percent polyester (PES) BCF.

TW : What is the trend for 2005?
Clay: This is not an easy question because a lot of parameters have to be taken into account: high market volatility; high cost of raw materials connected to the current price of oil; the position of the Chinese market; numerous consolidations in the United States and rumors of consolidations in Europe; and the effects of fashion on the structural composition of the carpets ... nevertheless, we forecast:
•    PA 6 will see new investments - particularly in solution-dyed - and increase to 27 percent of market share.
•    PA 6,6 will suffer from this growth to stabilize at around 20 percent.
•    PP will conserve its market share at around 52 percent.
•    We should finally see an increase in capacity of 3 percent for all BCF yarn.

TW : And for spun yarn?
Clay: We think that, apart from the wool spinning in Australia/New Zealand and man-made spun yarn, which is attempting to maintain its position in the United States, the reduction in the world tonnage of spun yarns will nevertheless be confirmed. Certain PP/wool mix yarns will no doubt fare better than others, but this will not be easy.

TW : What are your views on the twisting and heat-set market?
Clay: We are finding that there have been few innovations in recent years in PA BCF. Manufacturers have introduced antimite fibers to combat their losses of market share, but this changes nothing in the twisting process.

In Europe, we are very clearly seeing stability in the average yarn count, which is close to 1,100 decitex (dtex). Conversely, in the United States, for example, the trend is towards a slight reduction in the average count. We estimate that the average count for 80 percent of nylon yarns will be 1,200 to 1,250 dtex.

In spinning, however, we are seeing an increase in the number of filaments, a reduction in the amount of spin-finish, an increase in the twist, and a change in the heat-set process with straight yarn being replaced by frisé.

The PP BCF market is divided into two large areas. PP BCF yarn for woven carpets ... is a very active market, especially in Belgium, Turkey, Iran and the Gulf countries. The average count is still 2,100 dtex with 124 filaments.

At the beginning of the year, we thought that the trend would be towards finer counts, from 900 to 1,250 dtex. We presented 900 dtex PP BCF yarn with 182 filaments, which imitated wool and silk, at Domotex 2004.

In 2005, the trend is towards heavier yarn counts with finer filaments (between 5 and 8 dtex), which, due to their fineness, gives the yarn a softer touch. We shall see carpets with yarn from 3,200 to 4,200 dtex from a single yarn to reduce overall costs.

TW : Is this going to cause twisting problems?
Clay: Not at all. Thanks to our range of equipment, we can use our DT 10 model with a 500-millimeter gauge to run these yarns with a free balloon at high industrial speeds. One of the main advantages of our machines over the competition lies in the variety of spindle equipment that we can offer.

TW : Is there anything you'd like to add about woven carpets?
Clay: [O]ne must not forget the developments in heat setting - which principally concern frisé by using new technology to produce this type of yarn, which no longer adversely affects production speeds.

TW : And for tufted carpets?
Clay: The changes in this market are much more conservative. The average count remains 1,600 dtex/1/2. Conversely, we are seeing, as for woven carpets, demands for yarn with more filaments, a higher twist and increasingly frequent use of the frisé system.

TW : Are you currently satisfied with developments in the market, and the demand for twisting and heat setting?
Clay: It is, of course, pleasing to see that after 30 years of explanations and demonstrations to persuade people that twisting followed by heat setting was the future, our efforts have been crowned with success. I have always been convinced that in order to persuade people to buy carpets, they must be offered quality products. Up until now, only a combination of the two processes gives total satisfaction.

TW : Are you optimistic about this market's future?
Clay: Absolutely. The manufacturers who choose quality and creativity will always be there. They, of course, can count on us to help them in researching new products. Rieter will make all its skills and resources available to customers.

This carpet yarn plant in Georgia is equipped with Rieter machinery.

Market Outlook:
Tufted Carpet In The United States

Rieter estimates 90 percent of wall-to-wall carpets are tufted (1,250 million square meters) and 10 percent are woven. According to the company, the US market represents 54 percent of the world market as far as production is concerned. It is by far the number-one market for PA BCF (654,000 tonnes per year) and for PP BCF (495,000 tonnes per year). This is mainly heat-set yarn. Approximately 600 Rieter DT or CD machines of different types produce BCF yarn.

To support its customers, which include the five world leaders in terms of production and net sales, Rieter has developed a team dedicated to this market.

TW : Have you seen the creation of very large groups in the carpet business during the last few years? Do you believe this will continue?
Crow: For the last 10 to 15 years, there has been consolidation through mergers and acquisitions. This consolidation will probably continue; however, the impact on the industry will not be as dramatic. Two companies now dominate the carpet industry in the United States, with a large gap to the next tier of companies. Any future acquisitions will probably not have major impact on market positions of companies.

TW : Can you explain exactly what Rieter customers are expecting from your teams?
Crow: Rieter Greensboro is in fact  a complete platform. We are equipped from the standpoint of spare parts inventory and technical assistance, should it be required.

TW : Do Rieter cabling and twisting machines meet the needs of your customers?
Crow: Rieter cabling machinery has [demonstrated] and continues to demonstrate its ability to be the most flexible equipment in the marketplace. This flexibility is apparent in its ability to process efficiently the entire range of products that are used in the North American market. This efficiency is from the standpoint of production speed, quality and ends down.

Chuck Crow, sales manager, technical yarns, Rieter Greensboro

TW : How do you see the US market developing?
Crow: The dynamic growth of the industry in the 1970s and 1980s is probably a thing of the past. The industry will continue to grow, but just not at the same rate. Styling will impact machinery utilization and requirements, for example - today, BCF deniers are finer and twist levels are higher. Companies in the North American market will be pressed to be more aggressive to obtain and maintain market shares.

TW : Do you think BCF PES and polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) will succeed in the US market?
Crow: Both PES and PTT are products that are gaining in the US market. PES is predominantly a staple product today, but, more and more, a BCF version is being investigated. PTT, as well, is of major interest. The cost of the raw materials for these products will drive the market in this direction. Vertically integrated carpet companies will move to these new products as they become more proficient in their ability to extrude them.

TW : Why does the US market seem to use more PES and PTT than other markets around the world?
Crow: These fibers are attractive due to the cost of the raw material. The fact that carpets are changed more frequently in the United States than in other markets makes it a cost and selling price-driven situation.

TW : What are their applications?
Crow: These fibers are used in residential markets with high pile density to overcome some of the lack of performance properties. These fibers are not being used in high-traffic commercial installations.

June 2005