German Nonwovens And Technical Textiles Machinery
Part One of a series of country reports about nonwovens and technical textiles machinery suppliers
Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor
TW prepared a questionnaire, which the VDMA sent out to every member company. More than 20 companies replied, and all operate on a global scale with their own people, supported by local service offices staffed by local people who speak the language. A summary of the participating companies can be found here.
For at least a decade, nonwovens and industrial fabric applications, the so-called technical textiles, have enjoyed double-digit growth every year. The overwhelming success of these products is due not only to the constant development of improved raw material, but first of all, to the success story of the ever-so-sophisticated machinery.
Nonwovens are not an invention of today, nor are technical textiles. Even the ancient Egyptians knew how to reinforce soil, and felts have been known for thousands of years. However, with the invention of man-made fibers, the end-uses for these materials have grown over recent decades. The first true marketable nonwovens for industrial end-uses appeared in the early 1970s. They were rigid and heavy, and had a coating that was more plastic than anything else. As anyone who has followed TW 's current series of nonwovens articles knows, these early nonwovens are part of the past.
Sophisticated machinery has brought products to market that were unthinkable 10 years ago. In this context, German machinery manufacturers have played a prominent role. Most of them are members of the VDMA Textile Machinery Association. The VDMA, a private non-profit organization located in Frankfurt, has more than 3,000 members, and is divided into 39 specific branch associations. The textile machinery manufacturers branch represents approximately 95 percent of Germany's total production volume in this sector.
The VDMA's roots go back to 1890 and the founding of the Verein Rheinisch-Westfälischer Maschinenbauanstalt. Until 1945, the registered office of the association of textile machinery manufacturers was in Saxony, which at the time was the center of textile machinery manufacturing. Then it merged in Frankfurt with other machinery manufacturing groups within the VDMA. Some 120 members are grouped in the textile machinery sector.
In an exclusive interview, Fritz P. Mayer, chairman of the VDMA Textile Machinery Association, and managing partner of Karl Mayer Textilmaschinenfabrik GmbH, replied to TW 's questions about the association and the technical textiles/nonwovens sector.
Fritz P. Mayer, chairman of the VDMA Textile Machinery Association
The VDMA's Targets
The largest portion of member companies comprises medium-sized businesses. The main target is to represent the interests of these companies to a variety of entities such as governments, national and international authorities, exhibition corporations, organizations, research institutes and service providers.
TW : What are the association's achievements?
Mayer: For a single company, it is hard to assert oneself to all the mentioned groups. But with joined forces within the VDMA network, the member companies have a powerful voice. In view of exhibitions, for instance, the VDMA Textile Machinery Association is a strong negotiating partner whose substantial arguments count for the trade fair companies around the world.
TW : What advantages do association members enjoy?
Mayer: The benefits for member companies are networking, services and, as mentioned before, the representation of interests. Networking is an important aspect. Besides their decision-making function, the different committees of the association - namely the Executive Board and the Fair and Marketing Committee as well as the Technical Advisory Board - are exclusive panels for the exchange of experiences. In addition, the association offers member companies numerous events concerning different topics. The service portfolio for member companies ranges from statistics, observation of significant markets and reporting on the situation in the textile industries throughout the world, and active support regarding political decisions relating to exhibitions, to a regular newsletter and public relations. The VDMA road shows and symposia in key markets are highly appreciated by the members. These events are platforms for getting in contact with decision-makers of textile manufacturers in the respective countries. Furthermore, the association is active in promoting junior engineers for the benefit of all member companies.
Technical Textiles And Nonwovens Group
TW : Is there a separate technical textiles and nonwovens group within the VDMA, and if so, when was it instated?
Mayer: Technical aspects of these topics are subject to the work of the Technical Advisory Board of the VDMA Textile Machinery Association. The Fair and Marketing Committee also deals with these issues, of course, from another perspective. Since 1999, nonwovens and technical textiles have regularly been topics of activities - for instance, nonwovens machinery symposia and networking meetings especially dedicated to these technologies.
Nearly all member companies of the association have, among other products, machinery and/or components for the production of technical textiles in their portfolios. Some of them are doing a substantial part of their sales with these technologies. For others, the contribution of this machinery to overall sales is small at the moment, but for them, the objective is clear to increase this share. Other members are completely focused on the nonwovens machinery sector.
TW : What are the activities of the sector group? How are these activities organized, and what advantages does the group offer its members?
Mayer: Sales support is an important activity. The association supports the member companies by publishing buyer's guides, one of them dedicated to nonwovens machinery. Information about the portfolio of the members in this field is offered via Internet reports and press articles as well as by organized symposia. Furthermore, members have the opportunity to exchange their experiences in the nonwovens and technical textiles markets during association meetings and events. Members are provided with market information by the association.
TW : What advantages does the group offer the market?
Mayer: Well, the member companies active in the nonwoven and technical textiles sector are focused on offering customers modern machines and best technologies for the production of textiles for new applications. This is realized by offering tailor-made solutions.
TW : What advice do you have for an interested party or producer of this sector's products for making contact with your members?
Mayer: A good information source is the association's Internet sourcing service, which enables an easy search for both products and companies: www.vdma.org/textile/ sourcingservice. In addition, it is worthwhile to check the website for special reports on machinery for technical textiles. Interested parties are also welcome to order the new nonwovens machinery buyer's guide edition listing products and suppliers.
TW : How do you see the current market situation?
Mayer: What the German textile machinery sector experienced in 2008 was by far the strongest slump since World War II. In the period from January to November 2008, altogether 45-percent fewer orders have been registered than in the respective period of 2007. In 2008, the incoming orders were nearly halved. Overall exports declined by 22 percent. A look at the five biggest markets in 2007 - namely China, Turkey, India, Italy and the USA - and their development in 2008 underlines how missing orders affect production and delivery: The exports to China decreased by 22 percent between January and November 2008 compared to the respective period in 2007. With a fall in exports of 62 percent, the Turkish market nearly collapsed. The deliveries to India witnessed a downturn of 30 percent; and those to Italy, a downturn of 23 percent. With a 29-percent rise in exports, the US market performed well in 2008, especially related to increased investments in nonwovens technologies. The nonwovens and technical textiles machinery business generally performed better than other sectors. In 2008, the nonwovens machinery business reached approximately the same level as in 2007.
TW : Do members have some problems with the market situation?
Mayer: Yes, of course. Numerous member companies had to take drastic measures in the last months, such as short-time work and even staff reductions.
TW : Looking into the crystal ball, how do you view the coming years?
Mayer: This is a very difficult question. The uncertainties in the finance markets and in the whole global economy impede a well-founded prognosis at the moment.
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