n view of the ongoing success of the nonwovens/technical textiles sectors and the
upcoming Techtextil exhibition taking place in Frankfurt June 16-18,
is publishing country reports, with the support of the national machinery associations, about
suppliers of machinery for nonwovens and technical textiles. The aim is to show the products of the
most important producing countries. The series begins with a report on Germany, compiled with the
kind help of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) Textile Machinery Association.
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
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
‘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
‘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.
: 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
: 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
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.