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Cover Story | August 2016

Nonwovens Miles to go!

There is a huge untapped potential in nonwovens for the Indian industry. High cost, lack of entrepreurship and dearth of research are proving to be major hurdles on the path of growth for this emerging segment in technical textiles. Karthik Muthuveeran analyses and bares some details.

China is the leader today and will remain as top producing country in Asia, taking the lion’s share. India’s nonwoven production is growing at 13 per cent CAGR on volume basis as compared with China’s 12 per cent CAGR. Major demand drivers for nonwoven usage are Geotech, agrotech, mobiltech, indutech and hometech, said Anaveer B Telasang, Lead Consultant (Technical Textiles) with Gherzi Consulting Engineers Private Limited, India. The latest EDANA nonwovens production statistics reveal that exports of nonwovens from Turkey into the EU exceeded the EU imports going into the country for the first time in 2015. Statistics show that production in Greater Europe is currently very healthy, at just under 2.4 million tonnes in 2015, representing 24 per cent of global output, but the most impressive growth by far has been in Turkey.

“The size of Turkey’s production base has grown by 6.5 times over the past decade,” said Jacques Prigneaux, EDANA’s Market Analysis and Economic Affairs Director. “Output has climbed from less than 50,000 tonnes in 2005 to well over 350,000 tonnes in 2015. Turkey’s record double-digit growth in 2015 more than compensated for the slight declines recorded in some other European markets,” he added.

Turkey’s imports of nonwovens into the EU in 2015 were 54,800 tonnes, while in turn, the country imported 43,200 tonnes from the EU. Turkey’s exports of nonwoven-based absorbent hygiene products (AHPs) are also growing rapidly, although the destination of these products is markedly different to that of nonwoven roll goods, with Iraq being Turkey’s biggest customer, followed by a number of other Middle Eastern countries. Going forward, Africa, and the continent’s growing number of families able to afford single-use products, upgrade from reusable products for babies and women, or include ‘everyday luxuries’ in their shopping, is poised to become a huge market for AHPs.

India’s share

Nonwoven is an engineered fabric structure made directly from fibres, to provide specific function to ensure fitness for purpose. The term ‘nonwoven’ is often used as a generic description of a fabric that is not produced by process of weaving or knitting, more broadly, a fabric that is different from a traditional textile fabric. Like textile fabrics, nonwoven is a planar structure that is produced with varying degrees of integrity, surface texture, thickness, flexibility, and porosity that involves low cost and production process. In fact, the technologies used to make nonwoven fabrics are based on fundamental principles used to produce textiles, papers, and plastics.

In this regard, nonwovens are fabrics that are made by mechanically, chemically, or thermally interlocking layers or networks of fibres or filaments or yarns.

Nonwoven textiles are used for preparing fireproof clothing, shoe components, interlining for garments, surgical pads, medical clothing, diapers, tampons, etc. These are also used for preparing building & construction products. Avinash Mayekar of Suvin Advisors feels that there is a paradigm shift in thinking of Indian entrepreneurs in last five years. “They are more adaptive to new things & new technologies today. But, unfortunately our Textile Industry players have not realised the latest trends. They still continue to manufacture same age-old conventional textiles. They are hardly taking any efforts for innovations. Though Technical Textile is growing at CAGR of 20 per cent in India having huge growth potential, there is no much investment in this sector and the main reason is lack of awareness about the markets.”

Major nonwoven categories are needle-punched, spunlace and spunbond. Their consumption is growing rapidly because of their increasing industrial as well as household applications on a day-to-day basis. Global production of nonwovens is estimated to reach 9,03,2000 tonne at CAGR of 8 per cent by 2015. Asian countries has a major share of around 40 per cent in total nonwoven production. India’s share of needlepunched & spunlace technologies contributes to around 55.3 per cent of total nonwoven production compared to 34.7 per cent in Asia. Indian market for nonwovens is projected to reach 5,59,000 tonne at a CAGR of 13 per cent by 2015.

According to a report from Gherzi, the domestic production of nonwoven was estimated around 0.252 mn tonne in the year 2013, spun-bond technology has the major share with 54 per cent followed by needle-punch nonwoven with 34 per cent share. There are more than 20 major nonwoven manufacturers in India (excluding spunbond nonwoven manufacturers) cumulatively accounting for over 20% market share.

In spite of this mass-production approach, the nonwovens industry produces wide range of fabric properties from open wadding suitable for insulation containing only 2-3 per cent fibres by volume to stiff reinforcing fabrics where the fibre content may be over 80 per cent by volume. One of the major advantages of nonwoven manufacturing is that, it is generally done in one continuous process directly from the raw material to the finished fabric. When compared to other fabric manufacturing techniques non woven technique is found to the best in terms of production ratio, says Laga SK, Vignesh Dhanabalan and Daniel Karthik of D.K.T.E. Textile & Engineering Institute, Ichalkaranji, who is also the Centre of Excellence for nonwovens in India.

Pramod Chaudhary, Director of Pratibha Fabrics, says, “India is the second largest textile economy in the world after China, but its contribution in the nonwoven textiles market is negligible. The market for nonwovens in India is estimated to be worth Rs 6,000 crore, but the actual production of such textiles within the country is just around one per cent of this.”

“The nonwovens sector has recorded worldwide growth of 7 to 8 per cent in recent years. In Asia, the sector has grown by 10.7 per cent, while in Latin America, it has recorded a 8.5 per cent growth.

The sector has grown at 15 per cent in the Middle East,” Chaudhary informed.

According to Ankit Desai, Director, AUTOTECH Nonwovens, India’s nonwoven market is still in its infancy. Several application industry users are yet unaware or ignore the benefits of the usage of nonwovens, e.g. geotextiles. There are no global standards in place for geotextiles usage in India. As the industry and final users understand the benefits of nonwovens usage, we will see an uptick in consumption.

“Majority of the volume players are not final converters, which is a big drawback to exports for e.g. those who produce PP spunbond nonwovens, don’t invest in conversion of the finished product,” adds Desai. “One of the major bottlenecks for growth of India’s automotive industry is the lack of good roads. We have the world’s leading car manufacturers here offering the latest models, but we have nowhere to drive them! The current government is actively working to build new roads, but these projects take time.”

AUTOTECH Nonwovens is in process of setting up a complete brand new European line with peripheral machinery to provide products which are in line with global standards. This will help the Indian industry to localise high-quality nonwovens and stop being dependent on imports. We are primarily focused on automotive (face fabrics), filtration (bag-house) and coated substrates.

Arvind OG Nonwoven, during the recently-concluded Non Woven Tech Asia event in Mumbai, launched five new nonwoven brands, namely: Fiberlox, Duotech, Checkstatic, Glasstech and Mircofelt.

Mohan Kavrie, Chairman and Managing Director of the Group, said “Nonwovens is a highly capital-intensive industry. If somebody puts a needle-punching line from Germany, the machine alone will cost Rs 50 to Rs 60 crore. If the machine runs at 100 per cent capacity all the time, the yearly sale will not be even as much as the investment. So, is this for somebody with very big capital? And this business will not get huge profit just because a big amount was invested.

If you check all over the world, there are not over 100 companies which are as big as ours. But still we are small, considering our turnover of Rs 700 crore.”

He adds, “Technical textile industry is not about size, it is basically a technocrat-driven industry. It requires service and knowledge-driven. Involvement of the promoter is absolutely necessary for this industry. There is potential, but the usage is limited at present. Let us take geotextiles. If it succeeds, there is very good potential. For this, there can be a maximum of 10 good producers of geotextiles. So, what we need is only a few with knowledge to enter this business.”

Arvind OG Nonwovens (AOG), a joint venture between Arvind Ltd (India) and OG Corporation (Japan), announced the launch of five globally respected brands for bag house filtration in India at Non-Woven Tech Asia 2016 event in Mumbai. “The five brands—Fiberlox, Duotech, Checkstatic, Glasstech and Mircofelt—will make Arvind OG a player with largest portfolio of world class products manufactured in India for Bag House Filtration. The technology and processes required to manufacture these brands were an integral part of acquisition of Andrew Industries”, said a spokesperson from Arvind Limited.

AOG has installed custom-built machines specifically designed to achieve Japanese quality standards and capable of handling various fibres such as M-Aramid, homopolymer acrylic, poly-phenelyene sulfone (PPS), polyimide, polypropylene and polyester. These are manufactured to deliver highest global standards of quality.

Pankaj Kapoor, Managing Director, Park Non Woven Pvt Ltd, concludes, “We see a good future for technical textiles business in India. But we need more technical and skilled manpower and experts. We need to upgrade our systems to supply defence forces. In short, nonwoven fabrics have quietly revolutionised consumer, medical, and industrial market places throughout the world.

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