Around 300 delegates attended this consumer products conference and table-top exhibition. For the first time INDA used a 2-tier registration system with white badges for those paying for access to everything and lower cost yellow badges for exhibition and networking only. The ratio of the two was unpublished but in the exhibition about a third to a half of the attendees had yellow badges.
The five Visionary award finalists all had table-top displays and all presented their product during the conference. The winner was chosen by secret ballot held on the last evening and announced the following morning. About 150 votes were cast.
Paul Latten of Consolidated Fibers and INDA Chairman reviewed the last 10 years in nonwovens and provided some inspirational thoughts for the future:
- Since 1999, worldwide dollar sales of nonwovens had grown by 6.6% p.a., tonnage by 7.9% p.a. and area by 9.0% p.a. according to INDA. The figures for growth through 2014 were 8.1%, 7.9% and 9.3%.
- Spunmelt tonnage had grown fastest (10.4% p.a.) with Airlaid at 9.9%, Carded at 5.8% and Wetlaid at 4.9%. Airlaid would be the fastest growing sector to 2014 with 10.9% p.a.
- Wipes had been the fastest growing application in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific (11.2% p.a. since 1999), followed by other industrials and automotive (9-10% p.a.). Home furnishings had grown least (5.7% p.a.)
- Growth has been driven largely by the emerging market for lightweight hygiene nonwovens and the replacement of heavy weight spunbond machinery.
- Margins are now squeezed in the middle of the supply chain. Retailers and oil companies enjoy most profit.
- Turnkey production lines have replaced the unique machinery once used by the top companies. Spun-melt and spun-laced production methods are now standardized.
- Productivity growth through faster, wider machines has been key, but margins and return on capital have fallen.
- The drive for minimum basis weight and maximum strength continues.
- The workforce is graying: the industry is failing to attract young people.
- Innovation in raw materials and roll goods has declined as the R&D spend has been cut. “Swiffer” was the last big thing.
- Our industry is now mature, driven by productivity growth not new product growth.