Interview with Rory Holmes

Rory Holmes
Rory Holmes
TT: How do you foresee the outlook of Converting Industry worldwide in 2011- 2012? Kindly highlight some of the recent technology developments in this sector.

The converting portion of our industry is following the roll goods production sector and is doing very well. During the Great Recession, certain segments of the Nonwovens Industry held volume and some prospered. Baby Diapers are tied to birth rates, feminine hygiene is tied to the number of women that need and use these products and consumer wipes enjoyed some growth during the recession. All of these products require converting equipment to produce the products. Speeds have increased and Converters are doing well. There is growth in the Converting sector around the world. Asia and South America are both strong growth areas. North America had good growth and segmentation and new product offering continue to advance this volume.

TT: What markets are you currently exploring for promoting investment in Nonwovens sector?

There have been several announcements regarding increased capacity and new machines. Most of these announcements are for Spunbond or SMS machines that will likely bring their productive capacity in Hygiene. The Spunlace machines will likely support Consumer Wiping Products and/or Medical.

TT: As per the recent statistical report by INDA, India has witnessed a phenomenal growth of over 350% in last five years. What are the major bottlenecks in India's growing market compared to that of developed markets?

India has many business supports in place to take advantage of significant growth opportunities in the nonwoven fabrics industry. Many of the products used in India are made from nonwoven fabrics but a lot of these are imported from other countries. Given the high import duties levied on these fabrics and products, India will have a significant price advantage with products manufactured within its borders. That said, I find doing business in India to be time consuming and I never seem to be talking to the appropriate person. I have had difficulty getting payments for services rendered. These types of business activities need to be streamlined to make India more business friendly.

TT: With cotton becoming dearer, what are the alternates available with the wipes / hygiene industry? How is the North American wipes industry dealing with this situation?

All of the raw materials for the Nonwoven Industry have recently soared in price and some are not available at any price. This situation has squeezed most of our manufacturers, even the ones that have escalation clauses in their supply agreements. Cotton is priced higher than I have ever seen in my career. Typically, manufacturers replace percentages of cotton with polyester when the price rises. This switch causes the price of polyester to rise, too. This has happened but I also hear that the feedstock for polyester may become in short supply as well. Rayon is another alternative for cotton but the price of viscose has gone up as well-fortunately the price increase has not been as dramatic as that for cotton and polyester. Polypropylene pricing has risen dramatically as well but I hear that the fundamental cause is that the refineries are cracking ethylene, not propylene. Natural gas is another source for propylene for our resins.] Our wipes industry is receiving orders for products and where possible passing higher prices along to their converters. All of this means that we, the consumers, will pay higher prices for virtually everything we buy. Inflation is on its way.

TT: Mergers and Acquisitions seems to be the current trend worldwide. What is your view on technology transfer from developed economies to developing economies?

All of our manufacturers have their own secrets of how they make fabrics. This know-how allows our industry in the West to operate at high efficiencies and produce first quality products. The emerging markets could use this know-how to their advantage through mergers and acquisitions. Most manufacturers are not going to give this Intellectual Property away for nothing and they will want a return on their investment. Finding the proper partner can be difficult but the rewards can be significant.

TT: In last few years, there is a significant investment in wipes and hygiene products in India. How do you see the patter of growth vis a vis that of North America and China?

India is where China was 20 years ago. I believe that India can grow similarly to China’s exponential growth in the past. As I said before, India needs to streamline their business practices to make this growth possible. Improvements in retail distribution will help a lot. North America is a developed economy where new product launches happen all the time. Other than the large middle class population in India, I see North America and India as very different markets.

TT: Would like to wish you all the best for the upcoming World of Wipes in June at Atlanta. Any specific agenda / theme that you would like to make our visitors keep updated on?

World of Wipes targets the Consumer and Industrial Wiping markets, exactly. We have recruited attendees to WOW that INDA had never seen before. The program has been set and I look forward to another event that will pass on new and useful information with an outcome of actionable ideas. We will cover the markets for wipes around the world and also have a panel discussion on raw materials. We have an extensive list of WOW Award nominees from which our Technical Advisory Board will select the finalists. New this year is a Speed Networking Luncheon with limited seating—so sign up early. We have installed a Social Networking scheme to allow attendees to converse and coordinate meetings ahead of time. AND, Deanna Lovell and Johnnie Jean Dickens will host our first ever poker nights at the INDA Hospitality Suite.

Published on: 20/04/2011

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of