The Road to ANEX 2018 Series 4: Asahi Kasei Expanding Scale Using Uniqueness as a Weapon

The plant for Bemliese cupro continuous filament nonwovens continues to operate at full capacity as face mask applications expand in China, etc.

On April 1st, Asahi Kasei Corp. will divide its nonwovens business division into the spunbond business division centering on spunbonded nonwovens produced in Japan and Thailand, and nonwovens business division composed of Bemliese cupro continuous filament nonwovens, Lamous artificial suede, Eutec oil-water separators.

This structural reform can be said to manifest that its nonwovens business has expanded in scale. According to Nonwovens Industry, among the world’s top fifty nonwovens makers in 2016, Asahi Kasei ranked twenty-second. Its sales were estimated to be about US$202 million; this is only the sales of fabrics, and the scale of its nonwoven business is said to be even greater.

Asahi Kasei has made investments to expand its business operations, such as adding a second plant at Asahi Kasei Spunbond (Thailand) Co., Ltd. (AKST), its subsidiary polypropylene spunbond plant in Thailand in February 2016, and a sixth Bemliese plant in June 2017, and production is increasing even just for fabrics. In the first half of fiscal 2019, a third Lamous plant is also to be launched, but its expansion does not stop there. Expansion investments will be made one after another, including a third plant at AKST, a seventh Bemliese plant and overseas production of Lamous. Furthermore, the company will consider a scrap-and-build project for its spunbond plant in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, for which more than forty years have passed since commercialization.

Amid the expansion of business scale, Asahi Kasei intends to improve its maneuverability by dividing the organization into two. And this can be said to be its structural reform in April.

The company’s nonwovens business is characterized by its “uniqueness”. Asahi Kasei is the only producer in Japan manufacturing spunbonded materials from the three materials of polypropylene, polyester and nylon. Bemliese is the world’s only cellulosic continuous filament nonwoven fabric. Lamous is a special type in which ultrafine polyester shortcut microfibers are formed into a sheet by papermaking methods and then entangled with polyester scrim into a three-layer structure. In addition, the Tyvek flash-spun nonwoven fabrics from DuPont-Asahi Flash Spun Products Co., Ltd., a joint marketing company with DuPont, is also a one-and-only product.

Even for its polypropylene spunbondeds for disposable diapers, of which the scale is the largest, the company is different from others in the world of polypropylene spunbondeds where composite nonwovens such as meltblown and spunbonded nonwovens account for a large share with fine and hydrophilic types occupying the mainstay. Even for polyester spunbondeds of relatively high fabric weight, the company’s forte is producing low weight items.

ANEX 2018 will be the first exhibition in which Asahi Kasei will be participating under a new organization. Visitors will be able to see its whole line of nonwovens, which continue to evolve together with the expansion of scale.