Unitika Ltd. boasts one of Asia’s largest capacities for producing polyester spunbonded fabrics with its Okazaki Plant located in Aichi Prefecture, Japan and its Thai subsidiary, Thai Unitika Spunbond Co., Ltd. (TUSCO)
TUSCO commissioned its third production line in April 2017, and has begun gradually raising its operation rate. In Japan, Unitika also manufactures and sells cotton spunlaced fabrics. Tetsuya Yoshimura, Executive Officer and General Manager of the Nonwovens Division at Unitika, says, “We will continue to expand applications and the value chain in the future.”
Unitika’s nonwovens business is expected to achieve higher sales and profits in fiscal 2017 as well. Domestic sales of polyester spunbondeds are strong in the sectors of construction materials, interior- and automotive-related goods. Sales of cotton spunlaceds are also expanding in high value-added fields such as cosmetics, and the high appreciation achieved for domestic products has resulted in expanding exports of spunlaced fabrics.
Although TUSCO commissioned its third line in 2017, operations were behind schedule at startup. The operation rate for the new line started to rise from around the end of last year. Lines no. 1 and 2 are operating smoothly. The overseas sales share of the Nonwovens Business Division exceeds 40%. As production on line no. 3 is to be added from 2018 or 2019, it is certain that the overseas sales rate will exceed 50%.
Competition in the nonwovens sector is intensifying. Yoshimura says, “In the past, nonwovens demand grew by replacing woven and knitted fabrics with nonwovens, but today we are in a stage where nonwovens are competing with one another.” Accordingly, he continues to say, “We need to produce further higher value-added products, and this will lead to the development of new applications and downstream strategy.”
As far as the downstream strategy is concerned, it is necessary to expand the value chain including current sales of fabrics, as well as expanding into downstream production processes, such as intermediate processing. For the development of new applications, it is essential to make proposals from the side of manufacturers and to dig up user needs. To that end, Unitika will strengthen the development of human resources that are capable of multifaceted communication with users.
Yoshimura emphasizes that the nonwovens business must endeavor both in the pursuit of value addition and quantitative expansion. Unitika undertakes multi-item/small-lot production at the Okazaki Plant and mass-production at TUSCO, and its products are divided into general purpose polyester spunbonded items and specialty cotton spunlaced articles. Another forte of the company is that it offers original products, such as Eleves, a polyester/polyethylene bi-component spunbonded material.
At ANEX 2018, Unitika will extensively show its forte in each of these applications and make new proposals. The local staffers from overseas bases will also constantly man the booth to attend visitors from abroad. Unitika hopes that its exhibition at ANEX 2018 will be an opportunity for further expanding its global nonwovens business.