Identity, awareness and recognition of nonwovens

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Our today’s guest author for this TextileFuture editorial is Pierre Wirtz, General Manager of EDANA.

“Nice to have” or indispensable pre-requisites for the industry’s healthy growth, recruitment of talent and innovation?

Back in the 1980s, a past chair of EDANA, who was the CEO of the world’s largest nonwoven producer at the time, often referred to one of his only dissatisfactions in life: sitting in business class on long-haul flights, with neighbours who, in most cases, had no clue what nonwovens were, let alone their features and functionality.

In his view, this was a symptom of a severe lack of clear identity, and of awareness and recognition of our fast- growing industry, incurring a risk of hampering its further development and prosperity.

30 years later, with a global production roughly 20-fold larger, and articles containing nonwovens consumed daily almost everywhere on the 5 continents, has there been any significant progress in this respect?

And, by the way, beyond the anecdote, would the facts – the lack of a clear ‘official’ identity, and of low awareness and recognition, even within an educated audience, of the products of our industry – really matter?

To both questions, I would tend to answer in the positive.

Yes, there has been some progress, albeit still insufficient, and yes, it really matters to raise the profile of nonwovens, if the industry is to take full advantage of the megatrends that are favourable to nonwoven markets and that can potentially make nonwovens manufacturing and converting real champions in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

As to the official identification of nonwovens, there is good news. A new draft ISO international standard is in the process of being adopted, which defines nonwovens in an innovative way, leaving room for future developments, and which for the first time totally escapes the restrictive ‘textiles’ umbrella. A next step is planned to raise this at the World Customs Organisation level (to be continued)

Our initiative in this area was made possible through a joint effort with our global partners at ANFA, CNITA and INDA, representing an overwhelming majority of the world’s nonwoven producers.

As to the public awareness of nonwovens and the recognition of their features and benefits, there remains much to say. Admittedly, it is a joint and shared responsibility of all players in the supply chain to seize every opportunity of emphasising the function and unique attributes of nonwovens. Who is better placed to communicate about these products’ benefits than those who design and market them?

But also, it is typically one of the roles of EDANA as a thought leader in this field to provide its member companies with resources and promotional material to enable the whole nonwovens community to speak with one voice, not only when it comes to defending products against attacks or criticism, but also, in proactively highlighting the socio-economic benefits and sustainability advantages of a wide variety of nonwoven-based products from hygiene and healthcare to filtration, geotextiles, building, electronic and automotive applications.

Both aspects, i.e. re-active and pro-active stakeholder communication, are key pillars of EDANA’s strategy for the years to come.

There is one particular benefit that we also have in mind in raising the visibility and attractiveness of the nonwovens industry: this should ultimately support the capabilities of companies to keep attracting talent, facilitate their access to public and public/private R&D funding and help create an overall positive climate for innovation in the nonwovens and related industries.

A dedicated campaign is being planned, in line with what we already tend to achieve through the Nonwovens Innovation Academy since its launch i.e. on one hand to improve the image and perception of the nonwovens industry in academic research, higher education institutes and governmental bodies,, thereby influencing the nonwovens industry’s access to research funding, talent and human resources in general, and on the other hand to highlight the capabilities of specialised centres of excellence and encourage member companies to call on their resources  even more.

In this respect, since the spring of 2017, a series of remarkable new developments and investments have been announced by four of EDANA’s member institutes with world class nonwovens R&D capabilities, which are participating in the Nonwovens Innovation Academy on 25-26th October 2017 in Chemnitz.

For more information visit https://www.edana.org/education-events/conferences-and-symposia/event- detail/nonwovens-innovation-academy2017/

Let me finish with one personal request for your support in achieving our objectives.

Next time you fly, don’t only test your neighbour’s awareness of nonwovens, advice them to recommend to their children to consider a career in our great high-tech industry!

www.edana.org

www.inda.org

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