Interview with Tobias Schäfer, Andritz Nonwov...
Interview with Tobias Schäfer, Andritz Nonwoven Sales

Setting an important impulse for the industry

Tobias Schäfer (Source: Andritz)
Tobias Schäfer (Source: Andritz)

Now the Index is finally taking place in-person in Geneva, what do you hope/expect from this fair?
First of all, we are thrilled to finally be able to meet many of our business partners live in person again at a major event. After many months of meeting in virtual rooms, it's a refreshing prospect to be able to shake hands again. Or at least to bump fists.
We hope for many visits, but we think that due to still existing travel restrictions the main focus will come from the European and Middle Eastern area.
However, the Index will certainly set an important impulse for the industry.

What will you present at the Index?
Andritz Nonwoven will offer its complete range of production solutions on 2 stands. Of course, there will be thematic focal points. On one hand, this will be in the hygiene sector, which is still growing very globally. Here, the focus will be on our complete spunlace and wetlace lines as well as our finishing variations for spunbond solutions such as Spunjet Soft. Equally, however, we also expect corresponding discussions about production lines in the area of biodegradable end products. With our Wetlace CP and the ultra-flexible Wetlace Hybrid technology, we will be able to present interesting, innovative solutions to prospective customers.
Andritz solutions in the field of hygiene converting, i.e. machine lines for the production of end products for personal hygiene, whether baby diapers, adult hygiene, or femcare, will also occupy sufficient space at our stand. The highlight here is the new D-Tech adult pant production line.
We also want to illustrate our position as a performance-oriented ideas provider and offer optional additional services in numerous areas that further increase productivity and effectiveness. I would like to mention 2 examples: First, there is Andritz’s own IIoT solution Metris, which is used across all technologies at the request of customers. The second example is innovative additional technologies such as ProWin for production lines with crosslappers, which significantly improve material quality and also reduce material wastage through consistent material distribution.
Also, Andritz is also very active in the automotive sector. The latest generation of SDV2+2 double velour needlelooms produces high-quality nonwovens with a uniform surface. It also enables the production of composites, which contribute greatly to the sustainability approach.
Finally, I am of course looking forward to the youngest member of the Andritz family, Laroche, who will present our airlay and recycling technology.
Recycling, together with the already mentioned topic of environmental compatibility, is a second meta-trend, not only for our industry, and is also personally so close to my heart because exciting fields of development for the future are emerging in which we as Andritz Nonwoven would very much like to play a recognizable role.

At the moment, every new development, every new product should also be sustainable and environmentally friendly. What is your approach to a greener world?
In terms of technology, I have already given an outlook.
But at this point, I would like to refer to the Andritz Group-wide WeCare program, which shows how seriously Andritz takes the environmental compatibility of its technology and the products manufactured on it. We do not want to be just a follower, but to take on a responsible role and show that economic success and ecological consideration are by no means mutually exclusive.
WeCare is a global Andritz initiative with the goal of achieving zero emissions and zero waste at the same time as creating financial growth for customers. For Andritz Nonwoven, this means pro-actively supporting our customers eliminating unused industry side streams, turning them into new value-added products and get closer to the goal of climate-neutral production.
At our stand, WeCare is also visualized accordingly: How denim is separated into its single fibers with the help of Andritz Recycling technology and then returned to the value-added cycle by means of Andritz Spunlace technology.

Laroche recycling line (Source: Andritz)
Laroche recycling line (Source: Andritz)
What will be the biggest challenges for the nonwovens industry after the corona pandemic?
A major long-term challenge certainly also has to do with the major issue of our time, climate protection, and what our contribution can look like. That is why the WeCare campaign mentioned above is not just a PR event, but a supporting pillar for all developments at Andritz. Specifically, for example, how to use resources even more efficiently. This also includes the reduction of plastic components in numerous disposable end products. This is also significant for markets that are still developing, but which will also rely on disposable products in the not too distant future.
However, the more short-term challenges for technology suppliers such as Andritz also lie in further development for new areas of application. On one hand, the pandemic was a real boost for the nonwovens industry, but this level cannot be maintained, of course, and the production capacities on the market are perhaps already slightly oversized in some segments. However, there are also opportunities to diversify and to discover new niches and to develop them.
With its technical research centers in Germany and France, Andritz supports customers in implementing new ideas in practical tests, thus advancing product realization a good step further.
An example is the automotive industry, which is in the midst of a transformation process from the classic combustion engine to electric, fuel cell or synthetic fuels. Moreover, beyond the passenger car, also in the area of transportation, logistics and public transport. Here, numerous areas will open up where durable nonwovens solutions will be needed in different ways.
Nevertheless, in addition to the automotive sector, the hygiene sector will continue to be a strong driver for the nonwovens industry with almost 30% of the market. More people everywhere also continue to have a great desire for hygiene, whether personal or industrial.

The interview was conducted by our nonwovensTRENDS team with Tobias Schäfer, Vice President, Andritz Nonwoven Sales, Krefeld/Germany.

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