Interview with Frank Heislitz of Freudenberg ...
Interview with Frank Heislitz of Freudenberg PM

A broader technological platform

Dr. Frank Heislitz (Source: Freudenberg Performance Materials)
Dr. Frank Heislitz (Source: Freudenberg Performance Materials)

Now the Techtextil is finally taking place in person in Frankfurt/Germany, what do you expect from this fair?
During pandemic we were constantly in touch with our customers. However, it is important to us to finally be able to present our solutions to a broader audience again. This leading international trade fair for technical textiles and nonwovens gives us the opportunity to meet again in person with many international customers and other interested parties in a short period of time. We are looking very much forward to the discussions with them!

What will you present at the Techtextil?
Our focus is on sustainability. Knowing about our comprehensive sustainability approach and solutions will help customers to improve their own sustainability performance.  
Among the product highlights are Evolon RE, a microfilament textile for a wide variety of applications and markets that is manufactured from an average of 70% recycled polyester (PET). Filflex is a sustainable padding material for car seat covers. It is made from a 100% PET composition. And we will present our sustainable truck tarpaulin Polymar 8556 Eco CF. This unique material has a 25% share of recycled raw materials in the coating mass. In addition, the material is made with 100% rPET yarns.

There have also been major structural changes at Freudenberg PM in the last 2 years, such as the acquisitions of the Filc Group in December 2019 and Low & Bonar (UK), in May 2020. How were the restructuring activities implemented and how is Freudenberg PM now positioned?
Our first step was to take our time and understand the business of our new acquisitions and then decided on a new organizational model that allows us to best serve our customers. We did not just integrate Filc and Low & Bonar into our existing organization, we improved how we serve our customers.  
The integration took place during pandemic. As a consequence, we collaborated mainly using virtual platforms. The new and the existing colleagues worked together on the integration in various workstreams. Thanks to their great commitment we were able to complete the overarching integration on schedule. The integration is still ongoing on the very operational level within our divisions.
Today, we are organized together in such a way that it makes the most sense for our customers, we work on a much broader technological platform and offer our customers a larger product portfolio. Examples of this are the Enka solutions and the coated fabrics that we offer under the Mehler Texnologies brand. With our Filc portfolio we have also strengthens our needlepunch footprint in Europe.

At the moment, every new development, every new product should also be sustainable and environmentally friendly. What is your approach to a greener world?
For Freudenberg, sustainability is not only about products. We focus on the 2 dimensions footprint and handprint. Both the footprint and the handprint focus on resource efficiency to become more sustainable.
-    Minimizing our footprint refers to the improvement of our processes and equipment of our plants to make production as resource efficient as possible. We call this minimizing our footprint.
-    A positive handprint relates to our numerous products and services that enable our customers to improve the efficiency of their own products.
One impressive example for the footprint is achieving the Made in Green by Oeko-Tex label for Evolon.  It is a result of the combination of STeP and Standard 100 certificates that we received for Evolon. It proves that Evolon has been tested for harmful substances and manufactured using sustainable processes under socially responsible working conditions. The certificate also confirms the complete traceability of all materials and a transparent supply chain, and thus offers consumers the highest level of safety.

An example of handprint solutions are our recycled lightweight products for the automotive industry – like headliners or acoustic pads help our customers to meet their CO2 reduction targets. Our unique multi-layer material for molded underbody panels and wheel liners are 100% recyclable and can be used in closed loop systems.
In addition, in 2014, we signed the Global Compact of the United Nations. This initiative seeks to encourage companies across the globe to conduct their business responsibly with regard to Compliance, Human Rights and Labor, Sustainability, Health and Safety, Environmental Protection and Corporate Citizenship. Each year we publish a report about our progress in these areas.

What are the biggest challenges for the textile industry in times of pandemic and war in Europe?
The war has dramatically intensified some challenges we faced in 2021. Costs of raw materials and freight have been risen to an unprecedented level and the bottlenecks in the supply of raw materials are getting even worse. In addition, energy costs have increased dramatically.
For some time, manufacturers like Freudenberg were able to largely absorb the cost increases through immediate cost reduction countermeasures. Regrettably, this is no longer the case and price increases are inevitable. In these very challenging times, our top priority remains the same: to reliably provide high quality products to our customers and support their success.

Evolon, POLYMAR, MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX = registered trademarks
The interview was conducted by our TextileTechnology team with Dr. Frank Heislitz, CEO, Freudenberg Performance Materials, Weinheim/Germany.

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