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CARY - Nonwovens capacity in the US increased by 39,000 tonnes in 2020 as 51 new lines came online and 22 lines were shutdown, according to a new report.

The eighth edition of the annual North American Nonwovens Supply Report, published by INDA for its members, also reveals that North American imports and exports, in tonnage increased by 51.2 per cent and 14.2 per cent respectively year on year.

Based on extensive research, producer surveys and interviews with industry leaders, the report provides an overall view of North American supply, including the key metrics of capacity, production and operating rates, in addition to regional trade, through the year 2020. The 72-page report contains 36 figures and 11 tables, with two new figures this year.

“One of INDA’s key services is to provide valuable data and actionable industry information to enhance decision making in our capital-intensive industry. This report is the most complete and accurate portrayal for both rolled goods for sale and also material produced for internal consumption in North America. It also presents the industry operating rates in key areas; the essential element for strategic planning and business investment decisions,” said Dave Rousse, INDA president.

The report—and the quarterly INDA Market Pulse and monthly Price Trends Summary—are provided to the approximately 375 INDA member companies and associates as part of their membership. The data gathered for this annual report serves as the foundation for the biannual North American Nonwovens Industry Outlook, which was recently published in December of 2020.

Findings from this year’s Supply Report show that in 2020, North American nonwoven capacity increased to 5.552 million tonnes, a net increase of 0.7 percent (39,000 tonnes) over 2019. This growth figure accounts for not only the addition of new lines, but also machine productivity increases and line closures to arrive at a net increase growth figure. In the last three years, 51 lines have come online and 22 lines have been shut-down. Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic some of the new line additions planned for 2020 have shifted to 2021.

The report also notes that operating rates in 2020 were two-sides of the same coin, as some end-use markets were completely shut-down for a few months, notably building and vehicle construction, and other end-uses were operating full-out, if they could. Producers were challenged by workforce and transportation issues. As a result, the overall operating rate only increased one-percentage-point over 2020.

Moreover, as the operating rate is based upon tonnage, the increased demand for lighter-weight materials – medical apparel and fine-fibre meltblown – affected the total tonnage output, as some lines were running full-throughput of surface area, but not tonnage.

North American imports and exports, in tonnage, therefore increased 51.2 per cent and 14.2 per cent respectively year-over-year. Imports were led by China (+97,200 tonnes, +121 per cent) and India (+11,000 tonnes, +37 per cent). Even with the significant shifts in North American trade dynamics, nonwovens tend to stay where they are produced, with the net trade balance (imports less exports) accounting for less than ten percent of the region’s capacity.

“This is a great time to be in nonwovens,” added Brad Kalil, director of Market Intelligence & Economic Insights, INDA. “We are in a business that is expanding faster than the economy as production growth exceeded U.S. real GDP for the seventh consecutive year. Production growth also exceeded capacity growth for the fourth consecutive year."

Kalil also noted that the overall operating rate for the industry also improved for the fourth consecutive year. "Lastly – and most importantly – we are in a business that protects and improves people’s lives," he said. "This has been brought to the forefront recently with the benefits of protective medical apparel, respirators, face masks, and disinfecting wipes, now known by all. The nonwovens industry has responded to the pandemic and will continue to provide materials that keep the surfaces we touch clean, make safe the air we breathe, and provide a barrier to keep our bodies safe.”

For more information, go to www.inda.org

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