On the Path to Success with Artificial Fibres
Chemical firm expands its customer base and develops new materials
Iryna Smartselava works for Europe’s largest producer of artificial fibres, SvetlogorskKhimvolokno AG in Belarus. The state enterprise set up a new product line two years ago to produce multilayer non-woven fabrics. These so-called laminates are breathable and are popularly used in hygiene products. The German market for hygiene products, which has a volume of about €4.7 billion per year, is very attractive, although it is also conservative as regards new suppliers, reports Iryna Smartselava who is an economist. With the help of the Manager Training Programme, despite the obstacles, she nevertheless succeeded in establishing contacts in this industry, which is new for her firm, and in delivering samples. For 2019 her sights are set on two major customers.
Iryna Smartselava will soon have an important meeting. In the near future, a conference for hygiene products will be held in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. She is scheduled to meet a firm from Germany there. That meeting could be a milestone in their further cooperation: it concerns a one-year contract to the value of €400,000 for the delivery of laminates as an outer layer for nappies. Six months have passed since the first meeting with the firm during the MP. During these six months there have been countless negotiations, sample deliveries, product modifications and a comprehensive search for raw materials. “Agreements in this industry sometimes take months or even years”, notes Smartselava. The industry is known for its conservative attitudes, especially in Germany. Initiating contact is difficult and emails often go unanswered, reports the sales manager. With its good reputation, the MP functions as an important icebreaker for establishing these complicated business connections.
Germany is the Main Buyer
After Russia, Germany is the most important export market for the chemical giant, which has an annual revenue of about €120 million – with products that are largely manufactured on German machines. The nonwoven fabrics are produced in systems built by the Reifenhäuser Group and Trützschler GmbH and Co. KG, for example. Orders from Germany previously only came from the furniture, construction and technology industries. The major customers include Continental AG. This global player from Hannover relies on quality from Belarus in the production of turbocharger hoses.
New Product for Existing Customers
The existing customers also include Sima GmbH, a wholesaler for painting supplies. Smartselava used the MP to develop their relationship. In close collaboration with the customer, she had a new product developed: breathable cover sheets for floors. When wooden floors don’t breathe under cover sheets, damage may occur as a result of the dampness. The innovative sheet prevents this from happening. The first sample delivery was sent to the medium-sized enterprise from Baden-Württemberg in October 2018. Smartselava expects to close the deal in 2019.
Organic Market is Still a Way Off
But not all meetings have been grand successes. So far there has not been any agreement with WILOGIS Hygieneprodukte GmbH, whose product range includes nappies. The company is interested in organic laminates, but the chemical firm is not ready for that. There is a lack of suitable sources of raw materials, regrets Smartselava. “I have assigned that to our development department because that’s an interesting market for us in the future she says”.
Founding a Promotional Group
The requirement profiles for the individual nonwoven fabric layers in hygiene laminates vary greatly: they must be more permeable or less permeable. In coordination with the customers, the different layers are developed and made available. Three employees in the sales department have been assigned to a promotional group for the hygiene market to survey the needs of the customers and increase sales. There is major potential, and more than one third of all the nonwoven fabrics the firm produces are already sold in the hygiene sector, and the numbers are increasing.
Smartselava’s most important job is to ensure full capacity for the new production facilities. She accomplished that in 2018 with many smaller orders. From 2019 on, the line should increasingly be producing for larger orders. Those will be coming from the contacts established in Germany and the new promotional department.