Nonwovens / Technical Textiles


Close to customers – the key to shared success

Jonathan Oh, SVP & GM Apparel Division © 2023 Freudenberg
In the run-up to the official opening of the Freudenberg Performance Materials competence center in Sant'Omero, Italy, Senior Vice President and General Manager Apparel Division Jonathan Oh, met up with trade journalist Yvonne Heinen-Foudeh. They talked about customer orientation, challenges and expertise.

Yvonne Heinen-Foudeh: Exciting times for Freudenberg Performance Materials Apparel: the final countdown for the opening of a new competence center in Europe has begun, with the official ceremony to be held in Sant'Omero in Italy’s Abruzzo region on May 26. The new competence center complex includes a production facility for apparel coating and finishing. What is the thinking behind Freudenberg’s competence center strategy?

Jonathan Oh: For us, customer orientation plays the key role. Being close to our customers, and that also means being close to our markets, enables us to serve them to the very best of our ability and respond swiftly to their requirements at all times. That’s what is behind our strategy to build competence centers at locations we have chosen on the basis of a very careful analysis.

YH-F: What issues and factors led to the decision to build this competence center for apparel interlinings at the site in Italy?

J.O.: During the evaluation process, Italy clearly emerged as the optimal location for a stronger presence on the part of Freudenberg Performance Materials Apparel. Italy is the center of fashion, and that also applies to  manufacturing quality. With its huge and extremely efficient apparel industry, Italy even outranks Turkey, and is the largest market for our apparel business. The country has a high level of quality as well as technical know-how.

YH-F: …and why Sant’Omero?

J.O.: Sant'Omero has a very good strategic position. From there, we can serve Eastern and Western Europe as well as Africa. Not only that, the site has more than a decade of expertise in manufacturing high-quality interlinings for menswear. 

YH-F: What is the scale of expansion work for the new site?

J.O.: The competence and production center in Sant'Omero is more than one and a half times the size of the old manufacturing facility. That allows us to manufacture all interlining articles for the menswear, womenswear and childrenswear segments as well as for shirts at a single location.

YH-F: Can you give us an idea of the biggest challenges involved in relocating and installing production machinery and equipment – what was your approach to handling this successfully?

J.O.: Relocating production is a very complex logistical and operational task. It involves a great deal more than just disassembling heavy machinery in one place and reassembling it somewhere else. Normal operation had to continue throughout the entire relocation phase to ensure uninterrupted deliveries to customers.

We also increased our inventory capacity to make sure we could maintain deliveries to all companies at all times. But there are bound to be glitches in a project of this scale, despite the most detailed and meticulous planning. A logistics partner, for example, made the mistake of transporting base material from Weinheim by tarpaulin-covered trucks during a period when it doesn’t normally rain in Italy. So, of course, the weather changed ….. We learn from that, make adjustments and take precautions.

Our teams in Germany and Italy did an incredible job – they executed our plans, avoided any serious delays and made sure the relocation did not impact our customers’ processes in any way.

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