TissueMAG: Mr. Villforth, please describe the structure of your Company in a few sentences.
Thomas Villforth: The Company is 100% family owned, now in the 4th generation. The relatively small size of the Company allows us to make fast and non-bureaucratic decisions and implement them straight away. My wife Karin and I make up the management of Villforth Siebtechnik GmbH. We have an experienced and innovative team with specialists in textile and paper technology. Our personnel planning is always long term
and the fluctuation rate is close to zero. The vacant positions are advertised internally at first and relatives and friends of the workforce can be considered. We have some families who have been working here for several generations – such things create a good working climate.
TissueMAG: How has the past financial year been and what is your forecast for 2017?
Thomas Villforth: Last year ended with a new record turnover, which obviously makes us very happy and proud. The ultra modern weaving machine from Jürgens, which was purchased in 2015, contributed significantly to this development. It runs at maximum capacity and produces fabrics of unbeatable quality. For 2017, we have set very high targets again. The year began with a major reconstruction at the outset. We look confidently into the future.
TissueMAG: How do your products different from those of your international competitors?
Thomas Villforth: All our products are manufactured at our location in Reutlingen, South West Germany. The maintenance of our location is important for us in order to guarantee the highest quality standards. We provide tailor-made products according to customer requirements. Compared to our competitors, we are a relatively small but very flexible Company, which specializes in the production of high quality forming fabrics. In order to remain competitive we are dependent on new and on-going development of our products. Our research and development team works in the laboratory at full pace. At present, we are particularly proud of a newly developed technique to produce the seam for TAD fabrics. The finished seam is so tough that we are currently surpassing one lifetime record after another with this product.
TissueMAG: The energy costs for the forming section are comparatively low, why is it worth taking a closer look at it?
Thomas Villforth: At first glance, the wire section does not appear to play a major role when it comes to saving energy for papermaking. After all, it only accounts for about 15% of the energy demand. Upon closer inspection however the following becomes apparent: sheet formation has a big influence on drying – and this drying process takes up to 65% of the total energy demand! By optimising the wet end and increasing dry content, there is enormous potential for improving energy efficiency. For an optimal result, it is important to ensure that the drainage curve is uniform and to achieve that the suction boxes, for example, must be configured accordingly. Our paper service engineers work with customers to create and evaluate dewatering processes as well as carrying out other optimizations of production processes in the wire section.
TissueMAG: Where do you see further strengths of your forming fabrics and the associated cost savings for your customers?
Thomas Villforth: Many of our customers praise our fabrics for their ease of cleaning. This means both less downtime and a reduction in the quantity of chemicals used, which results in great cost savings. To guarantee even easier fabric cleaning you can request your forming fabrics with our Topaz© coating. The coating consists of a low viscosity multi-component resin. It is applied to the whole fabric, sintered at high temperature and covers all the yarns as well as the cross-over points. This prevents any contaminants or fibre sticking, which is of great importance for waste paper furnish. Furthermore it leads to a significant reduction in energy consumption due to the lighter running of wires over the dewatering elements. Another argument is the approximately 30% better dimensional stability in both CD & MD. Topaz© coating is set for the entire life of the fabric and is resistant to all chemical cleaning agents as well as the use of high pressure showers. Villforth fabrics stand for superior quality. This starts with the purchase of the PET, PA yarns or the newly developed VEXTREME© yarn. We buy all PET and PA yarns from high quality German manufacturers. The raw materials are consistently checked for their quality, as this is the only way to ensure the long lifetime of our fabrics on customers’ machines.
Thomas Villforth (born in 1964 in Reutlingen) joined the company as managing partner in 1999. In his first 10 years at Villforth Siebtechnik, he learned the secrets of fabric manufacturing from his father Peter Villforth. He always stresses how glad he is that he was able to learn from his father’s wealth of experience. When Peter Villforth died in 2009, Thomas Villforth became the company’s sole shareholder. The man from Reutlingen has found his professional home in the paper industry: after graduating as qualified paper engineer from TU Darmstadt in 1992, he held senior positions in the paper mills Haindl Papier (now UPM) in Augsburg and Scheufelen in Oberlenningen. Since 2000 he has lead the Zellcheming district group Baden Württemberg. In 2014 he was appointed chairman of APV Darmstadt.
TissueMAG: What is behind the name VEXTREME©?
Thomas Villforth: The newly developed VEXTREME© yarn combines the advantages of polyester and polyamide. Until now, the wear on the fabrics has been countered by alternately weaving abrasion resistant polyamide (PA) and polyester (PET) yarns on the machine side of the fabric. The polyamide doesprevent abrasion, but it absorbs water and therefore over time swells up, which can cause fabric edge curl. Another disadvantage is that the tensile values of polyamide are too low, so that a fabric made from 100% polyamide would be as elastic as a rubber band. Polyester on the other hand is a stronger material and absorbs no water, but its abrasion resistance is poor. The new development VEXTREME© is dimensionally stable and at the same time resistant to abrasion. As a result, VEXTREME© yarns can be used up to 100% on the machine side of the fabric, whereby it forms a monoplane surface. The VEXTREME© yarn reduces frictional loss to a minimum and thus lowers the drive power.
TissueMAG: What are your mid/and long-term business plans?
Thomas Villforth: We want to steadily expand our market position through a mix of proven quality and newly developed products. We have some very promising development projects which are close to completion. My son is already successfully involved in this area. Quality and customer satisfaction are always the top priority. Our corporate and financial policies are quite conservative. They are characterized by moderate growth and a high equity ratio. Therefore, the Company is well equipped for the future and can go forward positively into the 5th generation.
TissueMAG: Mr. Villforth, thank you very much for the interview.
About Villforth Siebtechnik
Villforth Siebtechnik GmbH is a limited liability Company based in Reutlingen, which can look back on more than one hundred years of successful company tradition. Founded as Vereinigte Metalltuchfabriken by Peter Villforth sr, the company has remained 100% family-owned ever since: Mr. and Ms. Thomas and Karin Villforth are the fourth generation running the company today. Villforth specializes in the manufacture and sale of synthetic fabrics. It is one of the market leaders in the area of paper machine forming fabrics – all of them are made according to the highest quality standards in Reutlingen in Baden-Württemberg. Villforth’s customers can also be found outside the paper industry today – for example in the nonwoven and breboard, food, particle board, leather fibre and glass fleece sectors. The Company has a global distribution network with sales representatives in more than 25 countries.