Monday, August 27, 2012

Tencel introduced to the Japanese market (1987)

Kunihiko Tozaki and I did not mention Genesis or Tencel during our tours of the Japanese nonwoven market until this August 1987 meeting with the Techncial Director of Unicharm, Migaku Suzuki.  

As mentioned in an earlier post, we'd arranged a blind trial with Tencel as part of the work to assess the Unicharm hydroentanglement system for BFF.  This resulted in the 'R134' nonwoven sample mentioned in the clip above.  (This remarkably soft and silky Tencel coverstock was also used to illustrate the fibre's coverstock potential at later meetings with P&G Research in Cincinnati.)

Seeing this clip again dredged up a series of recollections which probably should appear in a "BFF Saga blog" but I'll record them here before they disappear again.

Dr Suzuki and I met in the late '70's at a conference in the USA and I became aware of the unique hydroentanglement system he'd developed while at Mitsubishi Rayon Engineering.  He was responsible for installing this system at Unicharm's Shikoku plant to make the 100% rayon coverstock for Unicharm's "Moony" diaper.  This diaper gave P&G a nasty surprise when it's ~1981 launch reduced their Japan "Pampers" (then using a polyester coverstock) market share from ~95% to 10%, and replaced it as the leading disposable diaper in Japan.  

Having observed this success, we (BFF and Courtaulds Research) proposed licencing "Moony" for a Courtaulds move into "Zorbit" disposable diapers before P&G entered the UK market.  The plan involved making "Moony" coverstock in BFF, the backing film in the Bridgwater Plastic Films operation, and a core from air-laid Saiccor pulp. (We also had embryonic superabsorbent technology.) 

Unsurprisingly, the Board turned this idea down, but a year or two later, after P&G's UK Pampers launch had destroyed what was Courtaulds "Zorbit" terry-nappy business, the then MD of BFF - Bill Kennard - showed me a letter from Chris Hogg saying the Board probably made the wrong decision.

N.B. Dr Suzuki had also developed Mitsubishi Rayon's TCF spun-laid viscose process mentioned above - based on polynosic fibre, and this was competing with Asahi's Bemliese cuprammonium rayon spunlaid in the Far East medical market.

1 comment:

Kunihiko Tozaki said...

One thing I can post soon is the picture taken on 15 Feb 2012 in the farewell party for Miss. Yamamoto to leave Tokyo returning to her country, Kokura in north Kyushu. You can find most of major members involved in Tencel in Japan. I believe Japan had played important roles for "Tencel fever initiated by Mr. Ohmori". All member from Courataulds Japan must be added in the team.