Interview with Dr. Haio Harms

Dr. Haio Harms
Dr. Haio Harms
Executive Chairman
Kelheim fibres
Kelheim fibres

Certain textile products could possibly be replaced by nonwovens in the future.
Dr. Haio Harms, Chairman of Kelheim Fibres GmbH tells about the prospects of nonwovens during an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi. Synopsis: Kelheim Fibres is the world's leading producer of viscose speciality fibres. The company produces about 90,000 tons of viscose fibres in a year. It provides customized fibre solutions to its clients. Established in 1935, it is located in Kelheim in Southern Germany. Dr. Haio Harms is the Chairman of the Management Board of Kelheim Fibres GmbH. Dr. Haio Harms, born 1950, studied chemistry and law at the University of Vienna, finishing both with a doctoral degree. He started his industrial career in the research department of the Lenzing AG in Austria in 1983 and worked for Lenzing AG for 25 years. Excerpts:

What has been the growth rate of viscose speciality fibres in the global market? What can you predict regarding this for the near future?

Speciality fibre business in itself means that you are active in niche markets. The overall demand for viscose speciality fibres is growing steadily but it is spreading over an increasing number of different industries and applications. Speciality fibres can be found in modern high-tech textiles as well as in speciality papers, filters, hygiene and medical products or as functional biopolymers in innovative materials. But please don’t forget: there’s not just one type of viscose speciality fibres and we are not dealing with one global market but with very different niche markets.

Both airlaid’s and wetlaid’s share has remained relatively constant over the last decade. Do you think this will remain the same in future?

In our experience, the market for nonwovens is still growing, especially the niche markets which offer products beyond the standard nonwovens. Age and wealth of our society are increasing, and therefore the demand for convenient, yet environmentally friendly and high-quality hygiene products for one-time usage is growing. Cellulosic fibres and particularly speciality fibres are perfectly suited for these applications as they are eco-friendly and, at the same time, can help to enhance the end product’s properties.

What can you say about the demand of viscose fibres when compared to that of natural fibres?

Ecological awareness has led customers to a more profound analysis of the products they buy. Compared to natural fibres, man-made cellulosic fibres offer a lot of benefits, starting with the raw material. Trees for wood pulp production growing in forests on marginal land, are not competing for prime land with food production, they need less land and – as there is no irrigation - less water than a cotton plantation; the trees need neither fertilisers nor pesticides and there’s no genetic modification of the plants. And while natural and man-made cellulosic fibres share a lot of positive properties, the versatility of viscose fibres is unmatched. The production process allows us to control the fibre’s properties precisely by adapting various spinning parameters. We can adjust the physical dimensions (fibre length and titer), we can manufacture different cross sections or we can incorporate functional additives into the fibres matrix – and so offer fibres that are really tailor-made for our customer’s production processes and end products.

What is flocking of textiles? What are its various applications?

Flocking means the application of many fine and very short fibres onto a surface, for example a textile. With textiles, flocking is mostly used to create an optical and/or haptical, velvet like effect. But there are many other end products that benefit from flock – here just a few examples: in sportswear like tricots, flock is used to applicate the player’s number on the back – because flock is not reflecting during broadcasts; the flocking of upholstery or home textiles can reduce noises and improve design and feel of the product; hangers with flock prevent clothes from slipping off; flocked cases for jewellery, glasses or mobile phones help to avoid scratches and offer the perfect display for these high-quality products.

What steps should be taken to increase the production of biodegradable fibres?

The answer to this question is that the awareness about the ecological impact of the products we use on a daily basis needs to grow. While the production of natural fibres consumes too many precious resources, the use of synthetic fibres has serious effects on our environment: at this stage, our planet is - metaphorically speaking - completely covered in plastic waste or decomposition products of plastics. Micro synthetics are everywhere and threaten as maritime waste the eco-systems of our oceans. So far only manmade cellulosic fibres offer an optimal combination of resource-saving production and eco-friendly waste disposal.
Published on: 23/09/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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