Insulation industry news from Global Insulation
UK: Knauf Insulation plans to spend Euro5m to upgrade its mineral wool plant in Queensferry in Flintshire, Wales. The investment will deliver thermal and mechanical improvements, along with an increased portfolio of insulation solutions. It will also support the group’s Ecose Technology binder product.
“We are especially pleased to announce this investment at Queensferry, given the uncertainty many other businesses and investors currently face. That uncertainty applies to wider concerns around the impact of Brexit on economic activity, but also to key sectors we service such as the construction industry, UK energy and energy efficiency businesses,” said John Sinfield, Managing Director at Knauf Insulation Northern Europe. “This decision demonstrates that a drive on energy efficiency will deliver greater energy security, increased UK economic competiveness and help address environmental commitments. We would hope that the new government, and especially the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, considers these outcomes when exploring what its new strategy is to be.”
Knauf Insulation acquired sole ownership of its UK business in 2002. It has since invested Euro179m at its UK plants.
UK: Around 24t of insulation material was damaged in an overnight after a fire at Knauf Insulation factory in Croesyceiliog, Wales. Three crews of firefighters were called to the fire at 01:22. A spokeswoman for the fire service said the blaze was accidentally caused. The firefighters had put the fire out by 03:31.
New Zealand: Germany's Knauf and Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest building supplies company, have returned to court for a cross appeal, the latest instalment of their long-running dispute over the use of the word 'batts' to describe insulation.
Appearing in the Court of Appeal before Justices Tony Randerson, Christine French and Mark Cooper, the legal counsel for Fletcher's Tasman Insulation subsidiary, Julian Miles QC returned to the argument that Knauf's use of 'batt' or 'batts' on the packaging of insulation infringed the 'Batts' trademark it has held since 1973.
The two building supplies companies are both appealing aspects of Justice Brendan Brown's May 2014 judgment, which refused a request from Knauf to revoke the trademark. In the same judgment, Justice Brown also limited Fletcher's claim of infringement of the trademark to the use of 'batt' in the HTML code on the www.earthwool.co.nz website, which sold Knauf insulation, and said the use of the word in the installation instructions on the packaging didn't infringe trademark.
Dwarfed by more than 10 boxes of files and three large rolls of Knauf insulation, Tasman's Miles said the rival company first started importing its insulation into New Zealand in December 2010, originally in clear packaging labeled 'loft roll.' However, during 2011 Knauf began to bring in 'what we understand was the same product with different packaging,' which included instructions which referred to the product as 'batts.' Miles pointed out the difference using the three insulation rolls in the court room.
Miles argued that Knauf's use of 'batts' on its packaging was a 'deliberate' attempt to use Fletcher's trademarked term. He said the change from the original non-offending packaging to the inclusion of the term came after market research showed the widespread use of the term over the past four decades.
Knauf 'knew (Batts) had a trademark, the only inference that you can draw from that is that they intended to undermine a trademark,' he said, adding that it was' irrelevant' how the term was used in other countries, as this dispute concerned only the New Zealand market.
Knauf, represented by Clive Elliott QC, is appealing Justice Brown's ruling that the 'Batts' trademarked term for insulation is not generic. In its submission Knauf argues Tasman was flawed in asserting 'Batts' was a highly distinctive and iconic trademark, and it has always been a descriptive word to describe portions of insulation. There is no evidence Knauf set out to destroy the distinctiveness of 'Batts' and Tasman's efforts to protect the mark were 'too little, too late.'
"Knauf submits that if traders have chosen not to use 'batts' it is reasonable to infer that this is because of a fear of being sued by Tasman rather than in express of implied acknowledgement of Tasman's proprietary assertions," Knauf said it its submission. The company points to CSR, which had also applied to revoke the trademark use of the term as further proof it is considered a generic term.
The global insulation business said the use of 'batt' and 'batts' on its insulation bales imported into New Zealand was because of the genuine belief the word was descriptive. The original bales had been shipped from Russia and the USA, where the words are considered generic terms and it wasn't economical to manufacture product with New Zealand-specific packaging.
The hearing is set down for three days in the Court of Appeal, and is continuing.
Saudi Arabia: Knauf Exeed Insulation has won a contract to provide insulation to reduce the noise levels at Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque as it undergoes extension.
"We are proud to be part of this historic project. The Grand Mosque is the main attraction for over 16 million pilgrims who enter Makkah each year. Our challenge is to provide noise reduction for the worshippers using the most sustainable eco-friendly insulation materials," said Daniele Cerutti, general manager of Knauf Exeed Insulation. "The consultants and the contractors opted for KB blanket insulation, a lightweight blanket of glasswool bonded with Ecose technology. In line with sustainable practices, Ecose uses natural and more sustainable organic materials than the non-renewable, phenol-formaldehyde or acrylic based resins traditionally used."
Slovenia: Germany's Knauf Insulation, which is switching from coke to natural gas as part of an upgrade at one of its three stone wool production lines, will be the main user of what is to be Messer's first oxygen production plant in Slovenia and one of around 30 in Europe.
"This will be the most technologically-developed line in Europe and will mean a great competitive edge for the company," said Knauf Insulation boss Tomaž Lanišek.
Using natural gas requires oxygen and Lanišek described the investments of Knauf and Messer Slovenija as complementary. He pointed out that CO2 and sulphur and nitrogen oxides emissions would be halved. "Messer is becoming a partner company in our future plans at our location," said Lanišek.
Messer said that this was its biggest investment in the country to date and was expected to generate 15 to 20 new jobs. The company's CEO Danilo Lukač explained that the plant would produce oxygen, nitrogen and argon.
US: Less than a year after reopening a shuttered plant, Knauf Insulation has announced plans to double production at its Chambers County plant in Alabama, adding up to 100 new workers. The expansion, which should be complete by the middle of 2015, will make the 800,000ft2 plant one of the largest insulation plants in the USA.
The US$30m expansion includes a significant upgrade in equipment, according to Joey Viselli, Knauf's vice president for corporate and public affairs. "When this expansion is through, the plant will produce more insulation than it has ever produced before," said Viselli.
Knauf shuttered the plant in 2010 in response to the collapse of the housing market. Company officials credited Alabama State with recruiting them to return when the market began to improve. Viselli said that the decision to expand was based on continued positive growth in the national economy, the growth of Knauf’s business and an inviting business culture in Alabama.
US: Knauf Insulation will close a Mississippi plant it recently acquired because of the high cost to upgrade the facility. Knauf has announced that 110 employees at the plant in Mineral Wells, Mississippi, had been given notice that production would end at the site.
“In the two months since the acquisition of Guardian Insulation, we have conducted a detailed analysis of our new footprint,” Knauf Insulation North America CEO Mark Andrews said. “The analysis examined the investments required to upgrade and expand both the quality and quantity of product being manufactured in our facilities. Unfortunately, the results of this analysis have led us to make the difficult decision to close the Mineral Wells plant. This morning, we started sharing the news with Mineral Wells employees that we are ending all production at the plant today.”
According to Andrews, the main drivers were the structure and condition of the Mineral Wells facility. No reasonable amount of capital investment in the plant could bring it up to the expected standards. The closure will allow Knauf to invest in its remaining facilities. Andrews added that Knauf was committed to retaining and serving its customers out of its other plants.
US: A fire was reported at Knauf Insulation’s insulation plant, which was formerly a Guardian Industries plant, in Albion, Michigan on 8 October 2014. According to local media, the fire started in one of the ovens and spread through the ducts to the smoke stack. Damage is thought to be minimal, although the equipment remains to be fully inspected.
Russia: Germany's Knauf has launched a new insulation materials plant in the Tyumen Region of the Urals Federal District in Russia at a total investment cost of US$83m. The installed capacity of the enterprise is 45,000t/yr. It will create 200 jobs.
Denmark: Knauf's Danish operations has posted weaker than expected 2013 results. Net profit declined to Euro10.2m from Euro17.8m in 2012 and for the first time in many years turnover did not exceed Euro134m. The decline in turnover and profit was attributed to financial crises in some of the company's export markets. Knauf's managing director, Morten la Cour Ørnstrand-Søborg, expects export markets to pick up and that Knauf will post better results in 2014.