Shawmut: investing in the future of advanced materials

An N95 particulate respirator
made by Shawmut

Accustomed to innovation and change, Shawmut is committed to helping customers resolve pressing business challenges quickly.

TW Special report

FBorn in 1916, Shawmut Corp., based in West Bridgewater, Mass., is no stranger to innovation and change. The fourth-generation, family-owned global business is the largest independent laminator of technical fabrics in the United States, providing advanced material solutions for the automotive, health and safety, military and protection, and customized lamination solutions. Shawmut employs more than 700 people worldwide, operating 10 manufacturing plants and seven sales offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

A story of change

What began as the location of America’s oldest woolen mill producing braided fabric and synthetic yarn, has grown over time into a company that creates a range of flexible composite materials and technical textiles. , and provides lamination solutions. Over the years, Shawmut has supplied a variety of products ranging from branded knitted children’s clothing to yarns used by the US Army during WWII for parachute guy lines, knitted blankets, field jackets and parachutes. bombs. In the 1950s, the company focused on flame lamination for use with its jersey fabric, a process that continues today. In the mid-1980s, Shawmut moved to its current West Bridgewater headquarters to focus on product development processes in advanced materials technologies.

Shawmut CEO James Wyner (left) with Fallon Co. CEO Joe Fallon, who was a majority investor in the Shawmut face mask operation.

“Since our inception 105 years ago by my grandfather Rudolph Wyner, Shawmut has always had the ability to adapt to changing markets and create innovation,” said CEO James Wyner. “Our history gives us a vast knowledge and expertise of materials to design our own techniques and production capabilities that put us ahead of our competition. Our customers tell us that we can develop solutions to their difficult demands much faster and with better results than our competitors. We embrace what we have learned, but always seek to innovate to create better solutions. Our goal of “material innovations for a better world” might sound a little ambitious, but we really try to apply it to everything we do. “

An automotive leader

Shawmut is a global supplier to the automotive market that supplies everything from laminated headlining to pillars, roller shades, seats, door and trim lamination, sun shades, packaging trays and shelves to package. A few years ago, Glen Raven Technical Fabrics (GRTF) leading automotive and specialty industrial fabrics business merged with Shawmut after an 18-year strategic partnership between the two companies. The merger fully integrated Shawmut’s composites development capabilities and global lamination platform with Glen Raven’s specialty industrial fabrics business. Of the company, Shawmut said at the time: “Our recent merger with the Specialty Industrial Business Unit of Glen Raven Technical Fabrics represents the combination of strengths between two long-standing partners. We now offer the full line of automotive interior and industrial solutions, from durable high performance knitted fabrics to flexible multi-layered composite composites.

Shawmut recently announced plans to introduce an all-new customer-focused technical center at the Burlington, NC facility on Park Avenue, home to the merged operations. The Park Avenue Tech Center will provide customers with unprecedented access to Shawmut’s advanced design, engineering and production expertise, multiple quality and testing labs, and customer collaboration tools from tip, all under one roof. The development of the Technical Center helps achieve Shawmut’s goal of accelerating the timeline of the finished product with even higher quality production leading to an improved customer experience. The Park Avenue Tech Center is also Shawmut’s first facility to be ISO 14001 certified and is a 100% landfill-free facility, meaning less than 1% of the waste that leaves the facility goes to a landfill. Waste is mainly reused and recycled by external sustainable development operations.

Shawmut has invested in the world’s most advanced meltblown filter media production system from German company Reifenhauser Reicofil GmbH & Co. KG.

Invest in health, safety

In early 2021, Shawmut announced the creation of a new Health and Safety business unit, which was a strategic expansion into markets where Shawmut already had a presence. According to the company, the new unit applies “the advanced materials, textile manufacturing and process innovation techniques of the company to produce[e] High-quality health and safety products made in the United States, including its Protex ™ line of personal protective equipment (PPE) made in the United States. “

For decades, the company has produced medical grade barrier and filtration fabrics, orthopedic medical devices, and some inflatable medical devices. In the spring of 2020, Shawmut expanded its scope to produce PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company quickly developed its Protex ™ N95 particulate respirator and now also manufactures medical isolation gowns and surgical barrier fabrics. With these additional product lines, it was time to bring in additional staff with health and safety expertise and launch the new business unit.

“This is a very exciting time in the 105-year history of Shawmut Corporation as we deepen the healthcare solutions space,” noted Wyner. “We have a long-term commitment to developing innovative health and safety products made in the United States and compliant with the Berry Amendment, not only for this time of great need, but well beyond so that our country is never never faced with critical PPE. shortage again.

Shawmut upgraded 70,000 square feet of space to accommodate production for its Health and Safety business unit.

Make room, start

According to Shawmut, the company upgraded nearly 70,000 square feet of space at its West Bridgewater manufacturing facility to produce isolation gowns and N95 respirators. Shawmut acquired nearly 60 tonnes of specialized, high-precision meltblown machines from German company Reifenhauser Reicofil GmbH & Co. KG, which were expedited and shipped on an expedited schedule to the Port of Boston. In addition, Shawmut installed a fully automated and flexible production system to support its line of N95 particulate respirators and installed approximately 50 new gown and mask assembly lines, some of which are complemented by advanced robotic capabilities. .

The multi-million dollar investment enables Shawmut to help its customers meet demand and respond quickly to their evolving business needs.

Clockwise from top left: one of Shawmut’s original locations; Shawmut manufactures products for the global automotive market; Shawmut’s new Health and Safety business unit produces US-made PPE, such as medical isolation gowns; Shawmut recently created a Military & Protective Materials business unit which will produce ultra-specific and high-performance technical fabrics.

A military focus

More recently, Shawmut announced another strategic expansion with the creation of a new Military & Protective Materials business unit. The unit will produce high-quality, USA-made technical fabric solutions of very high specification and high performance, many of which will also comply with the Berry Amendment. Shawmut’s military and protection solutions feature waterproof, windproof, flame retardant, and chemical and biological protection properties, and are ideal for the high-stakes uses required by military and field professionals who require equipment. high performance to do their jobs safely. With new leadership in onboard business development focused on high performance material solutions, the division integrates Shawmut’s textile manufacturing, dyeing, finishing and laminating capabilities to develop revolutionary new technologies that will enable Shawmut to become a key player within the high performance United States. textile and clothing industry.

Provide protection

Shawmut’s leadership position in lamination technology has resulted in multiple applications in protective equipment, including products in the high quality utility workwear market; flame retardant fabric area; and the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection markets. Shawmut’s ability to fabricate high water vapor transmission laminates provides solutions for firefighter equipment; surgical gowns; and waterproof and breathable utility and outdoor equipment, among other applications. The waterproof, yet breathable attributes also extend to products such as footwear, military outerwear, as well as boots for hunting, hiking, and military use.

Clean water

Shawmut leverages its advanced processing technologies and technical fabric expertise to deliver custom-designed material solutions and solve complex challenges. Their global team believes that no challenge is too big, and they have a long history of solving a wide variety of industry needs through dynamic and innovative textile approaches. As an example, Shawmut is part of the global push for innovative textile water filtration technologies as a producer of technical knitted fabrics that are used as permeate carriers in reverse osmosis filtration systems and processes. of salt and brackish water. Shawmut reports that its nonwoven filter fabric is US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliant and certified by the National Sanitation Foundation.

Looking forward

A fourth generation international family business is not common today, and Shawmut is by no means a joint venture. Drawing on over 100 years of experience in fabric forming and lamination, Shawmut uses materials innovation, engineering expertise, advanced processes and global supply chain strategies to help solve quickly meet customers’ advanced material design challenges, setting itself apart from conventional New England textiles. stereotype of the company. Shawmut’s story is rooted in agile technology application, advanced processes, performance testing and quality, while keeping customer needs first.

“We are excited to leverage our expertise in textile engineering, process innovation and commitment to excellence to produce the highest quality materials for the best performing individuals,” Wyner said of the new military and protective materials business unit. This enthusiasm, commitment and problem solving is at the heart of Shawmut.

July / August 2021

About Tracy G. Larimore

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