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Niche Market: Transportation is a lucrative but limited sector

Time:2018-06-23 08:09Turbochargers information Click:

Market lu Transportation Niche

Niche Market: Transportation is a lucrative but limited sector - Jan 2018

Niche Market: Transportation is a lucrative but limited sector - Jan 2018

Niche Market: Transportation is a lucrative but limited sector - Jan 2018

Niche Market: Transportation is a lucrative but limited sector - Jan 2018

By Jessica Chevalier

Niche businesses can provide steady and enduring secondary revenue streams for manufacturers who are willing to expend the effort to land and establish them. Often, once these are set up, they can run in a fairly streamlined and painless fashion, especially if the product offerings for the market are narrow. So it is with flooring for the transportation sector. Today, several flooring manufacturers are enjoying strong margins on business earned from relationships established decades ago in this niche market, and thanks in particular to rapid replacement cycles for flooring in commercial aviation, business is brisk.

The transportation sector is a varied market that encompasses both private and mass transportation vehicles. Flooring products for this sector are sourced from a variety of manufacturers, both within and outside what we traditionally consider the flooring industry.

For those within the flooring industry that participate-including Mohawk, Lonseal, Mannington, Dixie’s Fabrica, and Tarkett’s Desso-the transportation market represents an active and rewarding niche business; however, consider that even the largest of vehicles represents a fairly small amount of square yardage, and it quickly becomes apparent how limited this market actually is.

As one might expect, transportation market flooring varies significantly for private vehicles versus commercial, passenger-carrying fleets. Flooring for commercial vehicles must meet stringent burn requirements, established by the various agencies regulating them, while carpet for private yachts, for instance, is unregulated. Private planes are regulated, though much less stringently than commercial airline fleets.

Commercial aviation fleets utilize two types of flooring: carpet and vinyl sheet. Both of these products must meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements for flammability, as well as other requisites, including factor of sliding friction, smoke resistance and toxicity.

Of course, airlines have their own list of requirements as well. “United looks for flooring that will save weight while increasing durability, reducing fuel consumption while maintaining quality,” reports the airline. “Various teams work together to make sure we select the best product for our fleet, with considerations for durability, weight and cost. During the selection process for carpet and non-textile floorcovering (NTF), materials are tested to see how they would perform in our aircraft’s environment. We perform various slip tests to make sure we maintain a safe working environment for our crews and test materials for ease of installation and the welding of the seams for the NTF material. Our aircraft original equipment partners have their own requirements that the suppliers must meet to be installed at the factory, such as material shrinkage, puncture resistance, color pattern, and retainment. As we look toward the future and reducing fuel consumption, we look for construction and material techniques that save weight but maintain other important attributes.”

Like United, standard commercial aircraft utilize both carpet and NTF or, as we call it, sheet vinyl. The vinyl is used only in the cockpit, galley areas, entry and lavatories, according to Gregg Nord, sales manager, manufacturing specialty sales for Lonseal, while the carpet is used throughout the seating area.

Because wool chars rather than burns, it long stood as the fiber of choice for applications with strict flammability requirements. And, as such, wool was traditionally used for aviation applications. However, according to Esli Wessels, business segment manager aviation for Desso, the market has shifted in some regard. “We started with mainly wool, and through the years, developed nylon into a Wilton woven construction,” says Wessels. “Nylon is lighter and cheaper than wool, and there is a growing demand for nylon. Worldwide today, wool accounts for about 40% of the market; nylon for 35%; and wool-nylon blends for 25%. The amount of blends used-mainly 80% wool, 20% nylon-has increased significantly the last two years.” In terms of construction, the aviation sector exclusively uses Wilton.

But how can nylon, an oil-based product, pass flammability testing? “Fire retardancy is the most critical component of aviation carpet,” Wessels explains. “Wool is naturally flame retardant, so there is a different approach for creating flame retardancy with nylon. We have to add more flame retardants into the backing.” Interestingly, because wool is naturally absorbent, it more readily adheres to the latex backing, while nylon requires more latex. Even with the additional latex, the finished nylon carpet still weighs less than wool. Vinyl flooring must also meet the burn requirements.

David Sandiford, manager of transportation sales for Mohawk Group, explains his company’s approach, “In aviation, we have to burn the carpet in a 1,550 degree minimum flame for 12 seconds [called the vertical flame test]. Historically, wool was the product that would meet that requirement. Mohawk brought nylon into the market and had technology that would allow that fiber to meet the vertical flame test. In doing so, we got majority share of the U.S. market. About 15 years ago, we worked with a company to develop a technology to ensure that the carpets not only meet burn requirements of the FAA but also meet certain smoke density and toxicity requirements that companies like Boeing and Airbus demand and that helped grow our international business.”

In addition, dimensional stability is important. “Taking aircraft from the ground to 35,000 feet in minutes, the temperature change within one flight is huge,“ explains Nord.

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