Aquafil was founded in 1969 when its first production facility for polymerisation and manufacturing of Nylon 6 fibres was established in Arco, Italy. Since then it has grown significantly, opening up more facilities across Italy before expanding globally into Slovenia, the US, and later Asia–Pacific. Today, it has a presence in 8 countries on 3 continents (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, the UK, the US, Thailand and China), has almost 3,000 staff and operates 16 manufacturing plants. It processes 130,000 tons of polymers and fibres each year, and in 2015 recorded a turnover of €500 million.
Giulio Bonazzi was appointed CEO of Aquafil in 2001 and subsequently took on the additional role of Chairman in 2008. Throughout his time with the group he has driven many instances of change and has steered it through several evolutions. He says there have been many great highlights along the journey, particularly in recent years.
“It’s been a great past 5 years,” he notes. “Particularly because in 2009 we raised some capital and made 2 very important investments. Firstly, we set up our operations in China and this has been a very important change for us. In 2007, we were present with a small operation in Thailand, but with the move into China we became the only flooring fibre manufacturer there. That was quite significant for us. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, we launched our ECONYL® regeneration system project into the market, which is the world’s most efficient industrial system for the production of Nylon 6 yarn from 100% regenerated waste materials. That was a huge achievement for Aquafil.”
Aquafil operates in 2 key market segments: yarn for carpets and yarn for garments. Each of these has experienced inevitable changes in the marketplace as the industry has evolved considerably over the past 5 years, going through a consolidation period and experiencing new innovations on the product front. Most recently the group developed a new operational business division that operates inside the company in terms of energy and recycling.
Giulio explains the role that Aquafil has played in that. “Because we operate in 3 different continents we have to carefully consider the specifications for one market as opposed to another. So North America, Asia–Pacific and Europe are 3 different areas. Yes, there are customers who are globalised, like, for example, the US market, or customers who are present in 2 areas, but the most important thing is to consider the individual customer.