Nordson Corporation was founded in 1954 in Amherst, Ohio by brothers Eric and Evan Nord. However, the company’s roots trace back to the U.S. Automatic Company, which was started in 1909.
Initially, the U.S. Automatic Company specialized in screw machine parts for the emerging automotive industry. In 1935, under the direction of Eric and Evan’s father Walter G. Nord, the company shifted its production emphasis to high-precision parts critical to supporting the United States' defense effort during World War II.
Following the war, the Nords searched for a proprietary product to serve as a basis for future growth. This product was found in 1954 with the acquisition of patents covering the "hot airless" method of spraying paint and other coating materials. With the patents in hand, Nordson was started as a division of U.S. Automatic Corporation to produce and market airless spray equipment.
In the mid 1960s, Nordson's experience in heated coatings technology led to the development of equipment to apply thermoplastic adhesives, commonly called “hot melts”, for case sealing, carton manufacturing and product assembly operations. In 1966, the entire U.S. Automatic operation was merged into the subsidiary, Nordson Corporation. Later, the addition of air-atomized spray painting systems, and the incorporation of electrostatics in airless, air-atomized and rotary-atomized painting processes, established Nordson as a technological leader in the paint finishing industry. Beginning in the late 1960s, Nordson pioneered the technology and equipment for applying powder coatings with the development of the compact and efficient cartridge-type recovery/recycle systems. Nordson has continually refined its cartridge-booth technology and remains an innovator in all aspects of the powder coating process.
With an eye to the future, the Nords increasingly recognized the importance of being global. To this end, the first Nordson international subsidiaries were established in Europe (Belgium) and Asia (Japan). Total company sales eclipsed $10 million by the decade’s end.
Nordson continued to build on the innovations of the previous decade. Under the continued leadership of Eric Nord, the company exceeded $100 million in sales. Shares of Nordson began to be traded on the NASDAQ exchange.
In 1986, William P. Madar was named President and CEO, with Eric Nord remaining as Chairrman of the Board. Under Madar’s leadership , Nordson began to acquire companies that would strengthen its position as a leader in technology, product quality and customer service. The first of these were the 1989 purchases of Industriell Coating Aktiebolag, a specialist in Tribo-charged powder spray technology, and Meltex, a leader in hot melt adhesive dispensing.
Globalization also continued with the company’s first Latin American subsidiary being established in Brazil. By the decade’s end, international sales would account for more than 50% of the company’s $250 million in annual revenue.
Nordson continued to grow organically and via acquisition. The acquisitions of Sluatterback Corporation, Veritec Technologies and J&M Laboratories helped build the company’s adhesive dispensing capabilities in product assembly, packaging, converting and nonwoven applications worldwide.
The company also began to expand its presence in the rapidly expanding high technology and electronics industries. From 1996 to 2000, the company made strategic acquisitions in this key segment, adding ultraviolet (UV) curing capabilities from Spectral Technology Group in 1996 and Horizon Lamps Inc. in 1999; gas plasma technologies from Advanced Plasma Systems in 1996 and March Instruments Inc. in 1999; and precision dispensing equipment for the electronics, medical and fiber optics industries with the acquisitions of Asymtek in 1996 and EFD Inc. in 2000. These acquisitions continue to form the core of Nordson’s Advanced Technology segment today.
In 1997, Bill Madar retired as CEO and became Chairman, with Edward P. Campbell becoming CEO, and Eric Nord remaining on the Board of Directors. By the end of the decade, sales exceeded $500 million and subsidiaries had been established in the China and India.
The company continued its balanced formula of organic and acquisitive growth. Global market share continued to expand as Nordson increased its focus on technology differentiation, application expertise and direct service. CEO Ed Campbell introduced Lean manufacturing concepts throughout the company, aiding profitability, efficiency and competitiveness.
The acquisition in 2004 of W. Puffe Technologies, a manufacturer of hot melt adhesive dispensing systems, expanded Nordson’s existing technology base in adhesive systems, while also providing increased access to European markets. The acquisitions of Dage Holdings and Yestech in 2007 brought Nordson into a new market area, electronic test and inspection, both of which were highly complementary to the company’s existing dispensing capabilities.
The company weathered the Great Recession intact, emerging stronger and more profitable, and annual sales exceed $1 billion by the end of the decade. Co-founders Evan and Eric Nord pass away in 2004 and 2008, respectively.
In 2010, Ed Campbell retires as CEO and is replaced by Michael F. Hilton. Hilton brings additional focus to corporate strategy, organic growth opportunities, acquisition strategy, talent development, and continuous improvement. The company strengthens its position as the global leader in precision technology solutions and identifies two new spaces for growth, medical and polymer processing. In medical, the acquisitions of Micromedics, a global leader in biomaterial dispensing, Value Plastics, a leader in medical fluid flow control, and Avalon, a provider of catheters and tubing, establish a strong foundation. In polymer processing, Nordson acquires Verbrggen, EDI, Xaloy Holdings, and Kreyenborg/BKG to build a portfolio of critical flow components for plastic extrusion, injection molding, pelletizing and recycling applications.