Nordson: systems to suit everyone
Nordson is an American Corporation that has placed a lot of importance in Italy and throughout Europe. It produces systems for the application of vitreous enamel, paints, powders, adhesives, and sealants. Sergio Cocchi, aged 53, the manager of Nordson Finishing for Southern Europe, describes Nordson's strategies and the situation in the vitreous enamel sector at world level; the importance of intangible resources (organization, service), investments, and production directed to emerging countries. It is therefore essential that information concerning enamel is in line with the times.
Mcluhan's prophetic words of forty years ago affirming that the "medium is the message", sums up just what was happening in the means of communication.
Already in the planning phase and in choosing a suitable focal point for this interview, the special nature of the "House of Nordson" was evident. A company whose capital, background and industrial philosophy are American. That the company has been operating in Europe for a long time and has invested - and is still investing - a great deal here. And the company has had an adequate return on this strategy. Perhaps by chance, but significantly, Nordson has its main non-American operating centre at Maastricht, the town symbolizing the new European Union. And Nordson managers are dynamic and always in one part of the world or another, in those places where the Corporation's sisters, manufacturing plants, and businesses are located. Contacts with these executives are easier along the digital highways, using fax and e-mail, which depart from or are sent to - at any time and on any day, both working or holiday - both from/to locations in far away America and from/to Northern Europe and nearby Lombardy.
In this way - using these tools and with these words - Sergio Cocchi, aged 53, Nordson's Southern European manager, has answered our questions.
"Nordson Corporation designs, produces, and sells automatic systems for applying vitreous enamel, other powder-based coatings, adhesives and sealants in a vast sector of both industrial and consumer products.
In all these sectors, Nordson plants represent the main reference points at world level. Founded in 1903 with its first historic premises at Westlake, Ohio, Nordson has progressively extended its structural, organizational, and operational strength, to become a large and cohesive international company, always in the forefront in sectors that are strategic to its industrial development.
Currently, Nordson Corporation operates through 44 international subsidiaries and 34 national distributors. A consolidated base, as is demonstrated by the turnover of US$700 million in 1999, and a constant growth trend (an average of +14% per year), which makes Nordson a company that stands out in Nasdaq (NDSN) classifications.
"For Nordson," continues Sergio Cocchi, "the European markets are the main international operational point of reference. This is demonstrated by the fact that 38% of the Corporation's overall turnover is achieved in the countries of the European Union. For this reason, Nordson pays special attention to its business in Europe, both in providing incentives to encourage European subsidiaries to grow, and in guaranteeing that customers are treated with the maximum efficiency, particularly through the "intelligent" Distribution Centre at Maastricht, the true heart of European operations, which is controlled entirely by IT systems, and robots, and can deliver any spare part to any part of Europe within 48 hours.
"Since 1991," adds Cocchi to complete his overview of the Corporation's activities, "Nordson has been operating directly in Italy, through a subsidiary structured for the production, commercial, financial and customer service sectors. The Finishing Organization, thanks to a nation-wide network of authorized dealers, technicians, and operational facilities in Italy - all connected to the Maastricht warehouse - provides the best possible service to Italian customers. In 1994 the latter rewarded us with a turnover that had increased six times".
Passing to more technical matters, we asked Sergio Cocchi what could be the possible role of plant manufacturers in the vitreous enamel and enamelling sectors in the near future.
"In view of Nordson's positive results, the company has without doubt formulated the correct technical and marketing philosophy, which combines very well with the flexibility required by Italian customers: to unite the complex relationship between ad hoc personalized systems for customers with globally standardized products and components: this result is the best guarantee for the right balance between price and return on investment.
Vitreous enamelling is a mature technological process, but one that requires not only continual and personalized updating, but also continual adaptation of globally standardized solutions to make them suitable also for meeting local plant requirements".
For a company already structured for the global market, it is therefore almost an obligation to ask what changes will be made in this situation, and the influence of new technologies.
"The industrial plant sector," Cocchi replied, "is a part of inter-company economic relations - what is known as "business to business".
"The intangible resources have become the key to success in the era of hyper-communications: in our sector, the product and market barriers have been removed to create space for new barriers, which make the difference between the various competitors in creating value for themselves and for their customers.
The creation of the integrated warehouse at Maastricht is the starting point for the implementation of a global network uniting Nordson with its customers. The latter will soon have direct access to the distribution centre for handling orders, in this way reducing supply times and annulling the costs of storing spares."
Q: And as regards new markets, the developing countries, and prices?
"Currently," replies Cocchi, "in Europe the situation for the consumption of enamels and for investment in enamelling plant is stable: in addition, obsolete plants are being replaced with new ones, or enamelling companies are being rationalized following the merging of different brands by the multinationals operating in the sector.
We believe that both enamel consumption and investments in newly developed countries, where labour costs are low - such as Poland, China, Turkey, etc. - are growing. We have recently started moving investments and making strategic alliances with the sector's most important companies in order to penetrate such countries."
Q: How would you describe your relationships with the enamel manufacturers?
"Nordson has always had a winning philosophy with all the suppliers of the raw materials that are used in their plants: continuous, non-exclusive, collaboration.
Also in the enamelling sector, relations between the various European subsidiaries and the enamel producers are continuous and profitable, but always as part of a philosophy of non-exclusiveness, because this is what our customers prefer."
Q: Let's talk about associationism, and the C.I.S.P.
"The C.I.S.P.," concludes Sergio Cocchi, "has up to now performed an important role, not only as regards co-ordination and making proposals, but also as regards awareness of the diverse needs of its subsidiaries. By means of congresses, meetings, technical committees and the Smalto Porcellanato (Vitreous Enamel) magazine, the C.I.S.P has successfully carried out its functions of association between the companies of the sector.
In my view, however, modernization of these associations must not stop at a web page, but should aim at real-time, on-line communication not only of all items of information of interest to the sector, but also of every decision taken within the organization. An excellent quarterly magazine can no longer be the only information vehicle required to keep up-to-date with the times required - and necessary - for the markets of 2000.
Nordson was founded in 1903 at Westlake (Ohio, U.S.A.) and designs, produces, and markets plants and systems for the application of vitreous enamel; paints in both liquid and powder form; and adhesives and sealants used during the production phase in a large sector of industrial and consumer products.
Today, Nordson Corporation operates through 44 international subsidiaries and 34 national dealers.
In 1999, the corporation achieved a turnover of US$700 million, 38% of which was earned in European Union countries. Nordson has a distribution centre at Maastricht equipped with an advanced robotized and computerized system, able to supply spare parts just-in-time throughout Europe.
Since 1991 Nordson has been operating directly in Italy through its "sister" company which, in 1998 had a turnover of Lit. 64 billion, earned for the most part in vitreous enamelling and powder-based coatings sectors. This is a sector that the American Corporation is proud to have revolutionized a number of times, from 1956 to date, with a series of patented innovations.
Every year, Nordson invests Lit. 55 million in research for optimising organization, service, increasing yield, and reducing costs. Flexibility, designing personalized technological solutions on the basis of the customer's requirements, a vast range of accessories, an awareness of ecological questions, and a constant dialogue with the customer: these are Nordson's key advantages and the source of its dynamism and industrial strength.