Sundaram Nagarajan : From ITW to Nordson’s CEO

Sundaram Nagarajan: A Tale of Leadership, Innovation, and Growth

Sundaram Nagarajan, affectionately known as Naga, assumed the role of President and CEO of Nordson Corporation on August 1, 2019. This transition marked not just a change in leadership but the beginning of a new chapter in Nordson’s remarkable story.

Sundaram Nagarajan’s rise to the helm of Nordson is a testament to his exceptional leadership and vision, nurtured over a career spanning 23 years at Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW). His most recent role as the Executive Vice President of the $3.3 billion Automotive OEM segment at ITW showcased his ability to drive profitability and revenue growth, both organically and through strategic acquisitions.

Under Naga’s leadership, the Automotive OEM segment at ITW achieved remarkable success, solidifying its reputation as a thriving, customer-focused division. This experience provided the perfect backdrop for his transition to Nordson, a global leader in precision technology, with a strong emphasis on innovation and customer-centricity.

Michael Merriman, Chairman of Nordson’s board of directors, spoke with excitement about Naga’s appointment, saying, “After a comprehensive search, we are excited to name Naga as Nordson’s next president and CEO.

Naga’s passion for technology-driven innovation, knowledge of global industrial markets, and outstanding record of improving the financial results of the businesses he has run by focusing on customer intimacy, operational excellence, and employee development, make him a perfect fit for Nordson.”

Sundaram Nagarajan, a man of profound wisdom and insight, commented on his appointment, “Throughout my career, I’ve thrived in driving growth and profitability by focusing on the customer while also prioritizing innovation and talent development.

I am very honored to join Nordson, which has always put its customers and employees first, and as a result, has grown into a market-leading enterprise with an outstanding reputation. I look forward to building on this success with the Nordson team.”

As Sundaram Nagarajan takes the reins at Nordson, it’s worth delving into the extraordinary journey that led him to this pivotal moment in his career.

A Journey of Excellence

Sundaram Nagarajan embarked on his professional journey in 1991 at Hobart Brothers, where he was involved in the design and development of welding consumables. This early experience sowed the seeds of his commitment to precision and excellence in manufacturing. In 1996, ITW acquired Hobart Brothers, marking the beginning of his enduring association with the company.

Over the years, Sundaram Nagarajan climbed the corporate ladder at ITW, reflecting his exceptional capabilities. In 2006, he was promoted to Group Vice President for the ITW Welding Group, a testament to his leadership and strategic prowess. Two years later, in 2008, he became the Group President of Welding International, further solidifying his reputation as a leader with a keen sense of business acumen.

Naga’s journey reached another milestone from 2010 to 2014 when he served as the Executive Vice President of Welding, responsible for overseeing ITW’s $1.9 billion group of welding and related industrial businesses worldwide. It was during this period that his ability to drive profitability and foster organic growth truly shone.

His journey culminated in his appointment as the Executive Vice President of the $3.3 billion Automotive OEM segment at ITW in 2015. Under his leadership, the segment flourished, becoming a beacon of success within ITW.

Sundaram Nagarajan: A Scholar and Philanthropist

Sundaram Nagarajan’s impressive educational background is a testament to his commitment to personal growth and development.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in science from South Gujarat University, an MBA from Wright State University, and a master’s and doctorate degrees in materials science from Auburn University. This diverse educational background equipped him with the knowledge and skills to excel in the industrial world.

Beyond his corporate responsibilities, Nagarajan actively engages in philanthropy and community service. He is a member of the board of directors of Sonoco Products Co., a past trustee of Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, an advisory board member of IACS, and a member of the Executive Club and the Economics Club of Chicago.

His commitment to giving back to the community is further exemplified by his role as the co-chair of ITW’s National United Way Campaign in 2013 and 2014.

Leading Nordson to New Heights

Sundaram “Naga” Nagarajan’s transition to Nordson as its President and CEO brought with it high expectations. He inherited a company with a remarkable legacy, known for its precision technology and commitment to its employees and communities.

Since assuming leadership at Nordson, Sundaram Nagarajan has not only sustained the company’s 56-year streak of annual dividend increases but has also charted a course for growth and innovation. His tenure has seen Nordson doubling its annual revenues to over $2 billion, and its workforce now exceeds 7,500 employees.

When asked about the similarities between his experiences at ITW and Nordson, Nagarajan pointed out the global nature of both businesses and their shared focus on innovative solutions to critical customer problems. This common thread enabled him to seamlessly transition into his role at Nordson and continue to drive growth and profitability.

The culture at Nordson, characterized by respect, integrity, and a passion for customer-centricity, resonated strongly with Naga. He recognized the importance of preserving this culture even as the company sought new avenues for growth and expansion.

Nordson’s diverse portfolio, spanning 30 different manufacturing areas, mirrors Nagarajan’s previous experience at ITW, which served a broad spectrum of industries. Naga’s mission has been to harness Nordson’s diverse strengths and steer the company towards a future of sustained growth.

Building a Bright Future

As he assumed the leadership of Nordson, Sundaram Nagarajan embarked on a journey of reflection and renewal. He recognized that while the company had achieved impressive revenue growth over the past decade, there was a need to reinvigorate growth and update the company’s playbook for continued success.

Naga’s vision for Nordson encompassed two key areas of growth: Medical components and test and inspection. The medical sector presented an opportunity for stable revenue growth in a high-growth market. Nordson’s precision technologies in this space are highly differentiated, allowing the company to create significant value for its customers.

The test and inspection segment was a natural fit, particularly for Nordson’s electronic businesses. It played a pivotal role in ensuring the quality and accuracy of products, such as mobile devices, during the manufacturing process. This real-time inspection capability was indispensable, especially as technology and products became more complex and intricate.

Nordson’s growth strategy extends beyond these two areas. Sundaram Nagarajan envisions a balanced plan that combines organic growth with strategic acquisitions. Medical and test inspection remain the primary focus areas for acquisitions, enabling Nordson to diversify its capabilities and expand into new markets.

Additionally, Sundaram Nagarajan emphasizes the importance of tapping into emerging markets, where middle-income growth is driving opportunities for Nordson’s precision technology.

Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and China offer untapped potential for the company. The competition in these regions is evolving, and Nordson is poised to leverage its expertise to serve both existing and new customers.

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