Interview: Peter Bierhuis and Alan Cable

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Peter Bierhuis, President, Nordson ASYMTEK and Alan Cable, recent President ACE Production Technologies

Peter Bierhuis, Trevor Galbraith and Alan Cable at APEX 2017

We are here to talk about the recent acquisition of ACE into the Nordson family, of course it is now rechristened Nordson ACE. Let’s start with you Alan. You’ve been running the company now for twelve years. Is this the consummation of all your work over the last twelve years?

Alan Cable (AC) I think it’s a constant evolution. Every year has been better than the previous year. I think we had reached a point where could use a lot of help – in both technical and going international – and Nordson brings that to us, without any question.

Principally, you’ve been a North American company, although you do sell overseas. But of course, Nordson has a huge global footprint, that’ll bring some strength.

AC I agree. We’ve master the U.S. sales, and now we are looking forward to international.

Peter, Nordson has been on quite the acquisition trail over the last few years. Can you tell us a little about your strategy?

Peter Bierhuis (PB) From a Nordson Corporate perspective, There is a very clear path towards growth, that is what our shareholders expect. There is also a very strong investment strategy for organic growth. Likewise, we recognize that acquisitive growth has to be part of that as well. We like to that in areas where we are familiar, not to step out too far from our core businesses. Within our advanced technology group, where we have the brands that you know: ASYMTEK, YESTECH, MARCH, DAGE, MATRIX, we are looking for opportunities to expand our footprint and leverage our infrastructure that we have around the globe. Why selective soldering then? It is a nice adjacency, There is almost no line where selective soldering is going on that there isn’t also optical inspection happening or conformal coating taking place. You can see where we can have customer relationships that we can expand, and hopefully, bring additional solutions to the party with our Nordson package of values, which relates a lot to application and service support, local presence, those types of things.

There are quite a lot of synergies there, a lot of strengths you can bring to bear. Alan, what are your plans going forward?

AC Technically, I am still going to be involve in wherever I can help out with the transition in the next year to follow. On the personal side, I might be playing a little golf.

With R&D, you’ll probably get more time to enjoy yourself at it, instead of the pressures of running the business.

AC I have always loved that aspect of it. The challenges of creativity is in my bones. I’ll never give it up.

Peter, on the overall strategy of the advanced technology group, a lot of companies are doing smart factory integration, data integration, what is the Nordson strategy on this?

PB That is clearly high on our agenda of things we need to work on and be out on the forefront on. Strategy wise, we do not like to have, necessarily, a proprietary system for communication between our machines. We really want to go with an open architecture, allow either ourselves or industry partners that we may be in line with or integrating companies to have the ability to reach into our machine for the communication elements that they are looking for. Our software, our control systems, are really being driven toward separation of the factory automation communication protocols, so they have access to that, separating that from our own operating systems. That is what the heart of our machine typically revolves around, Clearly, there is an element of protection that you need to apply around there.

That seems to be a fairly sensible strategy and a lot companies are doing that. They are going towards a more open strategy because you can walk into a customer who has existing equipment, you have to integrate into what the customer has, you can’t necessarily force them into your way of thinking.

PB For a lack of a single standard, that is basically what you have to do. Unless there is perhaps, one large customer we can appeal to, that can step up, where we say this is going to be the standard, force everybody to adopt it, we are probably going to be a lot more on the open front.

I think that standard is still more a work-in-progress. Alan, ACE is always coming out with a lot of innovative technologies in the selective soldering business. You a couple of new things on the booth, Can you tell us a little about them?

AC What we are showing are recently patented applied for technology for a multi-purpose solder pod that incorporates our very unique dual-nozzle for selective soldering where you can use a small nozzle and a larger nozzle in the same program by raising and lowering them. We’ve enlarged the solder pod where you also do a very large wave-soldering operation all in the same soldering pod by using the same alloy, the same nitrogen sources and the same heating sources. It makes it multi-purpose. For anyone who also has wave-soldering going on in moderate levels, this particular application will replace that wave-soldering machine and give all the technology for selective soldering all within one machine.

It’s got a massive eight-inch wide wave.

AC it’s all nitrogen inert, by the way.

Would you say that it’s more applicable for short-run?

AC If you are going to run thousands and thousands of order a day, and you have completely through-whole boards, you may want to keep your wave-soldering machine. If you have a multi-variety of boards going through and occasionally a full through-whole board going through, this is perfect for that.

The way the point nozzles work, is that they rise up above the wave?

AC They do, but the unique part of the wave-soldering nozzle that we built into it, it is magnetically coupled. Should you need greater clearances, you can simply remove the wave nozzle just by pulling it out, without hurting anything.

Alan, many, many congratulations. I look forward to hearing from you once you’ve reduced your handicap. And congratulations to you, Peter for a very astute acquisition.

–TREVOR GALBRAITH