Facing a New Challenge
Greg Nelson, Sun Chemical’s new VP and chief procurement officer, takes reins of company’s $2.3B purchasing department.
By David Savastano, Editor
During the past two years, Sun Chemical has gone outside of the industry to bring in a number of leading executives to guide the company into the future, starting with Wes Lucas, Sun Chemical’s chairman, CEO and president.
In order to produce sales of more than $3 billion in ink and colorants in 2002, Sun Chemical had tremendous raw material costs. With Kenneth C. Collins, the company’s longtime senior vice president, corporate purchasing and supply chain management, retiring at the end of the first quarter of 2003, the company needed an experienced executive to oversee its $2.3 billion purchasing department.
Sun Chemical believes it has found the right person in Greg Nelson, its new corporate vice president and chief procurement officer. Mr. Nelson was most recently the purchasing leader at Dow Chemical, where he led an 800-person global organization and was responsible for the company’s $11 billion in annual purchases.
“What I like about Greg is that he is a world-class business leader first, and then uses his functional expertise in purchasing to add value and impact the organization,” Mr. Lucas said.
After earning his engineering degree at Cornell University, Mr. Nelson joined Exxon, where he spent more than two decades, beginning on the manufacturing side and rising to the position of business manager for oxy solvents. He enjoyed his experience on the business side, and when the opportunity came to join Union Carbide in 1997 and go into purchasing, Mr. Nelson was ready for the challenge.
“I knew I liked the business side, where I could meet with people and negotiate,” Mr. Nelson said. “At Carbide, I was given the opportunity to go into purchasing because of my experience in manufacturing. I moved in as business manger, and in six months I was named vice president of purchasing.”
At Union Carbide, Mr. Nelson was responsible for the company’s $3.5 billion in annual purchases, but bigger responsibilities were soon to follow when Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide in 2001. Dow only brought along seven members of Union Carbide’s senior management, including Mr. Nelson, who was named head of purchasing for the combined companies.
“When the merger with Dow happened, I took over the combined roles of purchasing for the new company, and was responsible for $11 billion and had 800 people under me in global purchasing,” Mr. Nelson said. “It was such a fantastic opportunity and I couldn’t turn it down. Merging two big entities is very rare and I was excited about the synergy possibilities.”
Moving to Sun Chemical
Mr. Nelson said that Dow Chemical is a tremendous company, but because of family reasons, he felt it was time for him to return to his native New York roots.
“I wanted to move back to the Northeast,“ Mr. Nelson said. “I grew up in New York and I was married last year, and my wife Janet lives in New York and has an exercise physiologist practice.”
Fortunately for Mr. Nelson, the opportunity to lead Sun Chemical’s purchasing operations came at just the right time.
“This was such a unique opportunity,” Mr. Nelson said. “Sun Chemical is such an attractive company, and Wes is assembling a fantastic team of industry leaders. There’s an excitement here. Wes has allowed me free reign to bring value to the corporation. We control so much of our total spending – $2.3 billion – and anything purchasing can streamline or improve goes to our bottom line.”
Mr. Nelson said that 2003 will be a challenging one for purchasing.
“One thing is for sure – there will be a lot of pressure on energy costs,” he said. “It’s an interesting, uncertain time for us. I think this year will be a pretty tough year.”
Mr. Nelson is grateful for the help that Mr. Collins has given him during his quick transition to the ink industry.
“I’m on a steep learning curve,” Mr. Nelson said. “ I grew up in the petrochemical industry, and here we are closer to the customer. I joined the third week of February, and Ken has been very good at helping me during the transition.”
Mr. Nelson is at home with Six Sigma, which has become an integral part of Sun Chemical’s strategy.
“Dow went to Six Sigma nearly five years ago,” Mr. Nelson said. “We had a requirement that 3 percent of our employee population become black belts. My purchasing staff had more than 20 black belts, and Sun is making significant progress implementing Six Sigma company-wide.”
Mr. Lucas is sure he has found the right person for the role of purchasing for Sun Chemical.
“Mr. Nelson is recognized as one of the world’s leading strategic sourcing and purchasing professionals with more than 25 years experience in major chemical companies including Exxon, Union Carbide and Dow Chemical,” Mr. Lucas said. “His professional, functional and industry knowledge are a perfect fit for Sun and our needs. He is a remarkable leader and a very experienced chemicals executive who has worked in a wealth of positions in operations, technical, engineering, commercial, business planning and enterprise-wide purchasing.”
Mr. Nelson is looking forward to the challenge that Sun Chemical has given him.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for me,” Mr. Nelson said. “I’ve been extremely impressed with the talent, knowledge and the dedication of the people we have. I think it will be a lot of fun.”