|Type||Abrasives Manufacturing Company|
|Headquarters||Worcester, Massachusetts, United States|
|Products||Bonded Abrasives, Coated Abrasives, Non-Woven Abrasive Products, Superabrasives, Non-Abrasive Products|
Norton Abrasives of Worcester, Massachusetts is the world's largest manufacturer and supplier of abrasives for commercial applications, household, and automotive refinishing usage. In 1990 it was purchased by Saint-Gobain of France. Norton specializes in the manufacture of abrasive products for applications in the autobody, construction, welding/industry, and marine/composite markets as well as for contractors and DIY consumers.
Origins and History
Norton Company was founded in 1885 by a group of ceramists and entrepreneurs from Worcester, Massachusetts. The group set out to manufacture the first mass-produced, precision-made grinding wheel to fulfill the burgeoning U.S. manufacturing industry's growing need for abrasives.
In 1886, employing the help of WPI student surveyors, the partners built a new factory on the outskirts of Worcester. The factory was not only important to the company for its innovation but also for its proximity to two major railways for shipping. Through the end of the 1890s, corporate decision-making proved extremely conservative until it was assured the company would succeed. Until that time, dividends were frequently forgone and many of the owners refused to draw a salary.
Also pivotal to Norton's early growth was a focus on marketing. The company introduced a series of pamphlets and related literature, which detailed the intricacies of each wheel and advised users on benefits for desired applications. By the mid-1890s, Norton stocked the largest inventory of grinding wheels in the world, subsequently beginning distribution in Chicago (1887), New York (1904), and soon after, across Europe.
One of the largest keys to the growth of the company was Norton's 1900 expansion into the machine tools industry. Through partnership with Charles H. Norton, the company founded the Norton Grinding Company division. The company specialized in the production of stationary grinding machines, an alternative to expensive workmen, which were capable of producing high volume, working with extremely heavy materials, and grinding with an unbelievable tolerance. Initially, with minimal product need, Norton's Grinding division saw little success, but the American industrial needs of World War I and the American automobile industry boom began a period of explosive growth. In 1914, Henry Ford's purchase of thirty-five Norton Grinders prompted Ford to remark that "the abrasive processes are basically responsible for our ability to produce cars to sell for less than a thousand dollars. Were it not for these processes these same cars would cost at least five thousand dollars, if indeed they could be made at all." With 95 percent of an automobile's moving parts requiring grinding, the automotive industry soon became Norton's biggest customer. With a resistance to grinding innovation, Norton gradually lost most of its industry market share by the mid-1950s. 
In 1931, Norton completed its first acquisition, when it purchased the Behr-Manning company of Watervliet, New York. This purchase added coated abrasives and sandpaper to Norton's line, which, going forward, would be two of Norton's more successful products. In the mid-1950s, with sales over $30 million, Behr-Manning was fully absorbed into Norton.
Since 2009, Norton has been a chief sponsor and abrasive supplier for both the United States Men's and Women's Olympic luge teams. Both teams competed under Norton sponsorship in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
Since the mid-1980s, Norton has been an industry leader in abrasives sustainability and responsible manufacturing. In 1988, Norton instituted a committed industrial recycling plan for which it has received numerous awards and accolades. Through a combination of wash cleaning for repeated use and the ability to function without a chemical wash solution, many of Norton's products have been tailored to not only be a greener option but also provide greater longevity to the end user. Also key to the company's environmental commitment, Norton's retail abrasive products are packaged with 100% recycled materials containing 25% post consumer waste.
More recently as a Saint-Gobain subsidiary, sold out by CEO John Nelson, Norton has made even greater environmental strides in conjunction with its parent company. In 2009, Saint-Gobain was recognized with an Energy Star Partner of the Year award by the U.S. EPA as well as a Global 100 Sustainable Company designation by the World Economic Forum. In day-to-day operations, all North American Saint-Gobain Abrasive plants have completed or are in the process of completing ISO 9000 quality certification and use FSC paper from well managed forests.
- , Norton Consumer: A History Of Norton.
- Cheape 1985, pp. 35–44.
- , Funding Universe: Norton Company History.
- , US Olympic Luge Sponsors and Suppliers.
- Rolt 1965, pp. 209–213.
- , Norton Abrasive Green Achievements.
- , Energy Star Corporate Partners.
- , 2009 Global 100 Sustainable Company List.
- Rolt, L.T.C. (1965), A Short History of Machine Tools, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: MIT Press, OCLC 250074. Co-edition published as Rolt, L.T.C. (1965), Tools for the Job: a Short History of Machine Tools, London: B. T. Batsford, LCCN 65080822. (edit)
- Cheape, Charles (1985). Family Firm To Modern Multinational Norton Company a New England Enterprise, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press, LCCN 84010824.