As Eaton Truck Components Managing Director for Australia and South Africa and Regional Manager for South East Asia, Japan, New Zealand and Korea as well as Country Manager for Australia, Robert’s duties take him to many global destinations, exposing him to trucking applications encompassing all manner of tasks and driveline requirements.
His current roles and the number of countries involved elicits the humorous remark: “I don’t add responsibilities, I add countries” to his portfolio, but his wide experience with varying market requirements gives him a unique and more than simple grasp of customer expectations.
Robert commenced his career with International Harvester in Melbourne on 2 December, 1974, working with that company for a total of 21 years to the day, until taking on the position of OEM Sales Manager with Eaton in 1995. In 1999, Robert moved to the Truck Components head office in Galesburg, Michigan USA, taking up the role of OEM Sales Manager responsible for the US Mack Trucks account.
2001 saw Robert appointed Sales and Marketing Manager for medium-duty product lines for North America, Canada and Mexico before returning to Australia in March 2003 as the Truck Components Managing Director for Australia and South Africa with regional responsibility for South East Asia and New Zealand.
In October 2004, he was appointed to the position of Country Manager for Eaton’s business in Australia. In January 2005 and September 2006 he assumed responsibility for the Truck Components operations in Japan and Korea respectively.
The US experience gave Robert Clarke a thorough grounding in all aspects of the company’s operations and its ability to develop technology in-line with customer requirements across all sectors of trucking. Along the way he has seen many changes in those customer needs and been very much a part of extending suitable products into differing areas.
His rise through the company has instilled the deep knowledge of Eaton and its product line-up and translated it into customer focus, plus he takes pride in what the Australian engineering and development team can contribute to the company’s global market.
He says one of the highlights in his career was working with International Harvester and seeing that company’s turnaround from an uncertain future to a profitable company.
“The International Harvester financial situation in the early 80s, when it went into receivership, was unfortunate and I am proud to say I was there when it regained its position and grew into a reasonably strong company. It gives me pride to have worked through that period and it really is a highlight,” Robert says.
“Our people put qualified effort into delivering real gains in both performance and fuel economy.”
This was just one of the working experiences that Robert has enjoyed and today he is totally committed to Eaton, its products and importantly its people. Robert has seen some major changes in the truck market over the years and he points to new engines and the impact they have on transmission development, particularly when it comes to horsepower and torque outputs and the role people around him play in delivering products meeting new technology needs.
“In Australia we are blessed with a support team at Kilsyth able to develop opportunities. Eaton invests in people and we have some of the most experienced and knowledgeable persons working tirelessly to meet productivity gains in terms of reliability and durability,” he says.
“Their extensive knowledge also has a significant impact on product development in-line with market requirements, Australia playing a major role in global operations.
“A strong focus of our business is the customer and delivering the best possible technology to assist them in their businesses. We work closely with OEMs and this too is a strong point, but we don’t sell a transmission, we back it up with the expertise of our people who are extremely well qualified.”
Robert has seen Eaton’s market share grow substantially and he points out that automated transmissions are growing in numbers across the Australian truck fleet.
“Obviously the market for automated transmissions is going to grow due to driver skills and changes in technology leading to entirely better products delivering advances for all road transport operators,” he says.
“The market share in terms of automated product penetration in the market compared to manual is 70 per cent in Australia and South Africa while in the US it is 30 per cent. We listen to customers to fully understand their requirements and act accordingly.
“Our people put qualified effort into delivering real gains in both performance and fuel economy and have done much to develop products to meet demands in a wider range of transport applications.”
Robert and his people have worked closely with all manufacturers in a range of global markets in order to deliver those driveline products offering higher reliability and performance gains, and the recent introduction of automated transmissions into the medium-duty market segment has been extremely successful, again the result of experience and intimate knowledge of the market.
“It would not have happened without our team here and there are some interesting technologies to come and some very large efficiencies to be gained. Product development is ongoing, at any one time we have a number of projects underway with prototypes operating in other parts of the world. The targets given by customers are hefty and over the years Eaton has met and surpassed them through an involved and concise development program.”
Robert Clarke is extremely aware of market requirements across his wide portfolio of countries. Each has its own unique operating conditions and applications, but he and his team are unique too. Through a thorough knowledge of operational differences Eaton can react quickly, develop driveline products for changing global markets and deliver productivity to road transport operators around the globe. That too is a source of pride and establishes further highlights in his career.
While he has a busy and demanding role at Eaton he is also Vice-President of the Truck Industry Council (TIC) and works tirelessly to reinforce the safety and environment message that the organisation promotes.
As if he didn’t have enough to do!