For 33 years, Frank Campbell has worked with Eaton – a global technology leader in power management solutions for sources of electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power. In that time, Frank has held myriad different roles in the electrical space, operating across manufacturing, quality, sales, product management, marketing and IT.
He’s worked in various factories and offices, across six different locations in the US, before relocating to Europe to head up the company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) division as president for the corporate and electrical sectors.
During his time in EMEA, Eaton has grown from a few thousand employees to a 25,000 person-strong business in the region, and Frank’s rise through the ranks can be attributed to his personal passion for wanting the electricity world to operate more efficiently, safely and sustainably.
It’s not his leadership alone that is to thank for the company’s rapid growth, Frank says. Rather, he believes the secret recipe for Eaton’s ongoing success has just three key ingredients – the company’s commitment to making a real difference in the world; the passion and drive of its people; and building strategic and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Frank discusses these areas at length with The CEO Magazine, sharing how the century-old organisation originally came to grow its footprint in Europe, what value comes from engaging employees and partners for the best outcomes, and how it strives to ‘make what matters work’.
The CEO Magazine:What is Eaton’s role in the development of new power management technologies? What is your overall vision for the company within the space?
Frank: We manage all kinds of power – electrical power, hydraulic power and mechanical power in terms of vehicles and aerospace. Our company vision is to improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services that we develop and provide. All four of our businesses across the globe are focused on helping our customers use power more efficiently, reliably, safely and sustainably.
We have a company vision to improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technology and services that we develop and provide.
We are also focused on helping our customers solve their most important and most difficult power management problems, whether they are mechanical, hydraulic or electrical, in industry, in buildings, across the grid or in airplanes, cars or trucks. That’s what the company’s all about and that’s what we focus on.
Since being appointed President for the EMEA region, what have been some of key milestones for yourself and the business?
I was appointed president of the electrical sector in EMEA following two very large acquisitions that we made in 2008 that transformed our electrical business. Before those acquisitions, over 80 per cent of our revenue was generated inside the US and after the acquisitions this shifted and the majority of our revenue came from outside of the US.
We therefore decided that we could no longer run the company with all of our senior leaders sitting in the US. We needed to expand management into different geographies, so we now have four regional presidents in the electrical business: myself in EMEA, a colleague in Asia–Pacific, and two colleagues in the Americas running our component and assemblies businesses.
In Europe, we have built our business through a combination of acquisitions of varying sizes, so organising that group of different teams, across many different countries and company cultures, and integrating them into one cohesive electrical solution provider in this region has been quite
It has involved simplifying the business and uniting everyone’s focus on growth and on customers, and honestly, I’m very proud of the team that we’ve built, both at a leadership level and throughout the organisation.
We have also invested in organic growth opportunities in emerging economies and in new product and technology areas. We expanded our presence in EMEA significantly through an acquisition in Africa in 2011, as well as building a much more sizeable and effective business in the Middle East. We’ve built stronger businesses in several countries in Europe as well, and are globalising our capabilities around the world. We’ve gone from being a relatively small player in EMEA in 2008 to a multibillion-dollar business here in the region. It’s been quite an incredible growth story over the past decade.
Eaton has grown rapidly since its inception. How have you managed to attract and retain the best talent to keep pace?
As a company in the power management space with more than 100 years of history, what we do is interesting and important; it’s an area that matters to people. Our new brand promise – ‘We Make What Matters Work’ – is an engaging one. People want to do things that matter in their jobs, and we think Eaton presents a compelling proposition for people, not just because of the important things we do, but because employees can develop their career across four or five significantly different technology areas.
We have some interesting sectors for them to work in, and they have the chance do it in multiple countries too.We’re a company that’s rooted very deeply in a set of values. We have a very strong, ethically driven culture that ensures we’re doing things the right way and valuing our people.
We spend a lot of time and energy with our employees making sure that they are getting the assignments they want and need for development. We look for people who share that set of values, who can get behind our vision in a passionate way, and represent us as a company. People join us and tend to stay with us because they identify well with the values and the culture that the organisation represents.
Inclusion and diversity is also a hot topic and we’ve made great strides in creating a very diverse
and inclusive culture. We’ve established a whole series of inclusion councils starting with the senior leadership at the company. We call it the Global Inclusion Council and each region also has a Regional Inclusion Council.
Throughout the different global arms, we also have a number of employee resource groups, aimed at encouraging diversity and bringing together like-minded employees to celebrate and communicate around their particular differences, whether that be gender, age, race or sexual orientation.
Getting employees active and engaged in a common dialogue is an effective model, and it is having a profound impact upon the kinds of conversations we have – both in the organisation, engaging our current employees, but also resonating outwards with potential employees. It’s a powerful vision and people can relate to it and want to be a part of it.
Nissan and Eaton Launch Xstorage
Within six months of forming the Nissan–Eaton partnership, the companies launched xStorage – a new property-based energy storage system, recycling second-life batteries used in Nissan’s LEAF electric car.
When connected to residential and commercial power supply or renewable energy sources, the unit saves customers money on their utility bills by charging up when renewable energy is available or energy is cheaper (e.g. during the night) and releasing that stored energy when demand and costs are higher.
Clients eager to adopt the xStorage energy system include French data centre provider, Webaxys; the Amsterdam Arena stadium; and recently Eaton became the Home Energy Storage Partner of Manchester City Football Club in the UK.
How does Eaton demonstrate strong principles around sustainability and environmental stewardship in its everyday operations?
This is one of our major goals as a business and we do many things to demonstrate that we are an environmentally responsible operation, not just in how we work internally, but also because our products contribute to a greener world – for us and our customers. As an example, we measure all the waste streams in the company to try to minimise our contribution to landfill. We now have 62 out of our 70 manufacturing sites in Europe that send zero waste to landfill, and it’s our goal to eventually have 100 per cent of our facilities with this status.
In addition, all of our manufacturing facilities are certified to ISO 14001, an international standard for environmental management systems and we routinely review the environmental performance at each of our facilities and strive to improve our impact. I’m also proud of our teams, as they are all actively involved in projects in their local communities, whether it be planting trees, helping clean up local areas or just playing their part to make their environment a little bit healthier.
We also have a key partnership with Nissan around energy storage, which brings a lot of benefits. We got involved in an EU-funded project called Green Data Net a few years ago. Nissan was one of the partners that we worked with on that project, which was all about making data centres greener and more energy efficient. As we were working on an innovation pilot, the more we talked, the more we realised that there were some important problems that Nissan and Eaton could potentially solve together.
What is an example of a real-world energy problem that Eaton has helped find a solution for?
Nissan is currently a world leader in the electric vehicle market, but one challenge it faces is that the battery pack in an electric vehicle typically needs to be changed at some point during the lifecycle of the car. This happens when the capacity of the original battery pack isn’t sufficient to support that vehicle’s required performance, but it’s still a perfectly usable device for other applications, like energy storage.
So, in late 2015, Eaton entered into a partnership with Nissan to design and deploy energy storage and management solutions in residential and commercial environments. Together, we deliberated on how we could solve the real-world problem of how to manage the second-life of lithium ion batteries when they’re no longer able to be used in a car, how to integrate more renewable energy and how to manage the stability of the electricity grid.
Lo and behold, energy storage for homes or buildings happens to be a great application for those batteries by combining them with Eaton’s power management technology. We started working with them on that, and one thing led to another, and now not only are we working with second-life batteries, but also with first-life batteries and how to improve the cost and capability of energy storage.
That last point becomes more critical as renewables become a more important source of electricity in the world. If the wind blows only sometimes, or the sun shines only in the daytime, then the ability to store that energy and use it at another time changes the whole economic value proposition around renewable assets. Working with Nissan, we have the capability to bring a socioeconomic value to customers through the application of energy storage technology that we’ve never had before.
Trigema's new science park near Prague
Trigema’s science and technology facilities, which were built with the support of the EU, have already earned a good reputation among a number of partners. This includes Eaton, which first used the Science and Technology Park in Roztoky and later moved to the newly built neighbouring Science Park. Leased spaces were modified to meet its requirements and, happy with the results, Eaton went on to open its European Innovation Centre on the premises.
It appreciated the proximity to Prague and the possibility of cooperation with technical experts at CTU and TÜV SÜD. Trigema is currently preparing other premises, the largest of which will be the Buštehrad Science and Technology Park – also supported in part by the EU. The Kladno area will offer up to 6,250 square metres of space, spread across two separate buildings featuring scientific workplaces, offices, and test rooms.
Eaton-circ collaboartion raises the bar
To help spur innovative thinking, Eaton has been collaborating with the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC). CIIRC is the youngest research institute of the Czech Technical University, established in 2013.
This unique institute serves as an integration platform for large-scale interdisciplinary research, linking research excellence with practical results that can be applied to real-world industry scenarios. The academia–industry knowledge transfer includes several models, including a start-up accelerator, joint labs, licensing policy, and industrial PhD education schemes.
Currently the institute has 160 employees, is participating in more than 10 large EU research projects, and cooperates with more than 30 industrial bodies worldwide. “The research lab was one of the first established at CIIRC, developed for joint research and innovation activities,” says Vladimir Marik, CIIRC Director. “The cooperation model introduced by Eaton is a novel one and
documents the viability and importance of university–industry cooperation.”
Eaton has many strong long-term partnerships, one of which is through its European Innovation Centre in Prague. How did the relationship with project developer Trigema help bring this vision to life?
The engineering skills and talents within Europe are different to those that you find in Asia and the Americas. We decided to make an investment in Prague to have a Europe-based engineering innovation centre as we felt that having this capability in every region of the world was strategically important.
We partnered with Trigema to help us bring that vision to life, finding where we wanted to build, what we were going to build, and what it was going to look like. Trigema helped to design and develop what is now a world-class innovation centre, in which we incorporated a number of Eaton technologies for sustainable buildings so we knew it would be one of the most energy efficient and reliable buildings in the Czech Republic.
Now we use the space to showcase our best and newest technologies, as hundreds of customers from around Europe visit that site and see first-hand what we can do, whether it’s efficient lighting or our UPS backup power systems.
Trigema is a large and reputable developer in the Czech Republic, so the added benefit of working with them is that it gives us quite a reference. This helps us have a strong position in the Czech Republic, having a great show piece and a great partner that we work with who believes in us.
While our Prague-based engineering innovation centre is important, it’s only one cog in a much bigger machine that allows us to be an effective technology and R&D company. We also have engineering centres of excellence throughout Europe, and connections with technology resources around the world. The combination of these elements is what allows us to sustain our technology portfolio and leadership as a company.
How would you describe Eaton’s involvement in the automation space and how has the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC) been a key collaborator in this work?
While we are a player in the automation space, to be truthful, we are not a major player yet. There are several other companies that are much bigger than us, so we are working hard to catch up, and there’s a lot of work to do. That means on top of our other efforts, we have to be setting ourselves up to be innovative in the automation sector, and that’s where CIIRC plays a key role.
If you think about what’s going on in this space right now, around the Internet of Things (IoT), and the mass digitisation of everything, it is not only new, but developing really rapidly. It’s valuable having access to younger minds and talent, like CIIRC students, who are engaged in the subject and grew up in this digital culture; they understand how these things work better than people like me, and that makes them really important.
CIIRC provides us with an able group of capable, passionate people, located right near us in Prague. It’s an excellent partnership that we are able to take advantage of, and a great group of young engineers who are going to help drive innovation as we go forward.
Looking to chemicals and materials, how has Eaton grown more innovative in this space, and how has its collaboration with BASF helped to influence your work?
BASF has always been a very significant supplier of plastic and other chemical materials to its clients, including us, and about two or three years ago we took that traditional supplier relationship to the next level to form much more of a partnership with its Performance Materials division.
We significantly raised our level of communication and interaction so that our leadership teams now engage in regular conversations on how to work together as a unified team to make sure that the partnership is going in a positive direction and how we can benefit one another.
BASF is a company that really gets it when it comes to this notion of partnership. The company not only supplies a fantastic range of high-performance materials for us, but with its global setup, clear investment strategy and asset driven business, it’s also an important customer for us at Eaton.
One thing that’s exciting is the fact that we’re working together much earlier in the design process now. That means that when we’re working on innovative projects or new product design, BASF
has a seat at the table, contributing to that process. Through its Innovation Exchange program, we host joint workshops to have a comprehensive exchange about future projects and identify further growth areas on both sides, including areas like additive manufacturing, simulation and 3D-sensing technology.
While Eaton is looking for new ways to utilise BASF’s plastics, we also serve as a strategic partner for BASF when it comes to power distribution, electrical supply and filtration needs for the 360 existing chemical plants they operate all over the world. Furthermore, if BASF is thinking about building a new factory, or upgrading a process in its facility, we have the capability to help them do that or to solve problems that they might not have considered before.
Our dialogue is at a much higher level, it’s in a much different place now than just a supplier quoting a price to a customer where the lowest price wins. We have much more of a partnership now, strategically helping our mutual businesses grow much faster, so I think it’s paying dividends for both of us.
not just electrical, but also hydraulic and mechanical power.
Another strong partnership that you’ve grown from a traditional supplier–client level is with Deutsche Post DHL Group. Why is the work of DHL of critical importance to delivering on Eaton’s promises to its customers?
Just like our partnership with BASF, we engage with DHL at a much higher executive level to discuss and focus on important, strategic issues. In the past, we’ve looked to outsource some of our logistics and warehousing efforts, because at the end of the day we’re an industrial technology and manufacturing company, not a logistics company.
But this was hard for us to do because logistics are critically important to us. It’s that last mile to our customer so it’s one of those things that we feel very strongly about getting right. That’s why we were, at first, very reluctant to hand over responsibility.
Partnerships are built on trust, and trust is built by working together over time. With DHL, we have built that high level of partnership and trust, so much so that we’re now willing to consider much larger and much more significant third-party arrangements with them.
We will be working with them in a much bigger way across Europe, and hopefully globally too, going forward. We trust them to provide an excellent service that allows us to focus on what we do well.
Just as BASF has factories, DHL has lots of warehouses.
In fact, DHL has airplanes, trucks and many other large facilities where we can help with their environmental focus by applying the various products and technologies that Eaton offers. It’s a very interesting and symbiotic partnership where we help each other solve our most important problems while we keep our core businesses focused.
How does Eaton demonstrate an ongoing emphasis on community engagement and CSR?
It’s one of our aspirational goals to strengthen the communities within which we work. We want to embrace the surrounding communities; that has been a strong value at Eaton for a long time and we take that responsibility very seriously.
Our factories are typically located in relatively remote areas. They’re not in the middle of London or the middle of Geneva, they are based in small towns and cities around the world and we are typically a very important employer in those communities.
Every year, we encourage our people to take part in some form of social ‘giving back’ and each region gives out an annual award to its employees for demonstrating corporate social responsibility or community involvement. We also provide grants for projects around community engagement, particularly where our employees are locally involved.
What would you say has been the key ingredient for your own success in the business?
First, I think it comes down to possessing a strong set of values, and then living those values every day. I can’t say enough about the ethical people and the meaningful culture of our company.
You see so many examples of where that goes wrong with other companies, so we’re proud of the company we work for and we take that seriously.
I’ve always said, if you get enough people pulling on the same rope in the same direction, at the same time, amazing things happen. I think that’s the recipe for Eaton’s success.
Second, alignment is important in any company, and clear communication is critically important for that. I believe we’re doing all those things well. Being able to admit your mistakes, too, is important. We’re happy to point out our own flaws or weaknesses and work on those as well.
Third, surrounding yourself with great people is very important. We want to always hire people who engage with us and are passionate about what they do. It’s so important to have the right team, focused on the right things, aligned in the right direction.
I’ve always said, if you get enough people pulling on the same rope in the same direction, at the same time, amazing things happen. I think that’s the recipe for Eaton’s success.
Considering the future, what are some of your strategic goals that you have in place for EMEA over the next three to five years?
As you’d expect, there is a whole set of important financial goals that we need to meet. We are a publicly traded corporation, so of course we have many investors that are focused on that. Of course, we want to grow and build a much bigger business here in Europe. We want to be one of the leaders in every market we serve and I really think we’ve got the right approach going forward that will get us there.
In addition, we have established six aspirational goals for the company, several of which I’ve already mentioned, because we think that Eaton has a purpose and stands for something more than just generating a set of financial numbers and figures. We want to make a difference in the world, and our vision shows this.
We want our employees to feel they have meaningful and rewarding work, that we really are a model for inclusion and diversity, that we are part of, and give back to, the communities we work in, and that we look after our environment both inside and outside of the company.
It gives us a reference point around which everyone in the company can rally and it creates a culture that we feel good about, feel engaged with and can get passionate about. I’d go as far as to say that chasing those aspirational goals is even more important to us, because when you get a group of people who are passionate about what they do, and they believe in what they do, you can deliver exceptional results.
It’s because of this, that I don’t think we’ll have any trouble reaching the financial goals that we’ve set for ourselves. We’re all living our ‘We Make What Matters Work’ brand promise every day, and it’s contagious.