SAN ANTONIO—When Lori Kieklak came aboard Eaton Corp. P.L.C. last August, she did so because she saw a business with lots of opportunities.
After spending 17 years with GE Transportation Systems—including eight years in charge of the unit's mining business—she left to become president of Eaton's Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Hydraulics Group Americas, Industrial Sector. In her new post she has responsibility for sales and operations within the Americas.
"I was attracted to Eaton because of the wide range of markets that they serve, the breadth of product that they have, and the strong reputation in the market that they have for quality of products and services," Kieklak said during the recent NAHAD annual convention in San Antonio.
And as she explored further, she found that Eaton was embarking on a strategy to rationalize and streamline its footprint, a move designed to strengthen the conglomerate's position and improve its delivery and quality. Within hydraulics—as in other areas of Eaton—that means reducing the total number of facilities and concentrating on creating Centers of Excellence, with full engineering and manufacturing support.
For example, the fluid conveyance portion of the Hydraulics Group will make all of its thermoplastic hose in the Americas at a facility in Reynosa, Mexico. Hydraulics also is building a plant in Queretaro, Mexico, to be its machining Center of Excellence, she said.
Kieklak said when Eaton recruited her, the firm was looking for someone who could come in to help execute the footprint optimization plan and, once that was accomplished, lead a growth strategy. "I've led P&L's at GE for many years," she said. "I'd say I've led business change and organic growth, as well as execution."
Upon arrival, she said she found in the Hydraulics Group a team that understood the plan and was motivated to move it forward. Kieklak said the plan is designed to bring transformational—rather than incremental—change to the business. "The entire team has rallied around it, and they understand what a great impact this is going to have on our entire business," Kieklak said.
Customers will benefit through improved on-time delivery, better quality and the ability of Eaton to be competitive in some segments it hadn't been previously, she added, without naming what those areas are.
"I would say our customers are extremely supportive of it as well," the Eaton executive said. "All the customers who we talk to about our strategy believe that we have the right strategy, and they're looking forward to the benefits of the transformed organization."
Kieklak said the customers are strong Eaton supporters who recognize the strength of the Eaton brand and the technical strength the firm brings to them. "They definitely believe that we can bring value to them," she said.
In fact, Eaton's Hydraulics Group already is seeing some improvements because of the corporate strategy. "Certainly as we move into the second half of 2017, we should start to see significant benefits from some of the changes that we initiated in 2016," she said.
After a couple years of market downturn, Eaton is starting to see some bright spots, including strength in some of the maintenance and repair businesses, particularly in oil and gas, along with stronger demand from OEMs. Kieklak said some of that improvement probably is driven by the expectation there will be more infrastructure projects as a result of the new administration.