Glen A. Barton

Former chairman and CEO, Caterpillar

Nationality: American.

Born: August 1939, in Alton, Missouri.

Education: University of Missouri–Columbia, BS, 1961.

Family: Married Polly (maiden name unknown).

Career: Caterpillar, 1961–1964, trainee; 1964–1968, 1972–1975, sales associate for Caterpillar Overseas; 1975–1977, manager for South American Sales; 1977–1983, manager of Merchandising Division, General Offices; 1983–1984, sales and product support manager in Industrial Lift Truck Division; 1984–1986, manager in Products Control; 1987–1989, vice president of Caterpillar, president of Solar Turbines; 1989–1990, executive vice president; 1990–1998, group president; 1999–2004, chairman and CEO.

Awards: Faculty-Alumni Award and member of Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni, University of Missouri–Columbia, 1999; Distinguished Service Award, University of Missouri–Columbia Alumni Association, 2002; Volunteer of the Year, American Red Cross.

Address: Caterpillar, 100 Northeast Adams Street, Peoria, Illinois 61629;

■ Glen A. Barton completed a career of nearly 43 years with Caterpillar in February 2004. Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, Caterpillar—with its trademark yellow-colored machines—is the world's largest manufacturer of mining and construction equipment, earth-moving machinery, industrial gas turbines, and natural gas and diesel engines. From 1999 to 2004 Barton led the Fortune 500 company, informally known as CAT, in producing machines to build the world's infrastructure on all seven continents, in the areas of construction, electric-power generation, electronics, energy, financing, forestry, logistics, mining, and transportation. Caterpillar products and components are manufactured in 50 U.S. facilities and in 65 other locations around the world.


The young Barton, growing up in Alton, Missouri, enjoyed taking things apart. He liked playing with Tinkertoys, dismantling his bike and the washing machine, and using a gas motor to power carts and wagons. Barton first started driving a tractor at the age of five, as a way to help his grandfather pick blackberries. He was in his junior year in the College of Engineering's cooperative program at the University of Missouri–Columbia when he helped supervise roadwork for the Missouri Highway Department. The Caterpillar equipment used by the crew impressed Barton so much that when he graduated in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, he applied for a job with Caterpillar.


Barton began his career when he joined Caterpillar as a trainee in 1961. In the years that followed, he held numerous management and marketing positions in North America, South America, Europe, and Japan. He worked in marketing during his two terms with Caterpillar Overseas in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1964 to 1968 and from 1972 to 1975 and, in 1975, became the manager for South American Sales. During this time, he learned comprehensive global business knowledge—which he would need later in his career—through living and working in various locations around the world. In 1977 Barton completed the Stanford University Executive Program, furthering his managerial expertise.

Upon completion of the Stanford program, Barton became manager of the Merchandising Division General Offices. In 1983 he moved to Mentor, Ohio, where he became the sales and product support manager for the Industrial Lift Truck Division. From 1984 through 1986 Barton worked as the manager of Products Control. His duties included product development and strategic planning. In 1987 Barton was elected a vice president of Caterpillar and president of Solar Turbines, a Caterpillar subsidiary in San Diego, California.

In 1989 Barton assumed the position of executive vice president, with responsibility for worldwide marketing. On July 1, 1990, Barton became group president with oversight of the design, development, and production of most of Caterpillar's comprehensive product line of construction, forest, and mining equipment. His tasks also included sales and marketing operations in North America, South America, Latin America, and Japan. During this time, Barton played a critical role in reorganizing the company into business units and streamlining the company's product-management strategy and product-introduction process.


On February 1, 1999, Barton was nominated chairman and chief executive officer of Caterpillar, succeeding Donald V. Fites, who had served as chairman and CEO since 1990. When Barton was selected to replace him, Fites said of his successor, "Glen's global experience, his broad knowledge of our customers and our industry, as well as his breadth of understanding of our product line and manufacturing capabilities, give him a powerful perspective from which to lead Caterpillar into the 21st century" (January 12, 1999).

Barton began his direction of Caterpillar at a time when there was weakened demand for its products in many markets around the world. By quickly redirecting its efforts into areas that showed more demand (such as smaller machines and truck engines), the company substantially outperformed its stiff competition. In 1999 Caterpillar was able to return a respectable profit to its stockholders, even though many industries served by Caterpillar were in the middle of or emerging from recession. That year was additionally stressful for the new CEO because Caterpillar had only recently completed one of its most volatile periods of labor negotiations with the United Automobile Workers of America. Barton proceeded to lead the company to an improved relationship with the union, giving much of the credit for the company's financial success during his reign to the excellent support provided by all of its employees.


Barton's long-term strategy emphasized continued diversification of products and services, including a new line of compact construction machines; strengthened interactions with major acquisitions; new dealer-rental stores; dramatically increased e-business; cost reductions; and internal process improvements. This combination of focuses placed the company on a solid path toward the goal Barton had set of reaching $30 billion in sales and revenues by the middle part of the first decade in the twenty-first century. With projected incremental growth of approximately $10 billion, $5 billion was to come from the engines business unit, $4 billion from machines, and $1 billion from financial products.

As CEO, Barton emphasized Caterpillar's reputation for quality and integrity as the global leader in its industry. He focused the company's employees on delivering greater value with its products and services and providing increasingly better financial and technical expertise. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set stringent environmental standards for diesel engines, Caterpillar's competition chose to fall back on known technology that met the new standards but sacrificed reliability and fuel efficiency. Barton, on the other hand, opted to develop technology that not only met the EPA standards but also maintained performance and fuel efficiency. Barton noted that Caterpillar did not choose the easy or the safe route, but a more expensive route that would allow the company to continue to meet EPA standards without neglecting quality.


When asked to define his leadership style, Barton stated that his goal as a leader was to encourage innovation among his employees and to foster the natural creativity of everyone so as to achieve solutions in the best way possible. Barton noted that the best performances produced by Caterpillar employees are achieved when sufficient time is allowed to ask questions before important decisions are made, to learn from customers' opinions and suggestions, and to incorporate valuable past experiences into new projects. He added that performance should be judged not only by the results but also by the means used to achieve the end. Charlie Rentschler, an analyst with Langenberg & Company, said of Barton's leadership style, "He's got people pulling in the right direction. The company is a lot stronger than it was a decade ago. I don't think there's any question they've put some distance between them selves and their competition" (Dennis).


Under Barton's leadership, Caterpillar implemented "six sigma," an integrated, disciplined strategy geared toward efficiently improving measurable facets of an organization based on historical information and data. "Sigma" is a term used to stand for "standard deviation," that is, how far from the average (mean) is some measurable quantity. The concept of six sigma was developed for practical use, to measure quantities in millions of possibilities (such as the number of defects in millions of products). Using the six-sigma structure beginning in 2001, Caterpillar uniformly achieved continuous improvement in the working culture by maximizing customer value, minimizing corporate expenses, stimulating efficiency gains in employees, and improving overall shareholder value. Barton attributed much of the company's successful financial returns to the six-sigma concept, with specific improvements occurring in the areas of costs, manufacturing, product quality, and volume.


During Barton's five-year term of leadership, the company was able to remain profitable even during harsh economic times. Upon his retirement, Barton deemed his guidance of Caterpillar through those troubling years to be his most important accomplishment and believed that the company's success was due to its ability to demonstrate, especially to the investment community, its diversity of products and services, such as its expanded line of smaller equipment. Barton took aggressive steps to ensure Caterpillar's competitive leadership in the global marketplace, including building a superior dealer network worth $7.1 billion and investing in research at a rate of $4 million per day. Caterpillar's 2003 corporate sales and revenues totaled $22.76 billion, with profits of $1.1 billion, or $3.13 per share. More than half of all sales went to customers outside the United States.


Barton retired from Caterpillar at age 64 on January 31, 2004, due to the company's mandatory retirement rule. He felt that Caterpillar's future success would depend on its ability to take care of its customers, maintain a high level of integrity, recognize shareholder value, and acknowledge that its employees were vital to operations. Upon notification of Barton's retirement, the board of directors at Caterpillar named James W. Owens as CEO, to whom Barton passed on a strong and lean company ready to meet the challenges of the future. Owens joined Caterpillar in 1972 and had been group president of the Component Products and Control Systems Division and an executive office member of Caterpillar.


During his professional career, Barton served on the Dean's Engineering Advisory Council at the University of Missouri–Columbia as well as on the boards of directors of Inco and Newmont Mining Corporation, North America's largest gold producer. Barton also served as a trustee of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award Foundation; a member of the Illinois Business Roundtable and the President's Export Council; and chairman of the board of trustees of Bradley University.

After retiring, Barton continued to involve himself with the communities surrounding Caterpillar. He planned to stay active with Peoria NEXT, a community organization dedicated to high-technology business growth, and with Civic Federation, a private group comprising the area's top 40 business leaders. He was committed to helping improve area school systems and finding ways to deal with the issues of local healthcare costs.

See also entry on Caterpillar Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

"Barton to Succeed Fites as Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Feb. 1," PR Newswire, January 12, 1999, .

Dennis, Jan, "CEO Ends 43-year Ride with Caterpillar," Beacon News Online .

—William Arthur Atkins

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