The Clarke Companies

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October 10, 2016 Issue



Manufacturing and Packaging Solutions with Engineered Automation for the Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, Food and Beverage, Nutrition and Plastics Industries



John Duffin



The Clarke Companies


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - October 10, 2016


CEOCFO: Mr. Duffin, would you tell us the focus at The Clarke Companies?

Mr. Duffin: The focus of The Clarke Companies is working with our clients in manufacturing and packaging industries primarily in the pharmaceutical, medical device, food and beverage, nutrition, and plastics markets. We help those clients ensure that each product that goes out the door is excellent quality for the consumer therefore protecting the brand, which is our highest level core focus at The Clarke Companies.


CEOCFO: What are some of the challenges in getting it right?

Mr. Duffin: You are running at high speed in automated manufacturing environments. Many times the machines are running from a hundred parts a minute to over a thousand parts a minute. How do we make sure that every machine that is touching that product is operating with so many different factors and variables involved? It is a huge challenge in manufacturing, but we help our clients through inspection solutions on the Acquire side. We are looking at 100% of the product instead of pulling out a physical sampling or having a person inspecting, which is not humanly possible at the rate of the machines. We make sure that our clients’ equipment is designed properly to meet the challenge.


CEOCFO: Is there new monitoring technology that you are able to recommend? Are there many changes in the industry?

Mr. Duffin: Both are changing very quickly. It is becoming more and more connected. You hear a lot about The Internet of Things. Historically, the machine network and manufacturing has been very separate from the IT and the technology. That line is starting to grey and even go away, and it is bringing a lot of options as well as a lot of challenges. For instance, now there are smaller and faster controllers that allow you to do more, process more, and look at more. The market and expectations for clients continue to increase too, so when the customer picks up a product they expect it to be extraordinary. There is not room for error. The technologies allow leading-edge companies to meet those demands of the customers and really set themselves apart.


CEOCFO: Clarke Solutions is a visionary in manufacturing and packaging solutions, as stated on your website. Would you tell us about the visionary part and how you are ahead of the game?

Mr. Duffin: We have a deep understanding of the customer and their needs within manufacturing and we also understand the technology and where it is going at the same time. This is critical to implementing solid solutions. For manufacturing to work, it has to be tried and tested. We are continuing to do just that with technology and trends, so that we can meet standards and help our customers. For example, we are doing a lot with identification and authenticity. We were one of the companies to work with some of the leading pharmaceutical companies to pilot serialization and track and trace within pharmaceuticals. It was a natural step for us because we had always been in packaging, labeling, and traceability, and being a part of that allows us to be a leader in that industry and stay ahead of the game for our customers.


CEOCFO: The Clarke Companies launched a new brand in July. What is the strategy and why have you decided to group together?

Mr. Duffin: Our subsidiaries, Clarke Solutions and Acquire Automation, have different value propositions, but also synergies. Clarke is focused on engineering services and consulting, while Acquire does more vision inspection equipment within food and beverage and plastics. We wanted to create more unified branding to articulate both companies’ value propositions while also reinforcing the benefits of working with The Clarke Companies. At the same time, we needed some separation between the two so that Clarke can remain an independent voice for the customer. For example, when Clarke is recommending bidders on a list, Acquire might just be on that list. However, that does not mean that Acquire is going to be selected. It is important that we maintain that for our customers and represent their interests.


CEOCFO: What is the competitive landscape?

Mr. Duffin: The competitive landscape is fragmented. We are headquartered in the Midwest and we might run into one competitor in Indianapolis and a different one in Evansville, Indiana. On both sides, it is very regional within manufacturing. The competitive landscape is very different from one city to the next depending on what region you are in. We see that as a lot of opportunity. We are taking our know-how and continuing to replicate that in other regions and geographies where we have done well and have excellent referrals with our customers that we can leverage.


CEOCFO: Are there industries where you are looking to gain more traction?

Mr. Duffin: It is more geography for us. We are well known in pharmaceutical and medical device on The Clarke Solutions side and heavily in the Midwest. We really want to expand that to become more well known on the west coast and east coast. On the Acquire side, we’re looking to become known more in the food and beverage industry. We do a lot in food and beverage, but it is a large industry and there are still a lot of companies out there that do not know about us.


CEOCFO: Why is this the time to expand?

Mr. Duffin: We spent a lot of time investing in our infrastructure and behind the scenes developing our leadership and standardization of our solutions. It is the right time for us to go out there because we can deliver for our customers. I feel like it is the right time in the market too. There is a lot of change coming through within manufacturing. Food and beverage, for example, is starting to require more and more product inspection. With the media and consumers exposing more and more recalls and labeling issues, there is a need out there that we are ready to fill.


CEOCFO: When might a company turn to you?

Mr. Duffin: We hope before they have a recall or labeling issue. There are some that reach out after a recall is done, and there is nothing more motivating than that. However, we prefer to get out there and find the clients before something like that happens. The best time is when either their equipment is aging and it is time to upgrade it or when they are launching a new product and need help to design and start up a line. Everything is so connected now. It used to be you could just put a piece of equipment in and drop another one in later. Really, it should be looked at as a whole. If you are launching a new facility, launching a new product, or doing an upgrade, these are generally the best times to give us a call.


CEOCFO: What might you look at when you are helping design a solution that others might not realize is important?

Mr. Duffin: You have to look at all of the details holistically to get to the efficiency level and get to the quality level that customers want. Otherwise, a line will not be balanced properly, and you can lose efficiencies quickly. A couple percentage points when you are running a thousand a minute becomes a few hundred rejects in a matter of an hour or less. That is significant. Additionally, you have to look at the region, the territory, and the workforce in the area to understand what they can support. You also need to see if there is a knowledgeable provider already in that area. You must look at the details to make sure you are putting in the best solutions to run in the customer’s operation within that territory.


CEOCFO: Can you tell when a potential customer is a true prospect and not just picking your brain?

Mr. Duffin: Yes, you can generally tell. As you are going through the process and explaining the value that you bring to the table, potential customers pick your brain at the same time. When you talk about the design and the details, somebody who is really looking to move forward is going to start to pull out a lot of those details and really get into some of those discussions. You can pretty quickly tell whether they are far enough into the process and really serious about it, or if they are just feeling things out.

CEOCFO: Why choose The Clarke Companies?

Mr. Duffin: We are focused on the value our customers derive from working with us. A big part of our rebranding was to make sure that anything that we do and any service or solution that we provide is adding that value and has that return on investment. Obviously, our success is based on our client’s success, and the better we are at that, the more success we are all going to have. For us, it comes down to our solution and the people. We focus on providing the right people to walk everybody through that process and make sure that it is a great experience for our clients too.


CEOCFO: Final thoughts?

Mr. Duffin: I think it is a great industry to be focused in right now. Advanced manufacturing is a great area. There is a lot of growth and opportunity. We are excited about where we are, how we are positioned, and the opportunities in front of us.



“We have a deep understanding of the customer and their needs within manufacturing and we also understand the technology and where it is going at the same time.”- John Duffin


The Clarke Companies



John Duffin

(317) 849-0330







Any reproduction or further distribution of this article without the express written consent of is prohibited.



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