‘Challenge the Impossible’: Cummins celebrates 100 years, looks to the future

For The Tribune

Columbus-based Cummins Inc. celebrates its 100th anniversary today, remembering the company’s humble roots but also looking to the future with a theme of “Challenge the Impossible.”

Today, Cummins is a Fortune 160 company employing about 60,000 people worldwide, serving customers in nearly every country across the globe, company officials said. The company’s products range from diesel and natural gas engines to hybrid and electric platforms, as well as engine systems components, controls and related technologies, and it continues to develop new advanced products and services.

But the company’s roots date back to 1919 when Clessie Cummins and his business partner, William G. Irwin, built a company that was one of the first to take advantage of the groundbreaking technology developed by German engineer Rudolf Diesel in the late 1800s.

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“Technological innovation is at the heart of what we do,” said Tom Linebarger, Cummins chairman and chief executive officer. “Cummins is a global technology leader with a broad portfolio of power solutions. We will continue to innovate to ensure our customers’ success.”

In addition to advancing diesel and natural gas engine technology and bringing new solutions to market, Cummins is investing in electrified powertrains and developing alternative technologies, such as solid oxide and hydrogen fuel cells, and exploring new technologies for future growth, the company said in a news release about the anniversary.

Cummins also is developing integrated engine system technologies and controls and is working with partners to integrate its products and services in the autonomous vehicles of the future.

While most independent engine manufacturers no longer exist, Cummins’ leadership credits its longevity to its 100 years of commitment to its mission, vision and values, staying focused on long-term goals and standing up for what is right, company officials said.

“We understand our company is only as successful as the communities where we operate, and we are committed to building more prosperous communities around the world,” said Mary Chandler, vice president of corporate responsibility and CEO of the Cummins Foundation.

“Improving our global communities has been a key part of our first 100 years and will remain a focus for the next century and beyond. Our employees lead the way in year-round community problem solving, making a difference in Cummins’ global priority areas of education, the environment and equality of opportunity for all. Together with our community partners, we look forward to the next 100 years of helping people thrive in their day-to-day lives.”

The Cummins Every Employee Every Community program promotes employee engagement by ensuring every Cummins employee has the opportunity to contribute at least four hours on company time to his or her community.

In anticipation of its centennial, the company recently launched the Cummins Powers Women program, which represents Cummins’ commitment to the advancement and prosperity of women and girls around the world, which is the next phase of Cummins’ commitment to large-scale community impact.

“As I reflect on our history and look to the future, I want people to view Cummins as a company that cares about powering a more prosperous world,” Linebarger said. “How we do it is ultimately just as important as what we do.”

The Tribune asked Linebarger to talk about Cummins’ past 100 years and the century that is ahead.

How has Cummins changed Columbus and how has Columbus changed Cummins in the past 100 years?

“Cummins has grown and been successful because of Columbus, and Columbus has seen growth and success in large part because of Cummins and our employees.

The people of Columbus demonstrate true teamwork, and you feel a sense of caring throughout the community. These are values Cummins shares. This is a very solutions-oriented community where people band together for good causes and in times of trouble.

This has created a community that is rich in its diversity and a truly welcoming community. All you need to do is experience one of the many international festivals in downtown Columbus like the Diwali Festival to really see and feel it.

It’s a town that is built on our ability to be successful globally. A lot of the jobs here are a direct result of global trade and global businesses located here.

For 100 years, our employees have powered our success, and thousands of those employees are based right here in Columbus.

Columbus and Cummins have both gone through extraordinary change and an evolution, and both are stronger today because of the other, and it’s been great to be part of.”

Cummins has been a progressive force in advocating for a diverse workforce, challenging Indiana’s longtime ban on same-sex marriage and immigration policies that prevent companies such as Cummins from bringing global talent to the United States. What does the next 100 years look like in terms of continuing to build global collaborations and building a diverse workforce in the future?

“The commitment to diversity and inclusion and the commitment to doing the right thing are deeply ingrained in our culture. We speak out on issues publicly, even when they may not be popular. If an issue aligns with our values and business and is important to the communities we serve, we will raise our voice.

That’s what we did in the ‘60s on civil rights, the ‘80s when we left South Africa during apartheid, in the ‘90s when we began offering domestic partner benefits. And we continue today in our efforts around equal rights for all people and speaking out against discrimination and hate.

J. Irwin Miller is well-known for it, but every one of our CEOs has understood that our company is only as strong as the communities where we operate.

We rely on the diversity of our people to offer innovative solutions for our customers.

Over the next 100 years, we know the wants and needs of our employees will change, and we are committed to developing the best leaders and cultivating an environment to inspire excellence and allow everyone to reach their full potential.

If we are going to continue to be successful, we must produce great products and services, but we also have to be a company that people want to work for, that cares about making the world a better and more prosperous place, a place where we can all feel like we are making a difference.”

Who is the Cummins employee of the future — what are you looking for in the workforce for the next century?

“Our employees around the world make Cummins a great place to work and drive innovation for our customers, in our communities and our workplace. We may grow in certain capabilities and look for talent with special skills, but above all else, we want to continue recruiting employees who live our values and want to make a positive impact.

I believe that many employees are looking for places to work that offer them challenging careers, places where the feel included and where they can reach their full potential.

And I think Cummins is a place that offers that kind of work environment. That’s why I chose Cummins and why I am still proud to work here.”

Cummins is known for its commitment to the environment, not just in its manufacturing facilities but in communitywide efforts. What types of environmental innovations can we expect from Cummins in the next century?

“There are two critical challenges when it comes to the sustainability of Cummins:

1) Achieving our mission of “powering a more prosperous world” while meeting our obligation to use fewer of its resources.

2) Helping customers succeed through innovation and dependability and doing it in such a way that what is good for customers is also good for the environment.

Climate change is a significant threat to our world and our business. Confronting climate change and helping to mitigate its impacts is something that can feel impossible when you read the science and understand the threats. This is part of the reason we selected our theme for the 100th anniversary — challenging the impossible.

We think we can produce the best diesel and natural gas engines and at the same time develop and invest in new technologies like electrification and fuel cells. And we think we can be the leading supplier of each of these technologies for commercial and industrial applications, providing the right solutions at the right time to help our customers succeed.

And across the range of products and services, it will mean more efficient, cleaner and more reliable products and services in the U.S. as well as around the world.

The way that I talk about our company now to everybody — to stakeholders at every level — is that the companies that will win in the future are the ones that figure out how to do more with less.”

If you could have been in the room to witness any scientific or technological breakthrough at Cummins in the last 100 years, what would you choose? And why?

“This is an impossible question, but I would have relished the opportunity to watch Clessie Cummins in action. Not only was he a skilled inventor, he was a tenacious marketer. Riding along for his barnstorming tour would have been quite the experience.”

If you could trade places with any Cummins chairman over the past 100 years, who would it be and why? Who has inspired you as a past leader of the company in the past century?

“This question may be tougher than the last. J. Irwin Miller certainly left an indelible mark on Cummins and on Columbus and elsewhere, but each Cummins’ leader has faced unique challenges and made significant progress for the company. Tim Solso was a coach and mentor to me and someone I will always hold in high regard. I am just grateful for all the terrific leaders that helped me develop and reach my potential at Cummins. It’s a privilege to lead and serve this company.”

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To read a timeline of Cummins’ past 100 years, visit cummins.com/timeline.

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Corporate headquarters: Columbus, Indiana

Stock symbol: CMI

Founded: 1919

2017 Fortune 500 ranking: 159

2017 net revenue: $20.4 billion

2017 net income: $1 billion

Columbus area employment: More than 8,000

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Today, Cummins locations worldwide are celebrating with cupcakes for employees around the globe.

The treats will be delivered today as part of an opportunity for the entire company to celebrate the 100th anniversary together.

Cummins said while cupcakes are celebration food in Indiana and the United States, other Cummins locations may offer cake or different types of treats based on cultural preferences.

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Before President Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address Tuesday night, business chief executive officers who are members of the Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C., released statements about policy priorities to increase economic growth and opportunities for Americans.

This is the statement from Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger:

“With nearly one in five American jobs dependent on international trade and investment, policymakers should focus on opening markets and removing, not imposing, barriers to free trade. This includes taking down tariffs and foreign retaliation to help American businesses, farmers and workers compete at home and around the world. Business Roundtable CEOs will work with Congress and the Administration to sustain and improve the trilateral North American trading relationship and move the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement across the finish line. We encourage the administration to continue constructive negotiations with China to address long-standing unfair trade practices that hurt U.S. workers and businesses. The multi-lateral rules-based trading system is critical to protecting U.S. workers and businesses, and we urge the administration to work with our allies to strengthen and reform the World Trade Organization. Positive outcomes across all of these fronts can restore certainty to the U.S. economy and open up opportunities for all Americans.”