Cummins outlines ‘new way of operating’ during pandemic

Cummins’ top executive outlined how the Columbus-based company is managing the COVID-19 crisis during its annual shareholder meeting, offering a glimpse of “a new way of operating” during the pandemic.

During a virtual annual meeting to protect the health of employees and shareholders during the pandemic, Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger described a number of steps the company is taking to support customers while keeping employees around the world safe.

The measures include reducing the number of people at Cummins facilities when possible, redesigning facility layouts, reconfiguring entrances and exits, increasing cleaning and disinfecting protocols, ensuring social distancing is practiced among employees, complying with government and health authority guidelines, among other safety measures, Linebarger said.

“Recognizing that COVID has created an unprecedented environment for our business, we have created teams and organized processes, and these teams are made up of key leadership team members to deal with both the immediate risks and decision-making and another team to look down the road, plan ahead and make sure we are doing the most important strategic planning we need to do to adapt to this crisis,” Linebarger said.

Linebarger’s presentation featured photos of what he described as “a new way of operating” — images showing what that “new way” looks like at Cummins facilities around the world.

The images included an employee being screened by an individual wearing full-body protective gear before entering a Cummins facility in India, pallets being disinfected at a facility in China and employees in Mexico standing in designated markings painted on the ground to encourage social distancing will lining up to enter a Cummins facility.

“Things look very different now than how we operated prior to COVID-19,” Linebarger said. “We are not returning to business as usual. This is definitely a new way of operating.”

In addition, Cummins has started a response center where employees may call if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, questions or other concerns, Linebarger said.

The phone line, which is staffed by medical professionals from the Cummins LiveWell Center, is also being using the phone line to trace employees who may have come into contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, company officials said.

“In April, as the pandemic spread globally, we increased the number of agents at the response center so that we could accommodate all increased call volumes,” Linebarger said. “Calls are logged and we monitor the data we have to make sure we understand the spread of the virus anywhere in our facilities.”

Global challenges

Cummins has been attempting to navigate the outbreak of COVID-19 since January, and company officials “have been dealing with it ever since” with the initial impacts being felt in China, where the majority of Cummins facilities experienced shutdowns of four to six weeks during the first quarter of the year, Linebarger said.

The Columbus-based company serves customers in more than 190 countries and has several sites in Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected.

Many Cummins facilities around the world have now gone through periods of shutdowns or reduced capacity due to the spread of COVID-19, including in the Columbus area, and are now resuming operations “at a very reduced level,” Linebarger said.

By the end of March, all of Cummins’ manufacturing facilities in China were fully operational, and the company is seeing “high levels of demand” since reopening, Linebarger said.

Many of the major global challenges the company is now facing, however, are related to similar disruptions outside of China, including North America.

“Unfortunately by mid-February, the virus had spread to the rest of the world and as you know is now considered to be a global pandemic,” Linebarger said. “Many of the same challenges that we faced with our operations and supply chain in China are things that we now face on a global basis.”

Though data from many of the company’s markets is “not encouraging” in the short term and the company is prepared for “weak levels of demand” until global economies start to recover, Linebarger said he feels confident the company will successfully navigate the pandemic.

“During our 100-year history, we have encountered several unforeseen economic crises and economic challenges, and I am confident that we will successfully navigate this one as we have before and emerge stronger as a company,” he said. “We are entering this period of uncertainty in a position of strength, with an experienced leadership team that has led through multiple cycles and we have a strong balance sheet and financial position.”