WHEN THE COMPANY'S TECHNICAL LEADERS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE GATHERED IN COLUMBUS, INDIANA (U.S.A) FOR THEIR ANNUAL FALL CONFERENCE IN 2015, THE MEETING WAS ESPECIALLY POIGNANT.
In many ways, it signified a passing of the baton from Dr. John Wall to Jennifer Rumsey, Cummins’ new Chief Technical Officer (CTO).
Wall announced his retirement from that post just three months earlier, ending an illustrious career spanning nearly 30 years with the company. During his 15 years as Cummins’ CTO, Wall elevated the company’s standing as an industry leader in technology.
Much as he had inherited Cummins’ long-held reputation for technical innovation, a reputation dating back to Cummins’ Founder Clessie Cummins, Wall passed its future care into Rumsey’s capable hands.
A Cummins employee since 2000, most recently as the engineering leader of the Engine Business Unit, Rumsey used the conference to unveil her vision for the technical organization, which includes most of the company’s nearly 10,000 engineers.
That vision included some key themes from the Wall era, but also a new beginning. Challenging global market conditions helped drive clarity around several changes, she said, leaving the technical organization at a crossroads.
Approaching near-zero levels in developed markets, emission regulations on oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), while still important, would no longer drive innovation as they had for the past decade and a half, Rumsey said.
Cummins must continue meeting increasingly stringent NOx and PM regulations in both mature markets such as the U.S. and Europe and developing countries like China and India. But Rumsey said the next phase of innovation will increasingly depend on a deep knowledge of the company’s customers and how Cummins can enable their success.
That includes a growing focus on fuel efficiency to reduce the environmental impact of Cummins’ products while delivering value to the company’s customers.
At a time when established business models are increasingly disrupted by innovative outsiders, Rumsey told the leaders at the conference, “We have to be positioned to disrupt ourselves.”
COMMITTED TO R&D
Cummins is positioning itself for that disruption through a continued investment in research and development despite challenging economic conditions. The company devoted more $700 million to research and development expenses for a fourth consecutive year in 2015, investing $735 million.
The company continued its research and development focus on both improving current technologies to meet future emissions and customer requirements around the world as well as developing critical future technologies. Cummins’ Advanced Engineering and Technology organization, for example, looks out six to 10 years, and sometimes longer, well upstream of product development.