Cummins: A Global Power Leader

Celebrating 100 years, and looking forward to the next 100.

The rise of Cummins - 100 years old in 2019 - from a tiny machine shop in Columbus, Indiana (USA), to a global power leader offering a broad portfolio of products, is a story right in drama, a story of trials and triumphs. 

Clessie Cummins, founder of Cummins Inc.
Clessie Cummins, founder of Cummins Inc. 

Cummins Engine Co. was founded on Feb 3rd, 1919, with William G. Irwin, a banker, supplying the starting capital. Irwin had hired Clessie Cummins in 1908 to drive and maintain his car and later set him up in business as an auto mechanic. 

Cummins, a self-taught mechanical genius, was convinced that the engine technology invented by Rudolph Diesel in the 1890s - while still unproven commercially - held great promise for its fuel economy and durability. 

Cummins started working full-time on diesel engines in 1919 when he heard that giant American retailer Sears, Roebuck & Co. would buy single-cylinder engines produced under license to Hvid. Clessie persuaded Irwin to negotiate a contract with Sears for 4,500 1.5 and 3 horsepower (hp) Hvid engines, but the beginning was inauspicious. Sears said the engines were defective and the contract was canceled in 1922 and Clessie went back to the drawing board.

The Critical Breakthrough

Clessie continued to experience pain, his experimental engines ripping the sides out of his fishing boats or tearing themselves to remnants. Then he made breakthroughs that solved critical problems of injection timing. He also created a fuel injector some experts described as 'simpler than a fountain pen.'

In 1924, emerging out of the swirl of innovation and problem solving, came the company's first distinctive engine line, the Model F (for four-cycle), the early editions of which were installed in fishing trawlers. These were believed to be the very first diesel-powered fishing vessels in North America. 

The Model F proved so economical that its popularity spread to other applications - generator sets, drills, shovels, and air compressors. The engine had one or two pistons, bolted as separate units to a common base, and developed 12.5 hp at 600 rpm from a 5.5-inch bore and a 7.5-inch stroke. 

On Christmas Day in 1929, Clessie took W.G. Irwin for a ride in America's first diesel-powered automobile - a Cummine marine engine-driven Packard. 

With his diesel engine and unique fuel injection system finally coming together and being used to repower trucks originally fitted with petrol engines, a dramatic leap forward in the evolution of diesel technology was realized. 

Clessie in 1931 with the Dusenburg, powered by the Model U engine, which set the world speed record of 100.755mph in Florida. 

Capturing Global Attention

With a new infusion of Irwin capital, Clessie Cummins set out to prove that his diesel engines could conquer the road and he began to capture the world's attention through a series of creative, headline-making events in diesel-powered trucks, buses, and cars. 

In one celebrated run, Clessie piloted a Cummins-powered truck coast-to-coast (New York to Los Angeles) on $11.22 worth of furnace oil. The truck traveled 3,214 miles and averaged 43.02 miles per hour. 

He also set a new world diesel-powered record of 100.755 mph in a race car at Daytona Beach, Florida. In yet another stunt in a diesel passenger car, Clessie drove his Cummins-powered Auburn from New York to San Francisco in 1935 on $7.63 worth of fuel. The Cummins Model A aluminum 6-cylinder engine in the Auburn was the world's first light diesel designed exclusively for a car. 

J. Irwin Miller, the great-nephew of W.G. Irwin, became general manager in 1934 and went on to lead the company to international prominence over the next four decades. In 1937, Cummins earned its first profit.

Clessie (1932) waving the goodbye to New York City as he set off for his coast-to-coast tour.

The company's first diesel engine designed specifically for highway trucking - the 6-cylinder Model H rated at 125 hp - was proving very successful. 

The 672 displacement engine had two valves per cylinder and gained a reputation as a remarkable workhorse with its power, fuel-efficiency, and reliability. As truckers recommended the engine to their colleagues, the business began to flourish. 

In 1941, Cummins began offering the transport industry's first 100,000-mile warranty and a year later the US Army ordered 5,000 H Model engines for trucks. During World War II, most of the company's output went to the war effort. Cummins engines endured the harshest conditions, from the tropics to the sub-arctic. The convoys that supplied the Allied Forces in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere were powered in part by Cummins engines. 

Many of the famous Livery cargo ships and Miki-class tugs that supported the war effort also depended on Cummins marine generators for power. 

With America embarking on a massive interstate highway construction program in the 1950s, Cummins engines powered much of the equipment that built the roads and the thousands of trucks that rolled down them. 

As Cummins continued to grow its business in the U.S., the company began looking beyond its traditional borders. Cummins opened its first foreign manufacturing facility in Shotts, Scotland, in 1956 and by the end of the 1960s, Cummins has expanded its Sales and Service network to 2,500 dealers in 98 countries. Today, Cummins serves customers in more than 190 countries through a network of 500+ distributors and 7,500+ dealer locations. 

J. Irwin Miller, CEO from 1934-77, led Cummins to international prominence. A social activist and philanthropist, Miller advised presidents both domestically and internationally (including John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela). Martin Luther King Jr. described him as one of the most progressive business leaders in the country.

The Focus on Emerging Countries

Led by the visionary leadership of J. Irwin Miller, Cummins forged strong ties to emerging countries such as China, India, and Brazil, where Cummins had a major presence before most other American multinational companies. Today, Cummins has grown into one of the largest engine manufacturers in both China and India. Cummins, however, is no longer just an engine business, but a global power leader manufacturing diesel and natural gas engines, hybrid engines, generators, and is up and coming in electrified power. The company pledges to have an electrified powertrain for urban buses on the market by the end of 2019. 

Cummins had sales of 23.8 billion in 2018 - a company record. With more than 60,000 employees worldwide, Cummins serves customers in a multitude of markets. In fact, the company powers more types of equipment in more markets than any other engine company with engine sizes ranging from 2.8 liters to 95 liters. 

With engine development often taken for granted, it's easy to overlook the incredible engineering challenges Clessie Cummins faced to create a mechanically reliable engine and to set the standards for a company that is now the only survivor in a once-crowded field of independent engine makers. Not only that, Cummins is a technology leader, working relentlessly to provide cutting-edge solutions to the increasingly difficult challenge of Powering a World That's Always On.

Clessie Cummins' spirit of innovation and commitment to quality certainly lives on a century later. 

Cummins named a 2022 “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion"


Cummins Inc. is invigorated by its deep history of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The company’s Global Disability Inclusion Initiative aims to create accessible, inclusive workplaces where people with disabilities are enabled to fulfill their potential. This commitment is celebrated as Cummins earns the distinction of “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” this year.

Cummins has earned this distinction by achieving a top score of 100 on the Disability Equality Index (DEI), a comprehensive benchmarking tool that helps companies build a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions that can be taken to achieve disability inclusion and equality.

"We use this opportunity to help inform our disability inclusion strategy, to measure our progress against a globally recognized standard and to more effectively attract and retain valuable talent from a historically underutilized workforce," says Dennis Heathfield, Executive Director, Inclusion, People with Disabilities and Veterans, and also serves as Disability Inclusion Initiative Leader. “Through education, strategic partnerships, and financial investment toward improving the accessibility of our technology and facilities, Cummins strives to become an employer of choice for people with disabilities and to work in our communities to reduce barriers to employment for people with disabilities.”

The DEI is a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the nation’s largest disability rights organization, and Disability:IN, the global business disability inclusion network, to collectively advance the inclusion of people with disabilities. The organizations are complementary and bring unique strengths that make the project relevant and credible to corporations and the disability community.

Globally, people with disabilities represent over one billion people. Disability is a natural part of the human experience, and it crosses lines of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and religion. Cummins leaders and employees enable positive change by breaking down barriers, responding with empathy, and creating equity of opportunity for all. Cummins’ desire is to see a more prosperous world where all people are embraced for who they are and what they aspire to achieve.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Mario Andretti to drive legendary Cummins race car

Mario Andretti driving the historic Cummins race car

Racing legend and champion, Mario Andretti, is gearing up to drive the 1952 No. 28 Cummins Diesel Special car during prerace activities hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum at this year’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

With Andretti at the wheel, the only diesel-powered car to set pole at the Indianapolis 500 will once again make history around the track.

Cummins has a rich history of "firsts" - from land-speed records to great accomplishments at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Those innovations haven’t always been developed in the laboratory. In fact, the company’s founder, Clessie Cummins, used motor racing to develop many of the core technologies of current Cummins products.

A technology wonder of its day, a team of engineers built the modified 400 cubic-inch, six-cylinder, turbocharged Cummins diesel engine, becoming the first turbocharged engine to run the Indianapolis 500. The car set a one-lap track record of 139 miles per hour in qualifying for the pole position in the 1952 race. 

Taking advantage of rules allowing for larger diesel engines, a crew of Cummins’ engineers and technicians used a modified truck engine in the No. 28 car, with the first turbocharger ever used at the track. The historic 1952 No. 28 car not only featured advances in diesel engine technology, but also Cummins’ innovations in race car chassis design. In 2019, Cummins engineers used 3D printing to recreate a water pump, bringing the car back to running condition. 

Cummins and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have enjoyed a long and storied history together since 1911 at the very first Indianapolis 500. In 2019, Cummins, IMS and the IMS Museum announced a multi-year partnership to recognize a history of innovation, and in April of the same year the No. 28 Cummins Diesel Special ran test laps at the world’s most famous racetrack. 

Morgan Donnelly smiling

Morgan Donnelly

Morgan Donnelly is a Digital Brand Reputation Senior Specialist. She joined the company in 2018 after earning her Bachelor of Art degrees in Strategic Communication and Professional Writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. 

Cummins named best employer for diversity 2022

Employees engaging in friendly discussion outside

Cummins Inc. has long demonstrated a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Company founder J. Irwin Miller marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and contributed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Cummins severed business with South Africa in a stance against apartheid in the 1980s and has a history of opposing state constitutions banning gay marriage. Today, this legacy is honored with Cummins’ robust commitment to DE&I in all facets of its business, a strategy designed to not only give the company a competitive advantage, but also guide its actions and contributions to communities around the world.

This deep commitment was recently honored by Forbes, ranking Cummins in the No. 4 spot on its prestigious “The Best Employers for Diversity 2022” list, elected by a vast sample of more than 60,000 employees working in all industry sectors. 

"Enabling a diverse, inclusive and accessible environment is integral to who we are,” said Carolyn Butler-Lee, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Cummins Inc.

“Our unwavering commitment is demonstrated through our history and core values, and we embrace our legacy and responsibility to be a values-driven, positive force in society. This recognition reflects our employees’ and leaders’ hard work and dedication to making room for everyone to succeed.” 

The Forbes evaluation was based on four different criteria: direct recommendations from employees for their own employers; indirect recommendations for employers not their own; diversity among top executives/board; and indicators of diversity such as the existence of a management position responsible for diversity, proactive communication of diverse company culture, or a published diversity report. 

“At Cummins, we firmly believe that because today’s societal and environmental challenges impact all of us, we must all have a role in addressing them,” said Jennifer Rumsey, Cummins President and Chief Operating Officer. “Creating inclusive environments where employees can bring their full selves to work is key to ensuring we have the best, most diverse solutions to these problems. This recognition is a wonderful acknowledgment of the intentionality we put into this effort and how it impacts our company, teams and communities.” 

Last year, amidst the pandemic, supply chain delays and other global headwinds, Cummins strengthened its commitment to DE&I with a refreshed strategy, further promoting a set of forward-thinking initiatives, including: 

  • Cummins Powers Women: a multi-million-dollar investment designed to create large-scale change in the lives of women and girls globally through partnerships with respected, global nonprofit organizations that focus on gender equality. 
  • Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE): an initiative in the United States aiming to dismantle institutional racism while creating systemic equity. The initiative advocates for racial equity for Black people in police reform, criminal justice, social justice and economic empowerment. 
  • The Global Disability Inclusion Strategy: aims to create accessible, inclusive workplaces and communities where people with disabilities are enabled to fulfill their potential. 
  • LGBTQ+ Safe Leader Training: a global skill-building program available to Cummins employees and shared with external organizations that include a nuanced overview of how to effectively address topics related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other identities that can manifest conscious or unconscious bias in the workplace. 
  • Cummins’ Veterans Strategy: a program designed to build strong partnerships and invest its people, energy and financial resources to shape military recruiting and retention programs, and to advance initiatives that focus on improving the lives and well-being of veterans and their families. 
Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Sale of mask operation advances Cummins’ goal of creating sustainable Black-owned businesses

Mask producing operation inside Cummins Engine Plant

Global power leader Cummins Inc. is using its U.S.- based mask-making operation, created to guard against the spread of COVID-19 in company facilities, to partner with a minority-owned business that wants to expand.

The equipment used to make masks at the Columbus Engine Plant in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.), has been sold to a Black businessman in nearby Indianapolis, who plans on creating a disability-friendly employer producing masks beyond the immediate response to the pandemic.

“This sale created a new Black American manufacturer,” said Helena Hutton, Senior Director of Cummins’ Center of Excellence for Supplier Inclusion in Strategic Purchasing. “It illustrates Cummins’ commitment to partner with diverse-owned companies and contribute to generational wealth-building with business leaders of color. I am proud to be part of a company that makes deals like this one happen.”

Christopher Barney, the owner of Team Cruiser, a logistics and supply company that has worked with Cummins in the past, hopes to offer masks for sale to the public later this year. 

“We were very interested, for two specific reasons,” Barney said. “The first reason is the ability to learn and grow from a manufacturing perspective with a global manufacturing company like Cummins. The second reason is that it provides us the opportunity to impact and serve the communities that we live in by providing jobs and supplying a quality American-made personal protective equipment mask.”


In 2020, Cummins established mask-making operations in the United States, Mexico, and India to provide some 10 million masks to its employees worldwide. With the pandemic seeming to wind down in the United States as more people get vaccinated, and with a healthy surplus of masks at the ready if needed in the U.S., the time was right for the company to think about selling the operations in Columbus, said Cummins Partnership Strategy Manager Tarek Elharis. 

Mask production at Cummins

The company never intended to produce masks beyond the pandemic, said Elharis, who has been active in the mask-making operation. Since the sale, the Cummins employees who had been making masks have been redeployed to areas of the company experiencing heavy demand as the U.S. economy recovers.

When selling the mask operation became a possibility, the company’s Supply Chain organization and Strategy function began looking for ways to accomplish something more than simply getting the equipment out of the engine plant.

They found that opportunity in Barney and Team Cruiser.


The Team Cruiser Conversion Company was established in 1983, providing heavy-duty automotive and industrial equipment customization and up-fitting solutions to meet commercial and municipal specifications. Over the past 30 years, Barney’s business has worked with companies like Navistar, Arvin Meritor, Cummins and others.

Barney said he is always looking for new challenges and the chance to develop a new line of business for Team Cruiser was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“We have been blessed to have a unique relationship with Cummins in the fact that we sold millions of dollars of engine products to our customer base and are familiar with their culture and desire to be first in class in their industry,” Barney said. “We feel that this played a very important role in understanding the importance of the quality of the product that we produce. We are now able to be both a customer, dealer, partner and a vendor.”

Barney’s team is now working to establish a web-presence for its new line of products. It’s also working with several veterans’ groups and organizations serving people with blindness and other disabilities to create a workspace that can safely employ people with disabilities in its manufacturing operations.

Priscila Mendes, Vice President of Purchasing, Supply Chain Management said, “This is a chance for Cummins to help build stronger communities where it does business and live the company’s value of diversity and inclusion for all business owners.”

Learn more in the podcast, the “Making of an American Manufacturer” as Barney and Elharis discuss this alongside Dr. Ken Harris, the President/ECO of the National Business League.


Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

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