Cummins celebrates centennial


Randy Green, right, and Nick Jones perform a leak test on an engine at Cummins Rocky Mount Engine plant.


Staff Writer

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The parent of the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant has reached the century mark of being in business.

In the Twin Counties, plant Manager John Judd said he and his team began celebrating the anniversary of Cummins in January and said the plant was re-branded to reflect the company having reached the 100-year mark.

The plant was the scene of an employee family day on Saturday and Judd also said a manufacturing day is being planned for this autumn.

Judd praised the plant’s employees for embracing the anniversary.

“They have an overwhelming desire to win, which makes the Rocky Mount engine plant a very special place to work,” he said. “And without our employees, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Cummins, which is based in Columbus, Ind., was founded by Clessie Cummins, who lived from 1888 to 1968.

Clessie Cummins left his family’s farm in the Hoosier State, became a mechanic and also worked as a chauffeur for the family of a banker, William Irwin.  

Later, with support from Irwin, the two formed the formed the company that would work to improve technology developed by Rudolf Diesel, the German engineer who lived from 1858 to 1913.

Judd emphasized it took years before Clessie Cummins was successful in proving diesel was a technology that could power the world.

“It’s pretty fascinating to just go back in time and think about the innovation that was going through Clessie's mind — and the fact that we had investors that invested in his thoughts and his ideas, which later paid off,” Judd said.

Today, Cummins is a global powertrain leader, with more than 62,000 employees and with seven of every 10 trucks on the road powered by an engine built by the company.

Cummins also makes engines for agricultural and construction equipment and also has gotten into the business of selling electrified power systems for transit buses.

The company posted record numbers for 2018, with revenues of $23.8 billion and net income at $2.1 billion.

Although Cummins remains based in Columbus, the company in 2017 opened a $30-million distribution headquarters in Indianapolis. And late last week, the company announced plans to spend more than $68 million to expand operations in Indiana.

In the Twin Counties, the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant dates back to 1983 and has had quite a local economic impact.

Judd, 50, has been in charge of the plant since 2016. 

Judd said on any given day, the plant — which is 1.2 million square feet in size – will be the scene of approximately 1,800 workers. He said approximately 1,650 of them are Cummins employees and the rest are contingent workers.

He said there are workers who commute from as far away as the Raleigh, Greenville and Roanoke Rapids areas. 

Of the plant’s role in company-wide operations, he estimates slightly more than 10 percent of sales of items and products by Cummins come from the Rocky Mount operation in any particular year.

Making improvements is standard operating procedure at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant, with Judd saying, “We’ll spend anywhere from $12 million to $20 million a year on our facility.”

“Today, we’re actually putting a new roof on our building,” he noted.

The employees also invest in the Rocky Mount area, with Judd saying each one is given four hours per person, in paid time, to help in the community every year.

Judd noted a lot of the employees go beyond that four-day mark in giving of their time. 

“We just feel like it’s our responsibility as a large company in this area to go out and serve the community in which we live in,” he said.

United Way Tar River Region Executive Director Ginny Mohrbutter, in prepared remarks, said the agency has seen the Cummins culture of corporate responsibility in both words and actions in working with the team at the plant.

“Each year, their employees provide generous donations to United Way that support local programs that help strengthen our community and our individuals and families,” she said. “The employees give of themselves time and time again to make sure that our local nonprofits have volunteer support such as helping at our local homeless shelter, supporting youth activities, making sure families have gifts during the holidays — and this is to just name a few of their activities.” 

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President David Farris said he is elated for the company, but also the community as well.

“And so much of our population — in a good way, in a good way — kind of takes for granted some of our major corporate citizens like Cummins and Pfizer and Honeywell, some of our large employers that have been here for a while,” Farris said.

He also pointed out that Judd, who is a graduate of Southern Nash High School, has been doubling as a Chamber executive committee member and as board chairman of the Strategic Twin-Counties Educational Partnership.

“Their whole plant is actively involved in all parts of our community — education, economic development. They are the largest supporter of United Way,” he said. “It’s in their DNA.”

To view a history of Cummins in pictures, click on https://www.cummins.com/timeline