'Cummins is positioning itself to make the evolution to electrification.'

by Sumantra B Barooah Aug 09, 2017

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Cummins Inc designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 litres. The company now plans to invest Rs 200 crore in a new technical centre in Pune, which is slated to open this December. Cummins has already invested around Rs 500 crore in India over last few years.  The company, which is looking to transform itself into a leading supplier of electrified powertrains, will roll out its first fully electric unit in 2019, followed by a range extender in 2020. Jennifer Rumsey, Vice-President and Chief Technical Officer at Cummins, was in Pune today. She spoke to Sumantra B Barooah.

As a CTO, what are your three key focus areas that you have to really address immediately?
As I became CTO two years ago, it was a team vision for technological growth for another three areas. 

Firstly, Cummins has to continue to provide innovative technology our customers depend on. So it is about investment in technology for the future, ensuring we are thinking about the short, medium and long-term investments and executing them.

Secondly, there are some key areas that we think make Cummins unique. It is how we develop some of our asset design and validation tools, our global network and how we work with regional teams but also how many grow together,  the deep technical expertise that we have and how we continue to build key technical areas.

The third focus area is people – definitely our technical team and the capability of the people, developing technical leadership skills.

Cummins has established itself globally as a strong supplier of diesel powertrains. In what seems to be a twin challenge of the megatrend of electrification and of diesel being seen as the bad guy, how do you plan to tap opportunities in electrification?
Your point around the trend on electrification is an important part about our business. We have a focused effort that we’ve launched with the business development team that’s helping us develop the next level of strategies embracing electrified powertrains to our markets.

Cummins is to develop westernised technologies. In fact we have concept demonstration vehicles that are full electric and we see them actually going into production and into the market. The next step is our strategy and how we build up the key building blocks and introduce them across our markets. I think we see the opportunity at a larger scale and global presence in different markets.

We are still leveraging our technical expertise and scale for an electrified powertrain instead of a diesel powertrain. But there are still significant advancements that we have made in our industry to reduce emissions from the diesel products. We are inducting those and some new technologies here and NDF for the next year.

Air quality and environmental challenges and the work we are doing on diesels is still an important part to that solution, enabling economic prosperity and environment sustainability.

Would there be a day when electric powertrains will provide a larger share of the overall engine business than diesel for Cummins?
Yeah, I think that is definitely very likely over the coming years and decades. That shift will occur and so we are positioning ourselves with the right solutions for customers to make that evolution. This is an important part of what I think my role is as Chief Technical Officer.

From a technology perspective, can you give us an example of how crucial or important Cummins’ India base is, especially now that you are close to launching your tech centre here. What role would it play?
About 20 percent of our global technical team is based here in India. We have in the past 12 to 15 years really built the size and capability of our technical organisation.

Starting with what would be called CRTI which is focused on design and analysis supporting our global technical workbook. We have some of our product chief engineers and platform leaders for the global team sit here in India. We are developing VTI projects for global application by the team here in India.

You have spoken not only about electric mobility but other potential options which can be seriously considered like alternate fuels. Some OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers tell us synthetic fuels have considerable potential because they are CO2 neutral and could be a good alternative even to electric mobility.
This is an area that we are paying attention to. The advancement in synthetic fuels has been slower than what we would have hoped but I think there still are opportunities for a technology breakthrough.

It is also how we connect with what is happening outside Cummins, track in and spawn into that. That is really a really key part of all we need to do. The advancements we have made in the past many years have been pretty dramatic. It is one of the big reasons why we have made this move to step into and work with electrified powertrains. Diesel ICE engines is another driver.

 

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