Cummins Power Generation turns 100

This year, Cummins celebrates 100 years in Power Generation. It all started with the incorporation of Onan Corporation in 1920 – a family owned business founded by David W. Onan.


“The Onan story has so many parallels with Cummins. It started with one business idea and one visionary entrepreneur. What D. W. Onan started as a small business in Minnesota thrived for 100 years and became a global industry leader,” stated Alex Savelli, Executive Director of Cummins Power Generation

Cummins Onan Ten Lite
The generator that started it all, the Onan Ten-Lite.

Like Clessie Cummins, D. W. Onan was an innovator and a technical genius. After working for 10 years at an automobile repair shop, D. W. Onan decided to test his abilities and entrepreneurial spirit by opening the Onan Corporation in 1920. At the time, Julius P. Dyke was his only full-time employee. Today, Cummins Power generation products are designed across four technical centers and produced at six different plants around the globe. In total, there are more than 5,000 employees working in Power Generation for Cummins with a global network of over 190 locations and territories. 

Cummins has experienced many significant milestones over the past 100 years on its journey to becoming a global leader in the Power Generation business.

“The full acquisition of Onan Corporation in 1992 and Power Group International (PGI or ‘Petbow’) in 1994 were significant inflection point for Cummins in the Power Generation business,” stated Gino Butera, Vice President of Cummins Power Generation. “We moved from being a G-drive supplier of engines to become a global OEM of power generation equipment. Integrating Onan and Petbow added a big new dimension to ‘The Power of Cummins.'”

Looking to the future

Today, Cummins combines market expertise with leading engineering and manufacturing technology to provide the world with fail-safe solutions for an exceptionally wide range of use-cases. From the world’s richest iron-ore mine near the polar circle, to remote locations in the Brazilian jungle, to U.S military camps, Hyperscale Data centers, and to RVs in the remote wilderness far from civilization, Cummins dependably meets the power needs of customers no matter where they are or where they need to go.   

The legacy of D. W Onan is still present. He was not only a mechanical enthusiast but also a humanitarian. Today, “Caring” is a corporate value that has been carried consistently for over 100 years. As J. Irwin Miller reiterated, “”Customers don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This sentiment is still visible around the organization.

“We have to be passionate about what we do, why we’ve done it for the last one-hundred years and why we will continue to do it on our way to the next one-hundred years. This approach applies to our customers, our employees and the communities where we operate,” said Doug Sunkel, Fridley Plant Manager. Doug went on to state, “We are working every day to turn the Fridley plant into a world-class Cummins manufacturing facility and to create the space and capability to take on new business. As we continue to increase our market share and performance in some of our existing products, we are also preparing for the next wave of technology.” 

Cummins Microsoft McKinstry
In a nod towards the future, Cummins has partnered with tech giant Microsoft and building services leader McKinstry on a project that might someday allow datacenters to unplug from the grid. 

The world has changed significantly since Onan Corporation opened for business in 1920. In the modern world, how power is produced and consumed changes daily. Significant trends such as decentralization of utilities, renewable fuels such hydrogen and new digital requirements will shape our ability to respond and innovate. Cummins Power Generation celebrates its beginnings and its commitment to the next generation of power.

Please join the company in commemorating 100 years in Power Generation and looking ahead to the next 100 years. 

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