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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.

Like Clessie Cummins, D. W. Onan was an innovator and a technical genius. After working for ten 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 acquisitions of Onan Corporation in 1992 and Power Group International (PGI or ‘Petbow’) in 1994 were significant inflection points for Cummins in the Power Generation business. 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,’” stated Gino Butera, Vice President of Cummins Power Generation.

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 US military camps, to hyperscale data centers, and to RVs in the 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 one-hundred 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 also stated, “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.”

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 Cummins in commemorating the first 100 years in Power Generation and looking ahead to the next 100 years.

Photo 1: Onan founder David W. Onan with his sons
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Ausmarine 2019 Best Generator Supplier awarded to Cummins Onan

Ausmarine is a South Pacific online publication focusing on the commercial marine sector in Australia and New Zealand and annually they have awards for Best Builders, Designers and Suppliers. The judging criteria is based on multiple factors such as: market success and annual new commercial boat builds (EG: which suppliers had greatest market share), quality of product and degree of service and after sales support and also customer feedback.

Cummins Onan South Pacific has retained its title from 2016 and 2017 and been awarded BEST GENERATOR SUPPLIER 2019. (Note: This category was not available in 2018)

“I often get asked, ‘why do Cummins Onan marine generators remain the preferred brand in the marine industry?’ And it comes down to several factors,” Randall Atkinson, Business Development Manager, South Pacific, told Ausmarine.

“Firstly, Onan has been consistent over time manufacturing a quality product, that’s extremely quiet and mechanics love working on them with there simple single side servicing. When Onan became part of Cummins in 1986, the strength of the two brands gave customers even further piece of mind. This year Onan celebrates 100 years since DW (David) Onan founded the Onan Company.

“And secondly, Cummins global after service support network is critical. There is no point if you have a quality product but it is not supported well post sale, not only within the South Pacific, but across the world given a lot of boats are transient.”



In recent years, Cummins Onan’s main focus on generator advancement has been to ensure they meet or exceed global emission standards. In 2019, the 40kW and above MDD series of generator models, which are powered by the John Deere family of engines, got spec advanced to ensure all 60hz models (40kW to 65kW) meet EPA marine Tier III emission regulations.