Cummins Power Generation Assists People With Disabilities Around the World

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Cummins Power Generation Assists People With Disabilities Around the World

Cummins Power Generation President Tony Satterthwaite presents a toy to a child in a wheelchair at the Wuxi Welfare House in January 2014. Cummins Generator Technologies has long supped the facility, which provides therapy, rehabilitation and education to abandoned and disabled children in Wuxi. 

Posted: October 2014

Cummins employees in Mexico are designing a wheelchair for children with muscular dystrophy. In India, they are working on a device to help people with disabilities board buses. And employees in China are developing crutches with sensors to help visually impaired people.

Cummins Power Generation’s effort to build on a successful community service project in its headquarters community of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is taking many different forms around the world. But the goal is the same: helping people with disabilities.

“Cummins Power Generation is a unique company because we have a global footprint, we have a global presence and our capabilities are globally dispersed,” said Cummins’ Vice President Tony
Satterthwaite, president of the business unit. “What excites me about the global nature of this initiative is our ability to bring Cummins Power Generation’s capabilities to bear all over the world, in all of our communities.”

Since 2006, Cummins Power Generation employees in Fridley, Minnesota, have been using their engineering skills to help people with disabilities. They volunteer their time to modify, design and create technologies so Minnesota residents with physical challenges can operate computers and other electronic devices, including toys for children.

Through a core team of engineers and by engaging other Cummins employees, the initiative has modified over 1,500 technologies for adults, teens and children who are clients at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. In 2012 alone, 193 employees contributed more than 1,200 hours to the effort.

Twelve additional Cummins Power Generation locations have now also launched Corporate Responsibility projects around assistive technology as part of the effort to expand the project globally. Power Generation leaders facilitate best practice sharing, provide both advice and financial support, and recognize outstanding work, affirming that Corporate Responsibility is important to the Company.

Satterthwaite has played a key role in taking the project global. He says he wants to maintain the grassroots spirit that helped make the Minneapolis project so successful, but with the support that Cummins Power Generation can bring to bear to remove obstacles and help initiatives reach their full potential.

So employees might focus on adapting toys in one location while workers in other places might redesign wheelchairs and crutches or any number of other things.

“We will do different things in China than we do in Brazil and India, and that’s OK,”Satterthwaite said. “What we really want to do is make a difference, have an impact,(and) leave a footprint in this area.”

Cummins Power Generation’s interest in assistive technology can be traced back to 2005 when then business unit President Tom Linebarger toured what at that time was called the CourageC enter for people with disabilities in Minneapolis.

Linebarger, now Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cummins, saw a need that matched the capabilities of the Company’s workforce. He asked a member of his staff to create an engineering team to look into adapting toys and electronic devices for people with physical challenges at the center.

The partnership took off and has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best examples of what can happen when employee skills are leveraged to address a community need.

Satterthwaite became the leader at Cummins Power Generation in 2008 after Linebarger was named President and Chief Operating Officer for all of Cummins.

Over the next two years, Satterthwaite studied what made community service projects successful, coming to the conclusion that four elements were critical to the business unit’s work on assistive technology:

  • There was a real societal need.
  • The initiative utilized employee skills and talents.
  • Leaders were actively engaged in providing support and resources.
  • The project tapped into the unique capabilities of Cummins Power Generation.

He asked two top members of his leadership team to study “where could we take this?” They came to the conclusion that the same elements existed in many communities with Cummins Power Generation facilities around the world.

By the end of 2013, projects were underway in the China, India, South America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

“Tony and the leadership team at Cummins Power Generation are fantastic role models of the Company’s Corporate Responsibility core value,” said Diane Peterson, the former Corporate Responsibility Leader in Cummins Power Generation who took a new position in Human Resources in 2014.

“They take the time to understand the initiatives, clear obstacles and offer advice,” she added. “They motivate and give our locations around the world the freedom to pursue their passions.”

Satterthwaite says the business unit is on a journey and he’s not really sure where it will end.

“What I’d like to be able to say, looking back, is that we made a big difference in the area of assistive technology through the capabilities of our Company, the energy and efforts of our people, and the focus of our business.”

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