Cummins puts productivity, innovation into overdrive with Microsoft 365

Cummins manufactures and services diesel and alternative fuel engines and electrical generator sets. To accelerate productivity and reduce corporate silos, Cummins replaced its existing tools with Microsoft 365, introducing an information management and collaboration framework to anchor a new workplace culture. More than 58,000 employees connect in creative teams across functions and borders to focus on keeping Cummins ahead of competitors.

The sound of a Cummins diesel engine at idle—throaty rumbling over a purposeful, rhythmic ticking—is the company’s iconic, auditory signature. It’s the sound of power, dependability, and innovation, and it sums up the Cummins brand every time a driver turns the key. Today, as Cummins switches gears to maintain leadership in a rapidly evolving automotive and power industry, another sound signals a technology revolution at the company—and it’s a lot quieter.

As Cummins launches into the world of electrified power—with acquisitions of Brammo and Johnson Matthey Battery Systems and the addition of the Electrified Power Business Segment—and unveils new programs like the Digital Accelerator that focuses on the digitization of Cummins’s products, it is more important than ever to enable the talents of a global organization through increased collaboration.

Empowering innovation means harnessing the talents of all 58,600 employees in more than 190 countries, and Cummins chose Microsoft 365 as an enabler. According to Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Sherry Aaholm, “At Cummins, we’re taking the lead on the importance of diversity within the business culture. When I joined, I was impressed by the number of women executive leaders and the value Cummins places on diversity in decision making—for us it is a competitive advantage. Microsoft 365 supports that culture through flexible tools that suit different ways of working so everyone can deliver their best work.” Microsoft 365—a complete, intelligent solution that includes Office 365, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Enterprise Mobility + Security—helps empower Cummins employees to be creative and work together in an extremely secure way.

Driving market leadership through creative collaboration

Aaholm works with the business to provide better access to colleagues and corporate data for everyone at the company. “Is there a direct relationship between workplace innovation and technical product innovation at Cummins? Yes, I think so,” she says. In the pursuit of creative collaboration that leads to product innovation, Cummins is migrating away from its existing platform and adopting Microsoft 365. “It’s really hard to say we’re a leading-edge product engineering company if our business tools are dated and do not appeal to the talent we want to attract and retain at Cummins. “With Microsoft 365, we empower employees to collaborate and innovate globally—in highly secure ways.”

In India, Cummins has just completed a global engineering facility to emphasize fluid teamwork with modern work environments, rather than cubicles and offices. More than 2,000 engineers work here, building designs for Cummins to market around the world. “We know that engineers not only want a cool place to work, they also want cool tools to do that work,” says Aaholm. “Microsoft 365 is a big part of that. In addition to CAD tools, our engineers rely on tools like Skype for Business Online and OneDrive to stay productive.”

“As much as engineers need top-notch design tools, they are only as good as their ability to advocate for whatever wonderful thing they’ve just created,” adds Carole Casto, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Cummins. “They use the Microsoft 365 tools to promote their work to our leadership.” For example, in November 2017, Cummins brought 55 Wall Street analysts to its headquarters to watch technical demos that brought life to its strategies for the future. “The whole day was a huge success in generating positive buzz among investors,” says Casto. For weeks before the event, engineers in India collaborated with communications and IT staff in the United States using Microsoft 365 tools. “The result was a day of persuasive storytelling that showcased the technical capabilities we have coming in the near future at Cummins.”

Identifying the foundation of secure unified communications

Cummins began its digital transformation by defining priorities for a modern workplace, beginning with breaking down corporate silos, providing a standard set of integrated business productivity tools, and improving anytime, anywhere access to information and colleagues. “There is significant value in providing appropriate work environments for our employees, who no longer work the way a traditional manufacturing company might expect,” says Aaholm. “Millennials—who make up 57 percent of our workforce—expect to collaborate in real time, with video calls, texting, and coauthoring.” Aaholm enlisted Casto to work with IT on the company’s Unified Corporate Communications (UCC) program, which aims to streamline corporate communications by introducing a standard business productivity solution. “Carole’s team achieved a huge mindset shift by taking this program to the business, transforming the way everyone uses Office 365 tools. Today, we are well on our way to living and breathing a modern way of working.”

“I was working on repositioning the Cummins brand as we introduce new, environmentally friendly technology solutions to the market,” adds Casto. “So, I was excited when Sherry pitched the UCC program, because it dovetailed with my goals. Running our business productivity platform on Microsoft 365 is a perfect fit for our new image as a leading-edge technology company.”

Managing the information life cycle

As a first step in the UCC program, Cummins needed to improve how it managed the vast amount of corporate data that formed the company’s knowledge stores and intellectual property. “Mobile, collaborative workplaces require tight security protocols and tools to manage and deliver information while supporting key Cummins processes,” says Josh Littrell, Director of Corporate IT at Cummins. “We used Microsoft 365 to do just that. Today, we have an enterprise data management solution that adheres to our document classification and retention policies using Microsoft SharePoint Online. This is huge from a compliance perspective for Cummins.”

How big is the Cummins data universe? On average, employees create more than 500,000 emails and receive more than 3 million emails every day. Unstructured content on the company’s file shares amounts to 1.8 petabytes. Before the program, this data resided in file shares, hard drives, and a corporate intranet with a less-than-stellar search function. “We care a lot about our data, where it’s stored, and how it’s classified,” says Melanie Sandlin, Executive Director of Corporate Functions and Components IT at Cummins. “So, it was a huge benefit to discover that Office 365 provides the tools we needed to ensure searchability, security, and compliance across all data repositories. It gave us the green light to make our corporate data available to anyone, anytime, on any device.”

This is where Charley Barth, Global Director of Enterprise Content Management at Cummins, and his team come in. When it comes to creating content, they established a three-tier framework for everyone at Cummins to follow: creation of a file on OneDrive, which may or may not include coauthoring with peers; publication on a revamped intranet, dubbed Cummins Connect, that’s built on SharePoint Online; and archiving as a corporate record in a brand-new digital records center (DRC), also housed on the intranet.

“OneDrive and SharePoint Online form a consistent thread across the three tiers of our enterprise content management solution, culminating in our DRC where we apply governance to adhere to our global retention schedules, our information handling policies, and our access controls—all using out-of-the-box SharePoint Online capabilities,” says Barth.

Barth and his colleague Brittany Kreigh, Digital Workplace Leader at Cummins, took this three-tier framework on a global roadshow and introduced it to the workforce as the foundation for creating and collaborating on documents and for archiving data in a way that adheres to corporate policies. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Today, every Cummins employee uses this three-tier approach to content management, boosting collaboration and providing a single source of truth for Cummins records—all while adhering to corporate document retention policies. (Source: Collaborating in the Digital Workplace-Basics Session, Cummins) 

With this approach, Cummins has improved its control over content creation, storage, and access and life cycle policies—a huge benefit for a company that rests firmly on the security of its intellectual property. “Since deploying Microsoft 365, from the business standpoint, we have significantly reduced the overall risk of losing valuable information,” says Littrell.

Employees endorsing new tools

During the initial phase of the rollout, Cummins took advantage of Microsoft FastTrack, the customer-success service for Microsoft cloud solutions. “This was a new platform for Cummins, and I’m not sure we could have succeeded without FastTrack,” says Littrell. “The FastTrack Team shared knowledge and expertise that we use to this day.”

Since Cummins Connect launched in February 2017, the number of employees using the intranet has more than doubled. Now, employees often start their day on the home page, catching up on enterprise communications, videos, and stories and reviewing their own regional news feeds. More than 62,000 employees have created upward of 16,000 sites, uploading 4.9 million files to Cummins Connect. Employees have moved more than 31 million files into OneDrive, equating to 81 terabytes of data. “We are on a continuous improvement journey with the Microsoft 365 platform,” adds Kreigh. “We’ll be deploying Microsoft Teams and PowerApps next.”

More than 50,000 employees use Cummins Connect every month, accessing their sites in 20 countries from corporate laptops and personal mobile devices, compared to 30,000 with the previous intranet. “Our polls showed that 80 percent of employees found the new tools more effective in getting their jobs done, compared to our previous technology,” says Kimberly Trubiro, Corporate Communications Manager at Cummins.

Finding data fast saves time, expedites service

In addition to a more engaging, modern user interface, Barth credits the powerful enterprise and local site search capabilities as one reason for the popularity of the new intranet. It helps that the company introduced mandatory metadata completion before a document is checked into a site on Cummins Connect and that each site is configured with its own metadata, making documents even more searchable.

“Thanks to Microsoft 365, the speed of finding information has improved exponentially compared to our old environment,” says Barth. “You can find people, you can use keyword searches and discover people related to that keyword, and you can use enterprise search to troll through OneDrive, Cummins Connect, wikis, blogs, and the DRC. I wish we could put a dollar figure on the productivity savings of being able to find documents and people with just a few clicks.”

Improved search is making an impact on customer service. At the customer care center, employees quickly respond to a caller who has an issue with a specific turbo charger, for example, to discover preexisting solutions. “This opens up the ability for cross-functional service engineer teams to assess the number of issues showing up with a product and pass that along to the process improvement and production development teams for further investigation,” says Littrell.

Driving productivity and innovation with effortless collaboration

With Microsoft 365 firmly in place as the foundation for a modern workplace at Cummins, the company’s workplace culture shifted rapidly toward highly secure, streamlined digital collaboration and information management. Employees everywhere now incorporate Skype for Business Online video calls into their workdays. “It really opens up the face of dynamic collaboration when you can see the person you are talking to and read their facial expressions,” says Aaholm.

Casto uses Skype for Business Online to build better relationships with partners. “We have a video call quarterly with a PR firm that’s helping us with our brand work at Cummins,” she says. “When you have a new partner and you are engaged in feedback sessions, video calls provide real-time insight into how people are feeling. It has been very helpful in getting positive results from our partnership. And I don’t have to travel to their offices!”

Today, approximately 17,000 people use Yammer for enterprise social networking. Despite reporting structures that span the globe, employees across the company openly communicate and connect without worrying about translation issues. They converse in 19 languages, thanks to the translation feature in Yammer.

Recently, Aaholm and Casto worked together remotely and in real time on Microsoft PowerPoint slide content for presentations at a key management conference. “We shared documents in OneDrive and Cummins Connect while we aligned the messaging of 42 presenters’ worth of content,” recalls Casto. “My team and I were making changes to the slides up to an hour before presenters went onstage. And last year, we used the tools to create integrated marketing plans for 25 business segments, opening up new dialogue about best practices inside marketing. This was the first time we were able to do this work internally. We simply didn’t have the tools before.”

The Cummins legal team uses OneDrive and Cummins Connect to iterate with product development as prototypes go through different versions. Staff in corporate communications use the tools for refining corporate messaging and to announce acquisitions, such as Brammo. The company’s Six Sigma group has also embraced the new way of work. “I can’t tell you how many times the same Six Sigma projects have been conducted over and over, because up until now, there was no way of tracking what documents and projects were completed,” says Littrell.

Looking ahead to greater innovation

Cummins has made huge strides in transforming how people work, driving collaboration and productivity with digital tools to match the pace of change in today’s automotive industry. It’s also presenting a more technically savvy edge to its brand. Looking ahead, the company expects to see an acceleration in innovation as well. “You need to have the capabilities in the workplace that we get with Microsoft 365 for people to be able to think and collaborate in diverse ways—that’s going to take us to the next level of innovation at Cummins,” says Casto.

“At the end of the day, we must differentiate ourselves through our products and services,” concludes Littrell. “Embracing the tools and capabilities we get with Microsoft 365 makes us more efficient at aligning our efforts around developing those products and services. Today, we’re moving at a pace that promises to keep us ahead in the market.”

With Microsoft 365, we empower employees to collaborate and innovate globally—in highly secure ways.
Sherry Aaholm, Vice President and Chief Information Officer Cummins



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