Cummins leader stepping down after 36 years

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A Cummins Inc. executive born and raised in Columbus who played a key role in the company’s larger engine operations is retiring after a lengthy career.

Ed Pence, 60, vice president of strategic initiatives, is stepping down after 36 years. Pence said his final day would be the end of January.

The 1981 Indiana University graduate has served the company in a variety of roles, starting with purchasing as a new hire out of school. But his leadership with the heavy-duty truck and high-horsepower operations and mentoring of employees have been particularly notable contributions in the eyes of Cummins’ top executives.

“Throughout Ed’s tenure, he was committed to excellence and success in all arenas – for our customers, our employees and our communities,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Linebarger and President and Chief Operating Officer Rich Freeland said in a joint email sent to Cummins’ more than 55,000 employees Thursday morning.

“He consistently, and over many years, invested time, energy and care into developing and maintaining customer relationships,” Freeland and Linebarger said. “As a result of those relationships, we were able to navigate difficult times much better than some of our competitors.”

For example, Freeland said in January 2013 that Pence, as general manager of the Heavy-Duty Engine Business, played an instrumental role in Cummins’ heavy-duty engine market share increasing from nearly 20 percent to as high as 50 percent in North America.

That was at a time when the heavy-duty business was tumultuous, and Cummins briefly considered leaving the market. Instead, the company altered its heavy-duty approach, negotiated long-term supply agreements with customers and targeted becoming an industry leader in emissions solutions, Freeland said.

Pence listed the restructuring of the heavy-duty engine business from 2001-2004 and its subsequent improvement as one of the highlights of his career.

“That was important for the company and me personally,” he said.

“Ultimately, the contributions of that business helped to make Cummins successful in its transformation over the last 15 years,” Pence said.

That heavy-duty engine business turnaround contributed to a promotion for Pence, who took over the company’s Seymour-based High-Horsepower Engine Business on Feb. 1, 2013.

The Jackson County city is home to the Seymour Engine Plant and also the $70 million Seymour Technical Center, which broke ground in 2014 and opened in 2015. About 1,200 people work at the company’s Seymour operations. The Seymour Technical Center makes 19- to 95-liter diesel engine platforms.

Among the engines made in Seymour is the QSK95, also known as the “Hedgehog.” It’s Cummins’ largest high-speed engine and produces 4,000 horsepower. It’s used for rail and power generation applications.

Pence said that leading High Horsepower was a challenge because about the time he took over, the global markets collapsed.

“What we had to do was sustain our important investments, in particular the QSK95,” Pence said.

He added that the QSK95 is off to a great start, and that the Seymour operations have undergone a great transformation over the year.

“It is a place where everyone there works hard, there’s a great deal of pride and it’s an attractive place where people want to work,” Pence said.

“I feel great about the High Horsepower business,” he said.

In his role as the High-Horsepower leader, Pence also helped with a company restructuring that led to the merging of High Horsepower with Power Generation to create the Power Systems Business in December 2015.

The change was made to better align the working relationship between the two segments. As a result, generators and high-horsepower engines are now under one roof.

Most recently, Pence has been on Linebarger’s executive team and helping with strategic initiatives, such as laying the groundwork for the creation of Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies. The 50-50 joint venture with Eaton, a global power management company, was announced in April. Together the companies will design, assemble, sell and support automated transmissions for heavy-duty and medium-duty commercial vehicles.

Pence also was known for mentoring employees, teaching them about certain segments of the company’s business and sharing information to help them succeed. For example, he served as a mentor to Norbert Nusterer, who took over as president of Power Systems in August 2016.

Pence is known for carrying a small copy of the company’s Mission, Vision and Values statement in his shirt pocket.

“He sincerely views people as the company’s primary assets and his commitment to developing others can be seen in the careers of so many that have benefited from his mentoring,” Linebarger and Freeland said.

Retirement plans

Pence said the decision to retire is rooted in a personal memory about his dad, also named Ed. His father died suddenly of a heart attack at age 58 at a time when he and his brothers were talking with their dad about him purchasing a lake house in northern Indiana, and using it to spend more time with his grandchildren.

“I made a long-term goal of mine to try and be in position when I was 58 to retire if I could. That’s how I prepared my entire career,” Pence said.

However, that plan was delayed a little, Pence said, when Linebarger and Freeland asked him to stay on in a strategic role and lead a powertrain initiative — which resulted in the joint venture between Eaton and Cummins. Pence said he stayed on for that initiative because it was important to him and the company.

After retirement, Pence said his first priority is spending more time with his wife, daughters and grandchildren, including spending time at his second home in Naples, Florida.

Pence also said he always is willing and able to help his brothers Greg and Mike in any way possible. Greg has launched a 2018 bid for Congress, seeking the Republican nomination for Indiana’s 6th District seat. Mike is completing his first year as the nation’s vice president after one term as Indiana’s governor and 12 years in Congress.

Ed Pence has one professional duty lined up to keep him busy in retirement. He said he will be joining the Indiana University Varsity Club’s national board of directors.

“I have a great passion for Indiana University,” Pence said.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.