Cummins, Inc.

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Cummins, Inc: Diesel Engine Software Product Line

Cummins, Inc., is the world’s largest manufacturer of large diesel engines. Modern engines can contain over 100KSLOC of software to micro-control ignition to produce an optimum mix of power, economy, and emissions. In 1993, faced with the need to produce almost 20 new systems but with staff and resources available only for six, Cummins changed the way they developed software and embraced the product line approach. Their product line is a story of extensive use of legacy software, strong processes, and a culture of intra-organizational cooperation.

Today the Cummins software product line covers 9 basic engine types ranging over 4-18 cylinders and 4-164 liters of displacement, with 12 kinds of electronic control modules, 5 kinds of processors, and 10 kinds of fuel systems. To date, 20 basic software builds have been parlayed into well over 1000 separate products. Cycle time has been reduced from around 250 person months to a few person months. Quality and customer satisfaction are both up, and 15 of 15 projects are on track. Cummins estimates a productivity improvement of 3.6, and an ROI of 10:1, from the product line approach. It has also enabled them to quickly enter and become successful in a related market area — namely, industrial diesel engines that power a variety of applications from rock crushers to ski lifts.


P. Clements and L. Northrop, Software Product Lines: Practices and Patterns, Addison Wesley, 2001.

About This Product Line

Cummins was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Second Software Product Line Conference (SPLC2).

Cited improvements to the Cummins Diesel engine software product line include greatly reduced time to market (~1 year vs. ~1 week), ability to quickly and effectively enter new marketsincreased productivityhigher quality, and higher responsiveness to customer needs.