Project Engineer - Benjaman Holbrook


This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.

Cummins engines are put to the test on unrelenting job sites and in extreme environments around the world.  Some environments can push products past their limitations and need help from Cummins engineers to resolve field-based problems.  Help comes from Project Engineers, such as Benjaman Holbrook, who react to engine issues experienced by the customer.  
And now for your All Access Pass:
Benjaman, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Lake Superior State University, is now in his 18th month at Cummins and is part of the Rapid Problem Solving team of Project Engineers at Cummins.  He begins his morning on a critical, international team teleconference with an important customer in the field.  There are multiple members of Cummins global engineering team on the call and it is Benjaman’s job to lead them through the process of defining the problem, discovering the root cause, and implementing a solution.  
The call comes from deep in India where an engine has had unforeseen mechanical issues in the last two weeks.  The customer doesn’t know what the specific issue is; only that the engine is performing poorly and something appears to be wrong.  Benjaman listens carefully as the customer describes the issues and thinks like a problem-solving detective to assess the possibilities for root cause.  It’s a challenging process where the team relies on collaboration between technical experts, suppliers, and field engineers to plan the next steps, ultimately leading to a solution that protects the customer and improves the engine.
“Sometimes we get engines that fail for different unknown reasons.  We think about all of the possibilities why an engine can have issues from the beginning and conduct an analysis of the types of faults that can happen.  That can be a complicated process: we might have mechanical issues, calibration issues, manufacturing issues, or application issues.  The team brainstorms the possibilities based on team collaboration and ranks which are critical to investigate first.”
After the international conference call, Benjaman spots his System Team Leader in the hall and has an impromptu, although rather strategic conversation about a different project in China. The testing plan is coming to an end and getting closer to solving the customer issue during test cell validation.  The System Team Leader likes the results of the testing plan and gives Benjaman the go ahead to move toward documenting the technical results and push for global implementation.
Benjaman next has a late morning, working lunch with his team to revisit and discuss the India engine project call.  The lunch results in robust conversation about the testing plan to define the problem and measure variable elements of performance.  All members of the team agree to meet with colleagues around the world who will be involved in the testing plan and analysis.  This helps to speed up the delivery of a solution to the customer and positions Benjaman as the global leader for the project.  He likes the feeling of being relied upon by his team.
“There are many talented engineers here at Cummins.  You get to meet so many across our business that you feel fortunate to be a part of the team, and even more excited to lead a project like this. It’s a great opportunity for my development and interaction with our leaders.”
Lunch ends with conversation about vacation plans for the upcoming holiday and a team member’s new Mustang. Developing personal relationships with the team is a critical part of project leadership. Benjaman spends time walking on the treadmill workstation in the Cummins collaborative workspace catching up on email messages and reviewing testing data from past projects.  He likes the flexibility of the workspace and energy it brings to daily activities.
“No two days are ever the same and, if you’re someone who doesn’t like routine, then this is the job for you. I can exercise in our office or sit on couches with team colleagues or even reserve a focus room if I need to get away and concentrate.  My job is just as unique: one day you’re in a test cell logging data, the next day you’re on a conference call with global customers discussing improvements they need right away.  When we’re done we can really point out something impactful that we accomplished.”
Benjaman leaves the collaborative workspace to spend the rest of his afternoon at the Cummins Technical Center.  It’s a short drive across town for meetings with his test cell engineering team to review the final China project analysis.  The Technical Center is a research and development (high-speed data factory) where prototype and current engines are intentionally pushed beyond the limit of performance each day.  The research helps determine why failures occur in isolated scenarios in the field.  The team discusses the validation data approval given from Benjaman’s System Team Leader and Benjaman shares news that the testing results are good and the team can move on to the prototype component production stage.  
Everyone on the team leaves the long session feeling accomplished about the impact they made for the customer.  The work that Benjaman has done in his short tenure with the Company has already saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
“I’m leading projects and using resources from around the Company. It’s a huge networking opportunity because it exposes me to every phase of an engineering change and the skills I’m learning can be applied universally.  I’m just trying to get better each day.  My goal for the future is to continue to develop as a leader and sharpen my skills to face whatever challenge is next.”