Viewpoints: Partnerships Benefit All Participants
The options available to today’s manufacturer are changing faster than ever before. Whether considering dramatic shifts in machine design, the maturation of relatively new technologies like multi-tasking, or subtle innovations in tool design, there has never been more information for shops to monitor. The situation has reached the point where it is nearly impossible for a shop to make the time necessary to track such a vast amount of constantly changing data. To stay ahead of the curve, a growing number of manufacturers are relying on their suppliers to provide expertise.
To match this trend, many suppliers have increased the levels of service available to customers. Machine and tool companies are implementing broader education standards for their employees, giving them the ability to offer customers more comprehensive information. In the past, cutting tool salespeople might only have received information on their company’s latest products. Today, the best cutting tool suppliers train their employees on developments in complementary areas, such as materials or machine tools.
These increased efforts have led to more sophisticated training programs. Many suppliers have focused on improving both the quality and scope of these resources, while also standardizing them for increased effectiveness. For a large corporation, efficient sharing and dissemination of information is key to developing and maintaining a strong knowledge base within its workforce. In the past, the American branch of an international company might have incorporated only the knowledge attained by its domestic resources. On an increasingly frequent basis, international corporations are sharing information and expertise across country lines, and even between continents, to the benefit of all of the company’s divisions.
In addition to working to increase breadth of knowledge, many suppliers are now striving to equip employees with a depth of knowledge in applicable areas. At Sandvik Coromant,our company this means establishing programs, parallel to the Sandvik Coromant Academy, that focus on specific market segments. This initiative consists of comprehensive and detailed training specific to particular industries. Efforts to instill employees with this higher level of data allows customers’ needs to be met in a much more efficient and thorough manner.
All of this increased expertise comes hand-in-hand with the availability of intensive programs designed to bring a true level of partnership to the relationships between manufacturers and cutting tool suppliers. One example of such an initiative is Sandvik Coromant’s our OTS (Original Tooling Services) program. OTS, which integrates the cutting tool supplier into the process of purchasing metalcutting machines. Through its cooperative nature, the program helps to maximize return on investment by ensuring that the best possible combination of tooling and machinery is purchased.
Other programs focus on improving existing processes through the implementation of new technology. At Sandvik Coromant, we created the PIP (Productivity Improvement Program) to help customers in this manner. During this program, tooling experts gather extensive data on a shop’s existing processes and then generate recommendations, presented in a written comprehensive report, detailing opportunities to raise productivity and eliminate costs.
These types of close working relationships provide benefits to job shops in two important ways. Most obviously, shops benefit by using relevant technological advances to improve their overall profitability. Additionally, producers of cutting tools, machines and other manufacturing products become more intimately aware of the industry’s needs and can react accordingly. This symbiotic and circular process brings success to both those developing products and those using them.
At Sandvik Coromant, high levels of direct customer contact help us to allocate our resources towards projects that will have the greatest positive impact on the market. When working closely with a broad variety of manufacturers, suppliers are quicker to spot developing trends, both positive and negative. For instance, improvements in turning and milling might cause a complementary process, such as drilling, to become a bottleneck for the industry at large. Close interaction and activity within the industry allows suppliers to be more responsive to these developments, benefiting the market as a whole.
In today’s constantly changing market, partnerships between suppliers and their customers are more important than ever. These close relationships are the key to both sides receiving information vital to maximizing their success. Only by working cooperatively are all parties able to use the latest technologies to their maximum benefit.
This article was first published in the March 2006 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.