A conversation with Helen Blomqvist, president of Sandvik Coromant, and Senior Technical Editor Bruce Morey.
Manufacturing Engineering: What do you see as the most significant challenges that your customers are having to deal with in 2022? How is Sandvik Coromant responding to those challenges?
Helen Blomqvist: For 80 years, Sandvik Coromant has had close collaboration with customers, partners, academia and distributors and that is part of our success. In the core of our DNA lies a passion for engineering and pushing boundaries, always in close relation with our customers. Right now, sustainability is one of the topics addressed by our customers, and we are developing new products and solutions to meet these new demands. Equally as important, our customers want support in digitalization, and we are constantly expanding our digital technology to make our customers even more productive and sustainable.
ME: Despite the current pandemic (which can dominate the news), what do you see as the most significant trends in machining and manufacturing ahead in 2022?
Blomqvist: An area I believe will have increased importance is sustainability. The future of the world is in our hands, and this is why sustainability is so important. However, the manufacturing sector, in its vast majority, is not sustainable enough yet. It has come a long way in terms of energy and resource efficiency and their environmental impact, but it is not quite where it needs to be.
Sandvik Coromant’s global presence provides us with a multifaceted perspective on sustainability and environmental changes. We are running many initiatives linked to sustainability. We support all of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, of course, and have clear targets on how to be circular, halve our CO2 impact, have zero harm to our people and have fair play. Sandvik has committed to set targets in line with the Science Based Targets initiative, consistent with the Paris Agreement. This is a natural step in our sustainable business strategy, where we can make a big difference through our customer offerings in productivity-enhancing manufacturing and machining solutions.
The rapid change to electrification and digitalization is also a trend we are following, and we are working closely with our customers to develop new products and solutions.
ME: What are some of your company’s most significant challenges in today’s environment? For example, are supply chain disruptions affecting you, or is Sandvik Coromant looking to hire new replacements for an aging workforce (like most others in the industry)?
Blomqvist: The uncertainties in the markets linked to the global pandemic have made us find new ways of working to secure what we have been able to deliver to our customers throughout this pandemic. We have a great organization, with a global production footprint that has made this possible.
Another thing to highlight is that it is important that we are an attractive employer and can hire the best talent to Sandvik Coromant. I think we all in the industry have a responsibility to show to the younger generation that manufacturing is fun, interesting and an area for them. Manufacturing is becoming increasingly digital and data-driven and has an exciting future with many possibilities. At Sandvik Coromant, we have our Yellow Coat experts ready to support our customers with their challenges and help them with their problems. We also run Sandvik Coromant Academy, with free online trainings open to everyone, to meet our customers’ needs. We also work actively with universities to increase the interest for our company.
ME: Can you explain the motivation behind the ICAM acquisition, why it is reporting to the Sandvik Coromant division and what this means to current Sandvik Coromant customers? Do you anticipate other “digital” acquisitions like ICAM?
Blomqvist: Sandvik Coromant is on a growth journey, both organically but also through acquisitions. With several acquisitions completed last year and hopefully more to come, we have a lot of focus on this.
We see the need for support in digitizing production and developing new abilities to work with data and make use of all data collected, as well as supporting our customers throughout the full value chain, from design to the finished product. In order to face that, we have a strong growth plan and have recently acquired companies like the software companies CGTech and ICAM, as well as a solid round tools company, Yongpu, in China. ICAM will become a unit within CGTech and continue to offer its high-quality products and best-in-class services, so ICAM customers will not be affected by the acquisition.
ME: While still in its early stages of development, additive manufacturing is becoming a practical way to produce volume parts. Do you think tool suppliers like Sandvik Coromant need to adapt tools for additive manufactured parts that need additional machining? Are you taking advantage of additive manufacturing to make cutting tools?
Blomqvist: I see additive manufacturing as an opportunity for us. The new technology drives new, complex designs, which in turn requires more complex metal cutting tools for the post-processing of the components. By using additive manufacturing, we can make components lighter, stronger and more flexible than ever before.
With regard to tool bodies, additive manufacturing allows for the generation of shapes and features not possible with metal cutting. In addition, Sandvik Coromant has already launched 3D printed tools like the Lightweight CoroMill 390, produced with additive manufacturing, so we have already adapted to a future where additive manufacturing is more present.
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