SHOP: As Canadian job shops transition towards more normal operations with the pandemic behind us, what do you see as their top challenge going forward?
JACKSON: Their top challenge would be to manage the labour shortage we are seeing in our industry as well as the skill gap. After the pandemic they’ve seen many experienced and senior shopfloor employees taking early retirement. Also, with Industry 4.0 the skills necessary to navigate the digital landscape, and soon AI, are rapidly changing. Following COVID the industry needs to modernize its approach to the skills required to ensure it remains competitive.
SHOP: How is Sandvik Coromant moving to meet that challenge for its Canadian customers?
JACKSON: We have been preparing to assist our customers facing those challenges. We have built a team of experts who are servicing our customers based on their application, industry segment, and project engineering needs. We make it a priority to invest in developing the competency of our specialists based on the skill sets they want to expand. We have also developed for our team and our customers both online and onsite training from junior to senior levels. We have training centres across North America where our customers can receive training and we can support them with their projects so they can reach their targets on time.
SHOP: Investing in new technologies is critical to improving operational efficiencies and competitiveness. Yet Canadian manufacturers, particularly the smaller ones, are slow to adopt new technologies. How does Sandvik Coromant get customers to take the leap of faith required to invest in new technology?
JACKSON: In a rapidly changing world, technology is becoming increasingly important for maintaining a competitive edge. It’s important for Canadian job shops to realize that if they don’t jump on the digital train now, they will be late to the party. That is the first step. We help them see the bigger picture and how meeting their long-term goals can be achieved in a more efficient and reliable way by leveraging technology. We help them understand the value that technology creates on the shop floor as well as the competitive edge it creates for their organization. However, it does take time to develop new technologies. Job shops tend to think they need to revolutionize their operations overnight and that’s not the case. My advice is start at one machine with adaptive software, see the results and from there replicate the success.
SHOP: Sandvik Coromant has also grown over the years through acquisition. Do you see that continuing into the future and how is that good for your customers?
JACKSON: Known as market leaders when it comes to growing and acquisitions, we have made it our mission to optimize our entire value chain by acquiring new products and expertise so we can create new sources of value for our customers to help them secure optimization and benefits from their processes. The value for them extends from the tool design all the way to the verification process.
SHOP: Asking Canadian manufacturers, particularly smaller ones, to embrace going digital is asking for a lot. It requires them to bring several disciplines together: machining knowledge, operational technology, information technology, and increasingly automation technology and big data. It’s unlikely that manufacturers would have expertise in all those areas so what’s the best way for them to fuse those into a single strategy and what role can suppliers such as Sandvik Coromant play in aiding that process?
JACKSON: We need to help them understand they don’t need to be experts in all those areas. It is the responsibility of the vendor or service provider to share its expertise and to educate them so they can embrace those digital solutions. We encourage them to approach digital solutions one step at a time. We have multiple digital solutions based on customer profile, competency, goals, and strategies and will recommend the optimal digital solution to start with. It’s about taking one step at a time and trusting your vendor to guide you.
SHOP: What role do the ongoing interactions that your service reps have in the field with customers play in Sandvik Coromant’s own tool development? And how is the feedback from customers captured so that it can be used to drive product development?
JACKSON: We have created a communication loop between customer needs and our R&D team. Our service representatives and our market partners form the bridge connecting those parties. As we innovate and develop patents, we are always eager to work with our customers on the next revolutionary tool, so we make sure we close the loop between our customers needs and our R&D team.
SHOP: The sensors embedded in tools from Sandvik Coromant can generate a great deal of cutting data which, together with existing machining knowledge, can help manufacturers improve productivity and reduce waste. From what you’re seeing is all the data being collected used to its full potential or are many manufacturers overwhelmed by it?
JACKSON: We have heard about data analysis leading to data paralysis. Our sensor-embedded tools feature multiple sensors selected to generate highly usable data rather than myriad data that will never be touched or analyzed again. For these sensor-embedded tools we select the data our customers will be using because it’s directly related to their operations. Vibration, load deflection and temperature data in the tool can be used during the process to immediately react to an unexpected situation, for example to stop and retract the tool from processing in the case of overload or high vibration. This data helps you take immediate action to avoid breakage, and in doing so, the operator can leverage our machine interface with CoroPlus Connected which enables processing information with our machine tool partners and improves the cutting process by providing full visual transparency of what happened during the process. This is a tremendous help for inexperienced operators working with challenging materials and workpieces.