Sharad Kulkarni, Vice President – Round Tools, Sandvik Coromant – South & East Asia talks about his company’s rich legacy, the current status and the perceived future of India’s metalworking industry, and the recent technological and market trends .
Part of global industrial engineering group Sandvik, Sandvik Coromant is a leading supplier of manufacturing tools, machining solutions and knowhow to the metalworking industry. Sharad Kulkarni, Vice President – Round Tools, Sandvik Coromant – South & East Asia had a detailed talk with DMI’s Editor Aanand Pandey on subjects ranging from the company’s product portfolio to the latest trends prevalent in the Indian metalworking industry, major tech drivers of the global manufacturing industry. Edited excerpts.
Can you tell us about Sandvik Coromant’s main offerings and the background from an India perspective?
Sandvik Coromant is the world’s leading supplier of tools, tooling solutions and technical know-how to the metalworking industry.
Sandvik Coromant is part of the Swedish multinational, Sandvik AB, a high-tech global engineering group which makes tools and tooling systems for metal-cutting mining and construction industries, and manufactures advanced stainless steel and other specialty alloys.
Sandvik has a rich legacy, dating back to the 19th century…
Yes, it has a great legacy. Sandvik began in 1862 with the production of high-quality steel on an industrial scale, which was a breakthrough in its time.
Speaking of product offerings, Sandvik Coromant’s product and services portfolio, globally, comprises close to 40,000 cutting tools and solutions, and then we have a large number of customized or custom-made products for the customers. We have got top-of-the-line products with cutting-edge technologies for all types of applications, whether it’s turning, grilling, milling or digital machining.
Furthermore, we continuously introduce new products – presently we have around 2,500 -3,000 new products which are already there in the market. Our product portfolio is designed to keep pace with the market demand and the changes, and improve the customer’s workflow, efficiency and productivity.
To share an interesting market trend with you, we see that the Solid Round Tools (SRT) used in the areas of solid carbide drilling, milling, tapping, reaming and threading are gaining higher traction – there is a reason for this. In the last decade, the need for parts of superior quality and accuracy in the manufacturing industry has grown exponentially, particularly in verticals such as industrial automation, automotive components, medical devices and consumer goods. It means that the cutting tool must be highly precise, allow for faster machining which reduces cycle times, and should be highly durable. Solid carbide tools offer all these advantages and many more, such as high heat resistance and the ability to handle multiple workplace materials.
The second reason for the popularity of Carbide SRT is that today’s manufacturing setups are designed in way that integrates multiple machining operations in order to produce one finished component at the end of the line. Such a setup calls for a type of cutting tool which is versatile, and the Round Tool fits this criterion perfectly. These are the reasons why Sandvik Coromant’s SRT portfolio has been one of our fastest growing offerings.
What are the latest trends that you see in the metal cutting tools (MCT) industry in India?
The most noticeable trend is that customers are looking for greater efficiency and value. If it is, say, a turning operation, the customer wants to know how it can be done in a lesser time. To address that, we have a product called CoroTurn Prime which is able to cut down cycle times by nearly half compared to the traditional types of tools. Now that kind of performance adds tremendous value to a customer’s business, because he is able to save on the total machining time, and accrue huge productivity and efficiency gains. And there are similar offerings across all the tool applications.
The machine tools industry moves in tandem with the cutting tools industry – if the former brings in improvements in technology then we have to also match up and vice versa: if we bring new kind of cutting tools in the market then the machine tools industry has to make sure that it deploys the new cutting tool technologies in the most efficient manner.
The machine tools industry has taken big leaps in technology. Today, for example, multi-axis machines are becoming more common as they are not only able to machine more complex parts but are also more adaptable to different types of production setups.
Which technologies, in your view, will be the biggest growth driver of the global manufacturing industry, and therefore of the machine tools industry?
These are exciting times in the manufacturing industry, as this is the era of industry 4.0, also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.
Industry 4.0 encompasses a host of technologies, such as IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things), artificial intelligence, cloud computing, data analytics and robotics, which are driving improvements in the manufacturing value chain. From our perspective, Sandvik Coromant wants to be at the forefront of this revolution in the machining sector. Some of the key areas that we have identified for this purpose are digital transformation or digitalization, intelligent manufacturing with cyber-physical systems, and sustainability.
We have used digitalization in two important ways. One, we have used it as an internal transformational tool to improve our efficiencies, and two, to deliver more value addition to the customer from supply and cost perspectives.
Intelligent manufacturing is another key area where we have taken major strides in the industry 4.0 journey. We have added sensor technologies to the tools which enables them to interact with other tools and with machines. It is a part of the cyber-physical systems where all the parts interact with each other, bringing in automation and therefore more efficiency.
Our industry-4.0 drive covers all processes of the manufacturing value chain, starting from designing to process planning, to machining and even post machining. [In January this year, the World Economic Forum officially recognized the Sandvik Coromant production unit in Gimo, Sweden as an advanced Industry 4.0 facility. – Editor]
For instance, we offer a service called Machining Insights, which provides reports consisting of real-time and historical data on performance indicators like OEE (Overall operation efficiency).
As importantly, sustainability stays at the heart of our industry 4.0 strategy and is a part of our company culture and the whole value chain. Sustainability for us has three elements: Planet, where we focus on what we do for our environment. Our tooling solutions are designed to reduce their environmental footprint as much as possible. One of the ways in which we ensure that is through a lifecycle approach we apply through the recycling and recondition of worn-out tools.
The second key element is People, where we strive to build a culture which nurtures and enables growth, drive and innovative thinking in our people. The third element is Profit – one of the reasons behind the fact that Sandvik Coromant is among the world’s oldest and biggest companies in the business – with such a rich legacy, as you mentioned – is that it has been a profitable company. So Planet, People, and Profit are the three pillars of the company strategy.
Which industries are your top customers in India?
Automotive is the biggest segment for us, as it is for other sector companies, since automotive constitutes more than 50 percent of our manufacturing industry. The aerospace industry is emerging as an important customer for us. It is encouraging to see the growing number of players who want to be a part of the global supply chain of the aerospace industry, whether it’s at tier 2, 3, or tier 1. I think this is good news as it’s a indication of the maturity of our manufacturing industry and a recognition of the world-class quality of our local talent. With our government keen to support the aerospace industry with industry-friendly policies, it is a promising segment.
The medical implants and devices industry is also fast emerging as a robust vertical. We see a lot of investments in this area.
India’s Metal Cutting Machine Tools (MCMT) companies face a number of challenges such as dependence on the cyclical growth of industries such as auto and construction, intense competition, and complex distribution networks, etc. Can you share with us some of the biggest challenges you face currently? What are the strategies you use to address these challenges?
From a macroeconomic perspective, we are seeing this cyclical growth patterns getting more and more frequent, which has created its own pattern of disruptions. For instance, in 2017 and 2018 the automotive industry was doing well; then the growth rates fell off the cliff. Now we are seeing at least 21 percent reduction in numbers.
Factors like the global slowdown in the automotive sector, challenges in our domestic financial sector, particularly the NBFCs which has hampered the availability of credit to SMEs, reduced consumption, and the switchover to BS6 emission norms have hit hard the automotive sector, which is our biggest customer segment.
From an overall industry perspective, even though this is a challenging time for us, we also see it as an opportunity for improvement.
As you know, an important focus area for us is the improvement of manufacturing processes, which leads to better productivity and cost competitiveness. During a boom time, a manufacturer, who is our customer, is generally reluctant to do process improvement because he doesn’t want to disturb the schedule as he has to keep pace with the growing demand. One can use the times of slower growth to help one’s customers focus on process improvements, and that is why we see this also as an opportunity to support the customer.
In terms of our distribution strategy, we have always considered them as our partner. And enable and empower them to offer the same value, technical competence and service to their customers that Sandvik Coromant offers to its direct customers. Our distributors are much more than stockists to us; they are partners who add value.
In essence, we as a company’s vision is to use technological innovation to deliver an unmatched customer experience and shape the future of manufacturing, together.
Executive Profile: Sharad Kulkarni
Sharad Kulkarni, Vice President – Round Tools, Sandvik Coromant – South & East Asia has more than 22 years of professional experience in the metal cutting industry, he has worked in various roles with Sandvik Coromant where he was responsible for driving sales for Northern ,Western and Eastern region . He was also responsible for Business Development for the Automotive segment for Asia region Currently he is heading Round tool business in all the markets in South and East Asia.
Sharad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical engineering from Pune University.