Success comes to businesses that work hard to establish and build relationships with their customers. Acute familiarity with customer needs allows a business to cater to those needs in a timely manner. In some cases, the provider more closely resembles a reliable partner than simply another “vendor.” Two-way communication and openness to fresh ideas allow both parties to grow and succeed in these instances.
It’s important to remember that a number of your suppliers have expertise that can help your shop in much the same way. A shop resource that sometimes goes untapped, though, is the local cutting tool representative.
Potential gains can be left on the table when shops don’t foster a healthy relationship with good area tooling reps. Mike Chenevert, who has worked for both a machine tool supplier and a shop, attests to that. Prior to joining Swissline Precision (a Rhode Island shop owned by his father, David), Mike worked for six years with REM Sales, a Connecticut machine tool distributor and importer. While at REM Sales, he had access to the latest and greatest cutting tool technologies to supply with his machines. As an applications engineer, he also was able to see how various shops in New England were applying new cutters in the field. That gave him a better appreciation for the positive impact the right tools can have on a shop’s bottom line.
When he came to Swissline, he noticed the shop had not been proactive in experimenting with trial cutters some tooling reps had provided. As with all shops, there were internal challenges impeding such exercises, such as fear of changing a proven process and minimal time to experiment with new tools. As a result, many of those complementary tools and inserts ended up squirreled away somewhere in the shop. So Mike began testing some of those stashed tools and, in some instances, realized significant gains in tool life, cycle time and part finish.
In his view, it was just a matter of giving the tools a try and then providing feedback to the tooling rep with results he documented. The latter point is key, he believes. Detailing your experience with the tools shows a tooling rep that you not only are interested in developing a relationship, but you can be relied upon to provide helpful feedback be it negative or positive.
Many tooling reps have had real shop experience using the types of tools they now offer, he notes. That said, there are those who tend to be more interested in pushing a whiz-bang tool than offering an answer to a specific shop problem. The key is identifying the reps who demonstrate a willingness to familiarize themselves with your processes and needs—the ones who tend to offer solutions instead of just selling carbide.
The right tooling reps can be a huge asset. For instance, simply changing to a different insert can offer significant benefits. However, without a tooling rep to suggest and offer a trial cutter, you may never know how a new tool can potentially help your shop. A simple new $20 insert can make a world of difference.