At a Chinese aviation industrial giant with more than 17,000 employees, the subsidiary – a 70-person-strong machine shop – was a perennial underperformer that struggled to fulfill its contracts. Sandvik Coromant competence training helped turn it into an efficient and profitable operation.
A small subsidiary of one of China’s largest aircraft manufacturers frequently found itself missing delivery deadlines because of abysmal productivity. In terms of effectiveness, the unit was mired at the bottom of a huge aviation industry enterprise. But the plant refused to remain demoralized and broke out of the underachiever mold. Sandvik Coromant training helped the subsidiary turn itself around.
“Our orders are assigned by the headquarters and are always very urgent,” says a production manager at the unit. “We often missed the deadlines because of the low productivity.”
The parent company is responsible for developing and manufacturing large and medium-sized civil and military aircraft. Historically, the parent assigned the subsidiary the task of manufacturing aircraft frame ribs and a multitude of small and medium-sized aircraft structure components. The subsidiary operated 10 CNC machines and a few manually controlled machines, but it had seldom used indexable tools. The material base of most of its products was high-strength steel and aluminium.
As the alloys and composite materials used in the Chinese aircraft and aerospace industry became more complex, cutting became more difficult and bottlenecks grew more frequent. Guesswork and trial-and-error processes wasted raw materials and tools, causing the subsidiary to habitually overshoot its budgets.
How it all changed
Despite its problems, the operators and engineers at the subsidiary had ambitions. Other plants within the group had worked with Sandvik Coromant for 10 years, but the relationship had not touched the subsidiary. However, when the parent company made the introduction, the operation’s management knew that this was an opportunity to raise competence.
“They told us that they needed courses to raise technical know-how,” recalls Cliff Chen, the Sandvik Coromant account manager for the aircraft maker.
The program began with metal cutting training theory, followed by high-level training and finally case studies in total workpiece solutions.
"The Sandvik Coromant training progressed logically from the easy to the challenging and complex,” says a participant. “The component-based examples were both logical and practical.”
The knowledge-hungry staff absorbed the lessons quickly, and soon the plant halved its consumption of carbide inserts. Scientific calculations replaced estimates based on past experience.
“Hard-to-cut materials are no longer a problem for us,” says an operator who took the course.
Looking into the future
The subsidiary now undertakes more orders, and its performance has risen from last place to third place in terms of efficiency.
“This was the most valuable training we ever got, and we hope Sandvik Coromant can bring us more new advanced technologies," says the plant’s technical manager. “No other supplier offered a similar value in terms of education.”
The plant’s improved profitability has freed up working capital, some of which has gone to finance the purchase of six new machine tools that will further increase productivity. The plant is also contemplating the acquisition of an insert vending machine to improve logistics and inventory management.
“This was a great partnership for both us and the customer,” says Chen.