For Sandvik Coromant, knowledge is a primary focus – how to gain it, how to attract it in the shape of new talent and collaborations, and how to share it. Metalworking World sat down with Sandvik Coromant Vice President Human Resources Anna Hedebrant to learn more about this critical area.
Sandvik Machining Solutions President Klas Forsström often uses the pen as a symbol to explain how much Sandvik Coromant values not only knowledge but also the importance of sharing knowledge. In his speeches he replaces inserts and tools with a pen. “We sell a product, the pen,” he says in company presentations. “But what we in our yellow coats deliver to workshop floors around the world is the actual art of writing – how the tool can be used in the best possible way.”
For Vice President Human Resources Anna Hedebrant, knowledge is front and centre – gaining it, securing it and, as Forsström says, sharing it. “What our organization is about and what our brand stands for is knowledge and competence,” Hedebrant says. “Our customers are very familiar with this through the yellow coat, how we share the best methods to use a tool, but also how we learn from and develop with our customers, thus making knowledge a win-win situation for both parties. Apart from what everyone sees externally, knowledge is something we are continuously working with throughout the whole organization. We are naturally curious, and we are constantly learning, and we have an established internal model for this where each employee develops.”
It is not only with customers and internally that Sandvik Coromant gains and shares knowledge, Hedebrant explains. The company also has several collaborations with schools and universities around the world. “This is a way for us to be part of research and studies compiled by young, often hungry and passionate students, as well as being able to offer training, master’s programmes and internships at our facilities,” she says.
Apart from sponsoring seminars and courses and providing guest professors at universities in England and China and having its own high schools in Sandviken and Gimo, Sweden, Sandvik Coromant has also developed an extensive and industry-unique e-learning programme, Metalcutting Technology, launched in 2012. The web-based introductory course to metal cutting brand-neutral and open to anyone – from new employees, customers and operators to schools and universities.
On average, some 12,000 people complete the online programme each year, and several learning institutions use it as part of their curriculum. “Why reinvent the wheel when the knowledge is right there, available 24/7 and free of charge?” Hedebrant says.
As the older generation retires, the industry is facing a competence skills gap. Sandvik Coromant sees the importance of sponsoring activities outside the lecture hall as well as within it, aimed at creating interest in the manufacturing industry as a whole. These activities include the World Skills international craftsmanship competition and the Italian Job and Formula Student car races, where students renovate and build cars to compete. These activities, especially when present in the school and university environment, are key to attracting the best talent – not only to Sandvik Coromant but to the industry as a whole, where the young people involved may well end up as future customers. (See the sidebar about MACH 2018 below.)
Not only is there a competence gap regarding traditional skills in the industry, but as Industry 4.0 accelerates and the industry becomes increasingly digitalized, there is a pressing need for totally new competences, Hedebrant explains. “This is the big question from an HR perspective: how to attract new competences and develop existing employees to show that we are a modern employer,” she says. “But still, no matter how the process is done, the knowledge for how metal and new materials are best cut will always be central to what we do.”