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Five Questions with Keith Brake

Five Questions with...Keith Brake

This month we catch up with Turning Specialist, Keith Brake. A Sandvik Coromant employee since 2019 and in the metal cutting industry for 27 years, Keith has been instrumental in helping customers achieve increased productivity with new turning grade, GC4415 and GC4425. We asked Keith five questions about the specific skills of a turning specialist, the manufactuirng economics of purchasing an insert, and what he thinks about how shops can incorporate lean principles in the future. Here’s what he has to say in this 5-minute read.

Sandvik Coromant: This has been a difficult year for many machine shops. If you had to suggest one improvement, what should they focus on to improve their turning operations and get back on track? And, in what new ways were you able to do some creative problem solving and successfully help customers through a machining problem in the past year?

Keith Brake: I think in any year it is important to ensure that your business is evolving. Competition is fierce in this industry and, oftentimes, bids are won or lost by the slimmest of margins. Therefore, re-evaluation and constant improvement is paramount to success. New options are available in new grades, tools and machining philosophies are constantly coming to light so stay informed and open-minded.

With COVID-19, we have all been forced to evolve in ways that we did not expect. Remote or virtual support is becoming more and more relevant in today’s business climate and over the last several months I have been a part of many virtual troubleshooting discussions. These adjustments are not all bad, in fact, it has shown us that we can support our clients on the spot in real-time. In the past, we would have made appointments to visit and be at the spindle for application evaluation but we have learned we can also be quite effective virtually as well.

SC: With so many insert options available on the market today, it can be tempting for shops to just go for the cheapest version. But what other factors should manufacturers consider when determining what inserts to use?

KB:  Price does not equal cost! What do I mean by that? Many factors go into the overall cost, such as machining costs, insert costs, material costs, and so on. With machining costs constantly on the rise, companies are forced to be more profitable and the only way to do that is to become more efficient. We have all heard the saying a penny saved is a penny earned, but that does not serve the manufacturing industry very well. In manufacturing, we exist in a realm where a minute saved is dollars earned. Making more parts per hour is the only way to boost income so I always recommend judging your carbide based on how productive it is for you instead of list price. 

SC: As someone who puts on that yellow coat every day, what specific skills and talents do you offer customers as a turning specialist.

KB: I have many years of turning knowledge that has brought me to this point in time. Aside from the technical skillset, a yellow coat specialist should also excel in communication, collaboration, and listening. As a Sandvik Coromant Turning Specialist, it is my job and my mission to provide the best solution for our clients at every level. To do this, we need to listen to the client’s needs, evaluate, collaborate, plan accordingly, and then implement the best solution.    

SC: In times of intense competition for machine shops, what can they do to differentiate themselves? And how could small changes, like upgrading an insert grade, for example, help shops do that?

KB: Shops can separate themselves from the competition by delivering quality components, machined on time and at a competitive price. Sandvik Coromant has many turning platforms to assist with these types of improvements such as CoroTurn Prime, CoroTurn 300, CoroTurn TR, and many more. And let’s not forget the very exciting tool life improvements we are seeing from grades GC4425 and GC4415.

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The broad stroke estimate of what a shop could see in rate of improvement using the new GC4425 or GC4415 inserts is around a 20% productivity increase.  But, if that customer is willing to take some time to evaluate and optimize the application, we stand a great chance of surpassing this number.

SC: Lean manufacturing is certainly not a new concept – but it is not followed by everyone. Why should shops, large and small, consider this way of working more seriously in 2021? And how does digital machining fit in with the lean manufacturing mentality?

KB: Lean manufacturing principles help us take a look at things from another angle and often, when we do that, see the details that we missed. We all want to be as profitable as possible, so incorporating lean principals only makes sense. Digital machining allows us to gather all the data that we are otherwise might now see allowing us to make more informed decisions. Knowledge is power so understanding what is happening on every level of a process is something that all manufacturers could certainly benefit from. 

SC: Bonus question: What’s does “Shaping the Future Together” mean to you, and why?

KB: To me, “shaping the future together,” describes a synergy between Sandvik Coromant and our clients. We shape the future together with a partnership based on transparent communication, collaboration, and a desire for a mutually beneficial solution. Why? If we aren’t the future, then who is?

SC: Second bonus question: What’s your favorite Sandvik Coromant tool and why?

KB: Hands down, my answer is the CoroTurn Prime B-style tool and insert. This tool is productive beyond belief, it’s flexible, and, if properly implemented, very reliable. Chip thinning in turning applications has been around since round inserts, as well as positive lead angles. But PrimeTurning and CoroTurn Prime is a one-tool solution for chip thinning and square shoulder cutting. To me, that is a substantial combination.


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