It's a small world for cutting-tool manufacturers

May 1, 1998
Cutting-tool manufacturers gather to exchange ideas and discuss industry trends.

Cutting-tool manufacturers gather to exchange ideas and discuss industry trends.

Attendees at the first World Conference for Manufacturers of Metal-Cutting Tools listen to a technical presentation on high-speed machining.

From left to right, Anders Illstam, ECTA president and CEO of CTT Management GmbH, a Sandvik Co., Frankfurt, Germany, and William Cleveland, USCTI president and president of Craig Tools Inc., El Segundo, Calif., worked together to co-sponsor the first World Conference for Manufacturers of Metal-Cutting Tools.

During the afternoon roundtable session, Klaus Scholl, president of Günther & Co. GmbH, Frankfurt, Germany, talks about business conditions.

Forming relationships and exchanging ideas are (left to right), Arthur Beck, president, Precision Twist Drill Co., Crystal Lake, Ill., Bruce Williams, president, U.S. Tool Grinding Inc., Desloge, Mo., and John Enander, president,Hannibal Carbide Tool Inc., Hannibal, Mo.

Anders Illstam, ECTA president and CEO of CTT Management GmbH, a Sandvik Co., Frankfurt, Germany, and James Christie, president, Valenite Inc., Madison Heights, Mich., and Vice President of Industrial Products, Cincinnati Milacron, Cincinnati, discuss the European and North American cutting-tool markets.

Industry leaders predicted a strong market for cutting-tools at the recent "World Conference for Manufacturers of Metal-Cutting Tools." This conference, the first of its kind, took place on April 1 thru 4, 1998 in Boca Raton. Sponsored by the United States Cutting Tool Institute (USCTI) and the European Cutting Tool Association (ECTA), manufacturers of cutting tools from the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Sweden, Israel, Japan, South Africa, and Australia came together to exchange ideas, discuss industry trends, and obtain information on important technical and marketing issues.

From the opening-day roundtable business session, it became apparent that the cutting-tool businesses throughout the world share common interests and problems, regardless of product. Attendees from both large corporations and small companies discussed business conditions such as recent sales growth or decline, labor issues, and the near-term outlook of their industry. It didn't seem to matter if companies produce twist drills or inserts, high-speed steel or carbide, everyone is experiencing a strong market and each predicts business will remain good for at least the next two to three years.

One of the top concerns facing the cutting-tool industry, both in the U.S. and abroad, is the labor force. Participants related problems finding experienced workers. As one executive commented, "The situation made us tighten up our hiring policies. Instead of looking for experience, we check to see if applicants can breathe on their own. Then we determine if they are trainable."

Another important issue centered around learning to compete in a global market. According to William Cleveland, president of both USCTI and Craig Tools Inc., El Segundo, Calif., "The day of the closed market is rapidly fading away, and in order to survive, we need to manufacture for the world. No longer is there a foreign market. Business is now a universal language. Understanding or learning a marketplace on some other continent is as important as it is at home."

Also commenting on the importance of a global cutting-tool market, Anders Illstam, ECTA president and CEO of CTT Management GmbH, a Sandvik Co., Frankfurt, Germany, talked about the world getting smaller and the importance of tool manufacturers looking beyond their local markets. While the use of carbide tools continues to increase, Illstam estimates 60% of the world's high-speed steel tooling business is in the hands of small manufacturers. He predicts this trend to continue because production of high-speed steel tools requires less investment than carbide tool manufacturing, even though it is more complicated. "Customers are going global, creating a real need for cutting-tool producers to follow them around the world," says Illstam.

Attendees indicated that the conference's technical presentations on machining trends, dry machining, high-speed machining, and the marketing of cutting tools in the future were right on target. Other trends impacting the worldwide market included multi-purpose tools, an increased demand for special tools, near-net shape forming, and new production methods and coatings. Even with all the available technical expertise and exchange of ideas taking place, Illstam was quick to point out the conference's greatest opportunity lies in the formation of new relationships. He believes that creating an environment that promotes a sense of community within the worldwide metal-cutting industry will prove that as the world shrinks, opportunity grows.

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