Initiative to help Canadian manufacturers boost productivity

July 3, 2007

Reviewing some of the machining projects they have undertaken for industry are (from left to right):  Eu-Gene Ng, research manager, Machining Systems Laboratory (MSL), McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI); Warren Reynolds, facilities manager, MMRI; Klas Forsström, vice president and general manager, Sandvik Coromant Canada; Mo Elbestawi, vice-president Research and International Affairs, McMaster University, founder of MMRI and director of MSL; Brian Philip, senior manager of business and productivity development at Sandvik Coromant.

Helping companies find ways to shave dollars from manufacturing processes and boost productivity is the impetus behind a new university-industry initiative.

Sandvik Coromant Canada and the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) have entered a cooperation to offer manufacturers consulting expertise, research and development facilities, and engineering know-how in the core area of metalworking services, that is ultimately aimed at productivity gains.

The pair formalized a three-year relationship that will see Sandvik Coromant market the MMRI's Machining System Laboratory's (MSL) research facilities and expertise to industry. MMRI will serve as Sandvik Coromant's locally based, customer-focused research and development facility in Canada. Sandvik-Coromant is investing $100,000 annually to support the initiative.

"Combining Sandvik Coromant's market-leading knowledge of cutting tool technology and MMRI's academic resources provides Canada's metalworking sector with a unique opportunity to improve competitiveness," said Klas Forsström, vice-president and general manager, Sandvik Coromant Canada. "It also provides the opportunity to generate job opportunities within the fiercely competitive automotive, aerospace, general machining, and die and mold-making industries."

Sandvik Coromant and MMRI have previously collaborated on several customer-based research projects, generating approximately $2 million in savings for participating firms.

For example, work undertaken for automotive parts manufacturer TRW in St. Catharines to develop a more efficient cylinder milling process saved the company significant costs associated with process improvements. The two organizations have also combined their expertise on initiatives for Messier-Dowty, Magna International and Linamar Corporation.

"Such collaboration is one of the primary mandates of the research institute in addition to the training of highly qualified personnel," said Mo Elbestawi, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, founder of MMRI and director of MSL. "This initiative can help increase opportunities for students to gain essential practical experience as they prepare to enter the workforce or further their research."

Specific services offered through the initiative include process streamlining, equipment development, improved machine utilization and complete re-engineering programs covering new and existing equipment translating into valuable cost avoidance and savings.

"Both Sandvik Coromant and the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute have a proven track-record of working together to help companies implement manufacturing solutions that improve productivity, reduce manufacturing costs, and enhance part quality," said Eu-Gene Ng, research manager, Machining Systems Laboratory, MMRI, who has worked closely with Brian Philip, senior manager of business and productivity development at Sandvik Coromant. "Formalizing our collaboration allows both organizations to open their doors even wider to the manufacturing sector." Philip initiated the collaboration in 2003 after discovering the research capabilities of the MMRI.

Swedish-based Sandvik Coromant is the world's largest producer of cemented carbide cutting tools and tooling system solutions for the metalworking industry, with more than 200 subsidiary companies in 60 countries benefiting from extensive R & D capabilities and resources based in Sweden. The Canadian subsidiary, located in Mississauga, Ontario, has been providing customers with tooling services since 1926.

More recently, Sandvik Coromant has established a very strong and successful productivity improvement program, utilizing a team of tooling / process specialists capable of handling large projects.

The McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) is one of the largest university manufacturing research institutes in Canada. The 15,000 sq. ft. research facility houses 20 industrial machines and is designed to meet the sophisticated research and development needs of leading manufacturers in the polymer, automotive and aerospace industries, as well as the tool and die industry. The Machining System Laboratory (MSL) is the largest sub-division within the MMRI. Over the past five years, the MSL has successfully performed over 40 industrial research projects for Canadian and international firms.

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