5 Questions with Bernie McConnell

Bernie McConnell, executive vice president for Global Commercial Business Operations, Greenleaf Corp., on how the aero engine ramp-up is changing the supply chain.

As the aero industry supplies legacy jet engines while simultaneously producing a new generation of more advanced, fuel-efficient engines, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are migrating some parts production to tier suppliers. The question becomes, can suppliers increase productivity without investing in new capacity?

1) What changes are you seeing in aero engine production?

BM: OEMs are moving legacy parts production to Tier 1 suppliers, who are moving production to Tier 2s and Tier 3s. There must be flawless execution throughout this transition, because errors add cost, and everyone’s under pressure to contain costs while achieving higher productivity and meeting demand. Knowing specifically what will work in metal cutting materials and applications has shifted from manufacturers to suppliers. It’s up to the tier supplier to know and learn because the materials have changed, often requiring changes in machining speeds and feeds. If you bid based on the materials you’ve worked in the past, you’ll likely lose out.

2) What’s changing the materials that tier suppliers must machine?

BM: Everyone wants metals to be lighter and stronger for greater speed and increased efficiency while retaining those properties at higher temperatures. These properties do make the material more difficult to machine, putting higher loads on inserts, and requiring different cutting strategies, cutting tool materials, and geometries.

3) What do the Tier 2s and 3s need to learn? BM: Look to your suppliers to share their best practices. Your tool supplier can be a better partner if they have worked with material producers and can leverage their experience from machining those materials. The Tier 1s and 2s were formerly near the OEMs, but no longer – they can be anywhere in the world, so it’s important to get the right knowledge to the right people when they need it. This increases ramp up and reduces production time.

4) How can parts producers increase their cutting productivity?

BM: Speed has always been the answer, but we question if that is always the right strategy. As with most production, and especially true with aerospace components, a stable and predictable process is a must. Many times feed rate can produce higher increases in productivity than cutting speed alone as it helps manage forces and tool life.

Our answer is our XSYTIN®-1 ceramic insert grade, which is twice as tough as anything we have ever made and can run in a wide variety of workpiece materials. XSYTIN-1 also has a much wider cutting range than traditional ceramics – for example, in Inconel 718, from a low of about 400sfm to more than 1,000sfm. For similar parts in two different materials, one ceramic grade can work for both.

Most machinists are comfortable using carbide tools, and most CAD software is developed for carbide, but it may not generate the right speeds and feeds and tool path options for optimum chip load for ceramics. Greenleaf can help bridge that knowledge gap.

5) What steps can improve dialogue between customers and tooling suppliers?

BM: Customers should look at their suppliers as “true” business partners. We succeed when our customers succeed. Just talking with customers about speeds, feeds, and grades is not enough. We talk with our customers about the material – cast, forged – machine capability, how to process parts efficiently, part fixturing, logistics and then get to what tools are needed. We work from the spindle out, not the other way around. There isn’t an application we haven’t done. During the past 70+ years, we have developed quite an extensive knowledge base. Give Greenleaf a call and have us come in and demonstrate on your machine, so we can show you the performance we’re capable of delivering.

April 2018
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