The KEO brand is marking its 80th anniversary. A brand within the portfolio of ARCH Cutting Tools since 2011, KEO, founded in 1941, still stands for all-American quality, integrity, and trust. And building on that legacy, the brand is important to the ARCH Cutting Tools goal of leading the cutting tool industry into Industry 4.0.
“When we launched ARCH in 2011, we saw the potential of the highly-respected KEO brand in the industry,” recalls ARCH CEO Eli Crotzer. “Our long-range strategy was to build upon the trust and reputation of the brand, and to acquire diverse and complementary companies to drive our overall growth.”
With that comes a special responsibility, Crotzer notes.
“That trust in the KEO brand was important to the evolution of ARCH Cutting Tools and has contributed to the leadership in innovation that we’re known for today,” he says. “But, with that comes the responsibility to maintain the standards of the brand and all the related customer expectations.”
That outlook is shared by Jeff Cederstrom, president – ARCH Cutting Tools.
“The KEO brand, with its legacy of trust and reliability has helped us build today’s ARCH Cutting Tools. Manufacturing is now more complex and that means we had to expand our portfolio. The new KEO for the 21st Century is part of that expansion,” he says. “For example, the Patriot High Performance portfolio is built on our experience engineering specials, and in parallel to that, we’re building up the engineered solutions we offer – all through the new KEO brand.”
Fire. The wheel. Cutting tools.
Each of these contributed to the growth of modern manufacturing. While fire and the wheel considerably predate cutting tools, which first appeared during the Industrial Revolution, in the late 18th century; the contribution of cutting tools is equally important.1
And a milestone in history the year that KEO was founded drove the overall growth of the industry.
Wartime production of cutting tools during WWII skyrocketed, peaking in 1942, once the manufacturing industry realized it needed these to make planes, trucks, and tanks. Collectively, more tools were manufactured between 1940 and 1943 than had been made between 1900 and 1940.2
And KEO was just getting started.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, when CNC technology was becoming common in manufacturing3, KEO was already ahead of the development curve.
KEO legacy, reputation – building better tools
“The KEO brand has made its imprint on American manufacturing,” says Bill Orris, sr. director, Product Development and Custom Solutions – ARCH Cutting Tools. “Throughout all industry segments within metalworking, KEO means true American craftsmanship. I like to say that there’s a KEO tool in every toolbox in America.”
KEO had a keen understanding of exactly what was needed in the mid-20th Century – reliability and uncompromising quality, Orris notes. That unprecedented quality – with accuracy of cutting edge and quality of substrates second to none – led to an unmatched sense of pride within the KEO brand, he added. That sense of pride, developed in the mid-20th Century, underpins an approach that led to sustainability and industry leadership in cutting tool solutions into the 21st Century.
“Eighty years ago, more than 60% of what customers were cutting was iron-based steel material,” Orris says. “Now, material classifications have grown exponentially – heat-resistant super alloys, exotic materials like Inconel and titanium, and higher silicon-based aluminum non-ferrous materials have made material removal more challenging for customers. Early on, KEO established its leadership by understanding the equipment, understanding cutting temperatures involved and delivering reliable solutions that customers could trust and rely on.”
As the cutting tool environment has changed dramatically, KEO, through its decades of insight and industry leadership, has remained ahead of the curve in delivering what customers need says Orris.
“Manufacturing and the cutting tool environment are now focused on efficiency,” he adds. “Everything is 10-times faster and more capabilities are required to maximize equipment utilization. CNC machine technology is driving this innovation. The greater their capabilities, the greater the demands on cutting tools.”
The company is meeting these accelerated 21st Century industry demands with its Patriot High Performance by KEO portfolio.
“The new Patriot HP portfolio offers more, and more versatile, high-performance tools from solid carbide to indexable milling options, in addition to indexable and solid drilling,” Orris says. “This is the result of our unique development process. Our engineers and craftsmen, using knowledge and proven solutions learned over decades of success, now provide the industry a comprehensive collection of high-performance products that significantly elevate our new KEO product portfolio.”
The evolution of the new KEO brand includes a transition to digital innovation as well.
“We’re proud to have evolved this KEO legacy into Patriot HP – that is true innovation,” Orris says. “Our next biggest step is the integration of digitalization and the adoption of Industry 4.0 principles. We are bridging the gap between a physical cutting tool that you can hold and we’re now allowing that tool – with its 80 years of legacy reliability – to communicate digitally. We’ve built out the assemblies of all the digital attributes and they can be shared digitally through any engineering software.”
In the 21st century manufacturing environment, companies are embracing Industry 4.0 technologies, and efficient access to digital product data is essential to meeting the level of precision that is required in the cutting tool industry today, according to Orris.
“In a recently announced relationship with MachiningCloud, that organization will now export tooling data of KEO products directly to our customers’ CAD/CAM, ERP, and other shop environment digital platforms, fast-tracking solid modeling and simulations,” he adds.
But over the past 80 years, it hasn’t just been about making better tools. For insight in how the business itself has evolved, Cederstrom again offers some insight.
Into the future – building better business
“We continually listen to our customers,” Cederstrom says. “The challenges and demands they face in today’s market have increased and, in addition to providing them the best cutting tools in the market, it’s critical that we also make it easier for them to do business.
“To that end, earlier this year, we launched a new digital integrated master catalog. Before that, in spring of 2020, we expanded our Warren, Michigan, campus and launched our state-of-the-art Centralized Distribution Center (CDC) – all at the original home of KEO. Combined, these moves further streamline how ARCH Cutting Tools provides its customers with the best products and professional service.”
This integrated catalog showcases the rich heritage of high-quality American manufacturing that defines ARCH Cutting Tools. And, in a sense, it also celebrates the rebirth of KEO, with the company’s expanded standard solid round tool offerings under the trusted KEO brand and its full indexable portfolio under the Ultra-Dex brand. The catalog integrates all the heritage KEO products, a full line of micro tools, and the Patriot High Performance milling and drilling tools in a format designed with the end-user in-mind, Cederstrom notes.
The next 80 and beyond
Just as KEO began at a time in history when the industry was changing and demands were becoming greater, the brand faces significant industry changes and increasing demands now. ARCH CEO Eli Crotzer shares insight regarding what that means for the new KEO today and for the future.
“There are trends in play now that have been developing within the industry for years – micro-sizing, more complex componentry in every sector, increasingly intricate products – including consumer products, like smartphones, as well as precision instruments for robotic and minimally invasive surgery; and all of these are utilizing new and exotic materials,” Crotzer notes. “These require increasingly precision performance from our industry.
“And these things are important because they impact people’s lives; they rely on them. So, when those manufacturers come to us to be innovative, accurate and precise, their customers are also relying on us,” he emphasizes.
That’s when trust can be most important, according to Crotzer.
“It’s inspiring working with this team,” he says. “Products that you can trust come from people you can trust. I see pride in workmanship in every one of our facilities and in every team. Our people have embraced change, driven innovation and secured our evolution. Our products have evolved, even the way we do business has evolved, because our people have evolved.”
What does that mean to ARCH Cutting Tools and its 80-year-old KEO flagship brand?
“I’ve been working closely with this team for more than a decade now and I see the pride and spirit in the 80-year KEO legacy is even stronger now, and it’s supported by trust and that legacy of excellence.”