No place like home -- for making cutting tools

March 22, 2018 - 10:00am
Rakesh Aghi, Cobra Carbide CEO
Rakesh Aghi, Cobra Carbide CEO

Customers of Cobra Carbide asked the company for made-in-America cutting tools and the West Coast manufacturer of drills, endmills, reamers and burs met their request.

Until late 2016, Cobra sold tools in the U.S. that were produced either at its Riverside, Calif., facility or a plant it owned in India, which the company recently sold. It now produces all its tools in Riverside.

“As more and more customers asked for made-in-the-U.S. product, we changed accordingly,” said Cobra Carbide’s CEO, Rakesh Aghi.

He attributes customers’ desire for U.S.-made tools to advancements in machining technology. In the past, he said, “you could bring in tools from wherever, and if they didn’t work, you would just replace them.”

Now, with the proliferation of CNC machines, automation and robotics, users demand tools that are of higher precision and higher quality. It’s easier for Cobra to test and ensure the quality of tools manufactured in Riverside.

“There’s more of a comfort factor,” said Aghi.

Patriotism also comes into play. Cobra Carbide’s website explains one reason it chose to produce all its cutting tools in Riverside: “This is our home and we understand the importance of Made in America.”

Customers have given a collective thumbs-up to Cobra’s make-it-here approach, said the company’s vice president of sales and operations, Patrick Davis. “When I say the tools are made in America, I get a positive response every time.”

Aghi, who founded Cobra Carbide in 1989, launched the all-U.S.-made strategy in 2013, when he purchased a Massachusetts tool manufacturer and transferred its operations to California. He slowly added more capacity and more equipment, and the percentage of Cobra tools made in Riverside grew steadily.

Cobra’s founder hired Davis a year ago to oversee the company’s next phase of development.

“My mandate was to change everything, but make it work and make it work efficiently,” said Davis. Part of his job was to oversee the installation and powering up of new equipment.

In 2017, Cobra bought four Walter tool-and-cutter grinders, a Tru Tech Systems grinder, a wheel-prep machine and coolant-filtration equipment. It also beefed up its inspection processes.

Davis said, “The changes have allowed us to increase capacity—to create more tools. So, when a customer calls about ordering a quantity of a certain type of tool, we don’t have 10 or 20 in stock, we have 200 or 300 in stock.”

The company also added staff. It now runs two shifts instead of one.

What has been the response of longtime employees to the changes? “They probably think I’m nuts,” said Davis, laughing. “Changes are never easy. Especially when someone has been with a company for a long time. What’s helped is letting people know why we’re making the changes. Then you get employee buy-in. Once you get buy-in, change becomes a lot easier. They start to offer ideas. They become part of the process.”

In 2018, Cobra Carbide expects to acquire another six machines, including a centerless grinder, and more filtration equipment.

As for future growth, customers will dictate that, Davis said, adding, “The sky’s the limit, as long as we continue to make a great, quality tool.”

A great, quality tool—made in America.

Related Glossary Terms

  • computer numerical control ( CNC)

    computer numerical control ( CNC)

    Microprocessor-based controller dedicated to a machine tool that permits the creation or modification of parts. Programmed numerical control activates the machine’s servos and spindle drives and controls the various machining operations. See DNC, direct numerical control; NC, numerical control.

  • robotics


    Discipline involving self-actuating and self-operating devices. Robots frequently imitate human capabilities, including the ability to manipulate physical objects while evaluating and reacting appropriately to various stimuli. See industrial robot; robot.


Former Publisher

Don Nelson served as publisher of Cutting Tool Engineering from January 2001 through May 2018.


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