A Preview of Viking West at Groundwater Expo 2015

The team at Viking West is eagerly anticipating the 2015 NGWA Groundwater Expo being held December 15 -17 in Las Vegas. It’s an exciting opportunity to meet intelligent contributors across various industries, and for Viking West, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the features and benefits of a new line of smartly-designed attachments.

I caught up with Kevin Reimer, Viking West’s Vice President, to bend his ear about the conference, what it means for Viking and what it means for the drilling industry in general.

Kelvin Cech: Other than the weather in Vegas, what are you looking forward to the most at Groundwater Expo?

Kevin Reimer: This is our first opportunity to debut Viking’s product line to the public so that exposure is obviously something we’re looking forward to. To co-exhibit with Dando is really exciting as well and we’re looking forward to promoting that relationship to the public. (Viking West recently entered into a North American distributor partnership with Dando Drilling, read more).

This is our first trip to Groundwater in partnership with Dando we’re excited to get there and reconnect. For both sides of the pond, us in North America and Dando in the UK, it will be great to reconnect with past customers face to face and hopefully establish relationships with new clients as well.

It all moves pretty fast, these events are all about people visiting our booth, viewing our products, and asking general technical questions. Time goes by pretty fast when you’re talking shop and discussing how our products can help them. It’s all about educating clients on how Viking can help them improve their safety records, increase productivity and save money at the same time.

I’d imagine there’s a lot of research into how other companies are doing things as well, right?

Absolutely, it’s an opportunity for Viking to get a pulse on where the industry is at. Industry trends, new technology, innovations. It’s hard to just leave the booth for me, but our team will have the opportunity to slip away to see what other companies are doing. Because Viking is an attachment company, we don’t build complete machines so there are opportunities to help other rig builders. We can design special attachments or new tooling that could help another tooling company. It’s not just selling to a customer who drills every day. Most of Viking’s success to date is working with OEM’s and equipment dealers.

It’s a two way street. Some of the big drilling companies might have resources tied up developing other projects, but we might be able to point out a development where we can make their machine better, so it becomes an innovative product built exclusively for them. We’re on the same team because we’re not a drill rig manufacturer, we just make select hydraulic attachments, not the entire drill rig. The economy depends on people helping others, so most people don’t spend much time worrying about competition. For us at least, we just try to make products that help people.

What are the benefits from attending the Groundwater Expo, aside from exposure in the industry?

There are cool technical classes people can take as well. You can attend a presentation on a big range of drilling-related topics. You get the full spectrum of drillers to geologists, CEO’s, supply chain managers, and influential people in the industry. So I guess that comes back to exposure a little bit, but if you want to learn more about your industry then there are great ways to do it. A lot of the key decision makers attend these shows to get a feel for what’s coming.

What industries are represented at Groundwater 2015?

It’s great to see people from such a range of industries. There’s scientists and engineers, suppliers, distributors, and contractors, who make up the biggest portion. These are the people who are actually in the field running the equipment, the people we owe the most to when it comes to safety and productivity. The second largest portion is manufacturers. Environmental, geotechnical, groundwater, and water wells, everyone wants to improve their designs and push the economy forward.

What are some of the key messages made by Groundwater and other events of this sort – what is the conference trying to accomplish?

From our perspective, you learn a lot from people coming to the booth and they hopefully learn a lot from you. It gives you a good barometer on the industry and how you can keep improving designs every time you build a new product. Our entire business model is talking with clients and users and determining how we can work together to build attachments that are better than their predecessors, and I think that’s the message and the goal of this conference; constant improvement through communication and innovation.

Look, Viking can’t be successful if we build products that aren’t user friendly. It’s a partnership, if our customers are successful using our equipment then by association so are we. Not only do we get a condensed format at Groundwater to demonstrate that process on the floor, but Vegas is just a great place to be and to reconnect with colleagues in person at a fun venue. It’s always nice to mix work with fun, so we hope to see a lot of friendly faces in December.

Product Profile: Double Wrench Breakout Table

“We designed the Double Wrench Breakout table not only to a superior level of safety, but we wanted an easy to use product as well.”

That’s Kevin Reimer from Viking West Engineered Products. The Double Wrench Breakout table model DBW280 is a completely hands-free operation that provides safe makeup and breakout of tool joints.

Past profile: the Scorpion™ Pipe Handler

Safety Features

Human error is an unfortunate reality of the drilling industry, and truly, any industry involving heavy machinery and its attachments. The tendency of operating men and women in the field is to use their hands to solve problems. That’s why Viking West creates products where hands-on interaction isn’t only discouraged, it’s impossible.

The Double Wrench Breakout table prohibits the operator from making contact with rotating pipe. Before breakout tables were put into steady use in the drilling industry, it was common to break joints using manual tongs or hydraulically assisted tongs which required an operator to physically attach the tong to the pipe, and lever it to lock it in place.

“I’ve heard of those methods referred to as knuckle-bashers or wrist breakers,” says Kevin. “If you weren’t careful you could really hurt yourself. I’m happy we’ve come such a long way.”

Viking West’s Double Wrench Breakout features:

  • clamps and holds drill pipe while simultaneously clamping and breaking joints
  • doesn’t require use of top drive
  • takes the strain so the top drive is not subjected to those forces

The Design Process

“This particular breakout table was designed specifically for a project for Dando Drilling,” says Kevin. “They were looking for a breakout table that was lightweight, physically compact and met specific parameters for clamping and breaking force as well as clamping range and the diameter of pipes it could handle. And it had to be light-weight and be able to attach to Dando’s machine conveniently. It needed to be a quick installation for Dando. That’s how it started, but while we were designing it, we also wanted to design something with a broad client use, so this table can be used in a wide range of drilling applications with various rigs.”

Related: Viking West becomes North American Distributor for Dando Drilling

The Result: a Safe Way to be Productive

Breakout tables need to be powerful and compact while being installed easily and economically onto new machines. OEM’s and clients with rigs are looking for a simple addition to new or existing rigs, and when it comes to clamping and breaking drill rods, Viking’s Double Wrench Breakout table does it rapidly, safely and is ergonomically friendly.

Viking West’s tong dies, the hardened teeth that grip the pipe, are a simple design which makes them easy to remove and replace when they wear out. “We really studied this,” says Kevin. “A lot of manufacturers have overly complex mounts that requires added wrench work and they’re slow to to remove. Plus they’re expensive. The Double Wrench Breakout is a simple, durable, low-cost design that’s easy to replace when needed.”

Further Double Wrench Breakout Specifications

Ergonomically friendly:

1. all grease points are easily accessible for maintenance.

2. the breaking cylinder is integrated into the assembly (rather than having a breaking cylinder that has a tail mount that has to be welded to the mast, the Viking West model is totally integrated so there’s no additional labour required.

Main Features:

  • Completely hands free operation, providing optimum operator safety.
  • Speed up make-up & break-out of tool joints.
  • Structure is fully engineered using the latest finite element analysis (FEA) 3D software.
  • Breakout cylinder integrated into assembly. No separate mount to weld onto mast.
  • Handles large range of rod/casing diameters. Customized clamp sizes available to meet client requirements.
  • Custom mounts to suit any drill mast configuration.
  • Innovative clamp cylinder configuration, clean hose routing, vibration resistant ORB fittings.
  • Hardened tong die inserts designed to provide solid sure grip that won’t break the bank.
  • Innovative holder design for quick & easy tong die change outs.
  • Simple clean design. Less moving parts means less to maintain.
  • Smooth rotation via thrust bearing design with conveniently accessible lubrication grease points.
  • High quality material grades & hydraulic components.
  • Swing out Safety gates add structural strength and protection from pinch points.
  • Optional 3rd clamp assembly.
  • Quality Warranty & Full Product Support.  

Viking West: Storefront Mentality, Global Capability

Last month I caught up with two of Viking West’s owners, Mike Schlender and Kevin Reimer. After working with national publications such as National Drilling and GeoDrilling, it’s becoming clear that the philosophy upon which Viking West was built is enjoying a resurgence throughout the drilling industry. It’s just as important to maximize budgets when buying small products such as tooling as it is when making large purchases such as SPT Auto Hammers.

Kevin and Mike first got the idea for Viking West while exploring the wilderness of North Vancouver on their bikes. It was through a mutual respect for their industry that they decided to build a company that upheld the best parts of their experience.

Kelvin Cech: Was it a sudden instant, a moment when the two of you realized the potential to start Viking West?

“It sure didn’t seem sudden!” said Kevin Reimer.

But like all new ideas, careful planning is essential if we want to get our ideas off the ground. I wanted to learn more about the company’s origins and its unique approach to the heavy equipment and attachment industry, so I sat down with Kevin and Mike again. 

You see, for Mike and Kevin, starting a company during a time of historically-low oil prices required more ingenuity than sheer force of numbers. It required a mission statement that saved costs while also contributing to the future of their company.

I hope you enjoy the rest of our interview.

Read Part 1

Kelvin Cech: Your company was built on the strength of your collective experience in the oil and gas industry, specifically drilling, forestry and construction. Tell us more about the specifics that led to the origins of Viking West.

Kevin Reimer: Correct, the experience was there and once we started designing and creating attachments specifically for our customers, that’s when ‘sudden’ came into play. The reality is that we went through so many different machines and sourcing strategies that we transitioned from a local company into a global company basically overnight.

KC: How does Viking West balance focus between the local market here in the lower mainland with a global market?

KR: There’s value concentrating on the local market, but the global capability, the international perspective is one that’s becoming more important to the economy. Everyone matters, it’s important that developing countries or countries with a developing drilling or construction industry have the tools to sustain themselves. These attachments are required throughout the world to keep things moving. We give a storefront impression here in Langley of being a small company, it looks that way, but behind us we have a massive manufacturing capability. And beyond that we have relationships with other manufacturers overseas that adds to that capability. We believe strongly in the small storefront mentality so we can work with customers in a streamlined, simple fashion while also being fully capable of handling projects on a global scale. So, small storefront, full-scale world class manufacturing capability.

KC: What are some specific products Viking West is currently working on?

Mike Schlender: We want to continue designing and engineering new complex attachments. We’re passionate about new products, it’s what we’re good at. For instance, one of our new products is a hydraulically-operated grapple that’s going to make a huge difference for companies all over the world. With the grapple as opposed to a bucket, there’s moving parts and a more sophisticated design. The end user will then be able to do more in less time and with less energy. For that you need even more customer feedback when it comes to making the design work.

KR: And that’s really why these opportunities exist for us. Viking West is only two years old and we started in the midst of a tough economic time, so designing products with a firm handle on costs was crucial, and will continue to be crucial. It’s important to work smarter instead of harder. We had to be very clever when we started to flush out opportunities and to serve customers here at home, but to emerge with a global capability as well. 

KC: And that led to the design of some unique products built specifically for the customer, or really right to the end user, right?

KR: Correct. The cat-walk product we designed kicked things off for us, it’s a simple design but it makes such a huge difference in the day-to-day operation of the crews that use it. What used to be a three-day set-up is now one. We believe in going after those specific circumstances that create more value for the customer, and the results in the field show for themselves. The catwalk is my favourite because Viking West started with that one, but that’s really how it works with everything. As we get more of an established product line, as Mike said we want to get into more involved attachments, advanced engineered hydraulic attachments.

KC: It sounds like a rewarding way to go about business, talking with people, collaborating and ending up with user-friendly products that are as enjoyable to make as they are to operate.

KR: It’s more than just selling stuff for me. It’s about getting to know everyone in our team, which includes our customers. It’s more than just the sales guy in the office, but the people on the ground using the products. I don’t want to sound too thick here, but if our customers are successful, if they’re doing well, reducing their costs and improving their margins then by association we’re successful as well.

—-

Mike and Kevin’s story might have started in a forest in British Columbia’s lower mainland, but it’s quickly grown from their base of operations in Langley and to a vast network of like-minded individuals in China, the UK and beyond.

And as long as everyone is on board with contributing to the economy with smart attachments and sophisticated products, then the team will be poised to create something new and helpful around every turn.

How These 4 Essential Values Help Drilling Companies Solve Problems

Drilling into the Earth is a careful, calculated business. There are countless opinions on how to complete a project, from the most intricate details to the broadest of perspectives.

It all comes down to personalities and the skills they bring to the table. Disagreements are common, but it’s often through those disagreements that drilling companies can learn more about their work and how they can save time, money and energy.

Have you ever faced a difficult decision in your industry? We’ve all been there, and it’s in these times we turn back to our core values. Usually, if we examine a problem closely enough through the lens of a mission statement, we’ll come across the answer naturally.

Attention to Detail

This is a common value across multiple industries, but when it comes to drilling and using sophisticated machinery, it’s crucial to pay attention to the smallest details. Why? Details help us:

  • Plan budgets and maximize expenses
  • Schedule people as well as machines
  • Determine the needs of specific projects

Whether you’re collecting standard penetration samples or you’re making sure to order the proper tooling, attention to detail is the best way to prevent problems.

Interaction with End Users

Here at Viking West, we’ve adopted the value by design mentality. This means that we create new attachments, tooling products, pipe handlers and grapplers with the help of the operator. We all want to go home safe at the end of the day, so products designed with strict safety features are vital. After safety, it’s important to get the job done right, on time and on budget.

And who knows better how to get the job done than the person who’s actually completing the job?

Talk to your customers. Request input. It will make your job easier and it will ensure people come back for more.

Sustainability

It’s a time of turmoil for drilling, forestry and construction because of the downturn in oil prices. But because of that hardship, it’s becoming more apparent that certain practices are outdated. Ten years ago, companies simply didn’t worry as much about cost overruns as they’re required to now. Projects were green-lighted before every detail was accounted for, and the cash flow required to pay contractors and employees suffered. It’s another reason why interaction is so crucial to the process; saving time is the same as saving money.

Part of problem solving is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Manufacturers have a unique perspective; they see practices and methods used by various clients within their industry. Manufacturers have a responsibility to help solve their clients’ problems, not only because it will help them sell more product, it will help keep the economy moving forward.

Contribution & Creativity

Passion. Working in the drilling industry provides plenty of opportunity not only to create new things, but to create new things that contribute to an economy that’s navigating through a rough patch. The feeling you get when you know you’ve contributed to the world with an intelligent, progressive solution is why most of us come to work in the first place.

Sure, we all need to make a living, and there are factors that exist outside our realm of control, but we can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem by working hard and delivering valuable products and valuable guidance.

There’s always going to be hurdles regardless of the state of the economy. But if we pay attention to the details, work together to save time and energy and contribute to a more sustainable future, then we can all sleep at night knowing we made a difference.