5 New Year’s Resolutions to Take Your Industry By Storm in 2016

The drilling industry is a competitive place. From the excellent new technology that’s being used to create sophisticated new machines and equipment to the intelligent people on the front lines pushing our industry forward with simple-yet-clever solutions, 2016 is going to be an exciting time.

We love working with clients, customers and colleagues all over the world because it gives us insight into the best and brightest methods being put to work each and every day.

It inspires us so much that we’ve compiled a list of our favourite traits and methods being used in the manufacturing industry as a guide to anyone working who wants to get a leg up on the competition in 2016.

And yes, we’re aware the competition might read this, but that’s ok! If it makes us all stronger, then we’re all for it!


1. Grow Your Message

At Viking West it’s our goal to be recognized as one of the planet’s leaders in attachment solutions. This is the mission that drives us every single day – to find innovative new solutions and solve problems both common and uncommon. What’s your message? Find your niche and work on growing your message every day.

2. Prioritize Handsfree Operation

As our industry automates more and more in the office and in the field, handsfree operation will grow in importance. We all want to go home safe every night to our families, and promoting the handsfree operation of equipment is a big step in the right direction. Handsfree operation all but guarantees safety by eliminating human error. Mistakes will still happen, but a mistake involving a loss of time is much more preferable than a mistake involving injury or worse.

3. Take Your Time

It would be irresponsible to write an optimistic New Year’s post without mentioning the harsh reality that is the price of oil. Fortunately there’s a silver lining to reduced production all over North America: we’re being forced to take the time to get things right. Slowed production means it’s the perfect time to research, communicate and test prototypes before mass production or customer delivery. The oil and gas industry has been guilty in the past of rushing to deliver equipment, only to have it fail due to a problem that could have been prevented. No longer!

4. Hire Excellent People

We all want to go home safe each night, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your time while at work, right? If you’re in charge of bringing new people into the mix at your company, establish clear metrics for the hiring process and make sure they add up to excellence. Skills, experience and dedication all count, but so do things like communication skills and personality. Surround yourself with excellence and the time will go by faster and be more lucrative in the long run.

5. Team Up With Quality Manufacturers

This one might be a little self-serving, but the point remains: find companies and people who help make your job a little easier. The future of the manufacturing sector will hinge on saving time and money wherever possible, so it will be crucial to join forces with people with whom you can team up to create new contacts, new ideas and ultimately, new business.

If 2016 is anything like 2015, then there are going to be plenty of ups and downs, but there’s no question that there will be opportunities for those of us willing to do the work to seize them. It’s a challenge that we’re definitely looking forward to.

From the entire team here at Viking West, we wish you and your family a Merry Christmas nothing but the best in 2016!

Happy New Year’s everybody!

When Clever Beats Complicated: Viking West’s Catwalk Design

Picture the three or four most often-used tools on any job site. They could be anything, from a trusty wrench to a sophisticated grappler attachment.

Now imagine each was easier to use, installed quicker and accomplished its primary task better than ever.

Oh, and chipped in on a couple of other jobs as well.

While your wrench might already be close to perfect, there are plenty of improvement opportunities on any job site. One of those happens to be one of Viking West’s first designs as a company, and it’s helping operators all over North America with a fairly crucial daily activity: accessing and protection of their heavy machines.

The Catwalk.

Original Hurdles

Typical catwalks are large and awkward to handle during installation. Too large for one person to handle, too small to justify use of a crane in most instances, catwalks were a necessary piece that created headaches for the installer. To fit an after-market catwalk to a heavy machine such as an excavator or a forestry machine was typically a 3-day process that was labour-intensive. Catwalk kits were literally being custom fabricated directly onto new and used machines. 

Catwalk Design - Closeup
Catwalk Design – Closeup

Simple Solutions by Simple Designs

One of the best parts of working in the manufacturing business is finding budget-friendly solutions to common problems. Viking West’s Catwalk design accomplished just that.

    • Install time reduced from 3 days to 1 day
    • 1.5 person job reduced to 1 person job (Convenient C.G. lifting point)
    • No measurement required (each catwalk kit is manufactured to suit specific excavator or forestry machine model
    • Pre-primed & ready for paint
    • Reduced welding consumables

Not only is the Catwalk quicker and easier to install, it requires fewer welding materials as a hidden bonus. And it’s all accomplished with a clever alignment tab design that rests and aligns naturally to the top of a machine’s D-rail frame.

catwalk design Viking West
Completed Catwalk Design

Streamlining the Design Process

Products like the Catwalk might seem simple on the surface, but they’re indicative of a results-based industry that simply needs things to work.

I asked Kevin what was more enjoyable to create, low-tech products like the Catwalk or more sophisticated machines that involve more technology.

For Kevin, the answer will always come from the problem solved.

“It’s a tough question, but I enjoy both creative, technologically advanced designs as well as sharp and simple low tech designs. Both types are rewarding for me. But ultimately It’s always still about solving problems in the industry, helping the customer find solutions and looking for new ways to help them to be more competitive. Whether that’s a low-tech item like the catwalk or if it’s something more sophisticated, I get fulfillment just in providing solutions, big ones or little ones. It’s just rewarding to experience success in the field and to see our products working.”

How We Design Tooling Products to Withstand Unique Environments

Tooling products are a relatively small piece of the puzzle when it comes to drilling deep into the ground. But whether you’re retrieving mineral samples in the high arctic or drilling new wells in Africa, tooling is the lynchpin that holds the entire project together.

Tooling needs to be durable and easy to use, but most importantly, since it’s a consumable that will eventually break down, it needs to be cost effective.

“We focus on being sensitive to the time commitments of our customers,” that’s Kevin Reimer, Viking West’s Vice President. “If the tooling fails at the wrong time, there are major delays and costs can skyrocket. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

In the drilling and construction industries, companies are happy to pay for tooling as long as it performs.

Tooling in the Construction Industry

Tooling is the piece of the puzzle that makes specific projects possible. Tooling allows you to drill in different locations all over the world. The equipment can vary, as can the formation of the ground into which you’re drilling, but whatever you’re working on, tooling needs to perform.

Tooling today is being used for:

  • geotechnical drilling
  • environmental drilling
  • exploration drilling
  • water well drilling

Wherever there’s civilization, there’s a need to collect soil samples, assess underground pipes, test groundwater or any number of drilling applications.

Mineral exploration also takes place wherever mineral deposits can be found, from right here in British Columbia to harsher climates in places like Alaska, South America and Russia.

And while the weather outside might be more or less difficult for the operator to handle, it’s the conditions beneath the ground that are the most important to consider when making custom tooling parts.

Conditions Beneath the Surface

“The formation of the earth is what we focus on rather than the climate,” says Kevin. “The type of geological formation being drilled into makes a huge difference when it comes to the material and finish put on the bit.”

Ground Density

When it comes to mineral exploration (gold, silver, platinum, lithium, copper), operators are quite often drilling through solid rock in order to reach their goal.

This means that, dependant on the location, tooling needs to withstand the demands of the ground. For instance, drilling in Northern Ontario means piercing the ultra-tough Canadian Shield. Drillers in BC, however, are challenged by glacial till, or the gravelly remains left behind by glaciers travelling down a slope.

Ground Moisture

Density and composition of material isn’t the only obstacle the drill bit is faced with.

In South America for instance, drilling patches are composed of large deposits of crystallized salt, which combined with a low water table, can result in extremely high temperatures due to the dryness of the earth. Contrast that to British Columbia where there’s moisture only a foot beneath the ground, resulting in natural lubrication and cooling of bits.

The Answer

To offset the challenges posed by these conditions, we experiment not only with different materials and alloys, but with the shape and design of the bit itself.

For instance, we’ll test varying tungsten carbide patterns in the bit to optimize wearability and performance. Companies in Africa, for instance, are drilling straight through deposits of iron ore, so we test different alloys as well as varying surface treatments to increase the bit’s resistance and ultimately, its durability.

When it comes to tooling, there’s no room for error, other than the expected break-down over time of this consumable product. The key is to extend the life of each piece and to design it with the end goal in mind: safe, cost-effective drilling.

All over the world.

Why Value by Design is So Much More Than Just a Mission Statement

New companies are going to sprout up all over the world in 2016, and they’re going to do so under the umbrella of new technology. As we’ve seen here at Viking West, technology can range from sophisticated advancements like advanced sonic drilling technology to simple and creative solutions such as our hands-free Scorpion™Pipe Handler.

It’s not the design that matters necessarily, it’s the value created by that design.

And in 2016, intangible elements such as time, attention and access are going to matter to the overall value of products and service more than ever.

This is a good thing.

In the past, new companies were created often as a byproduct of other companies. As such, mission statements and goals were adopted from entities that already existed. The umbrella of work and service covered entire sectors, and new companies were launched with someone else’s audience in mind.

It doesn’t work that way any more. At least not for us.

Designing Value With a Community

Attention to detail and time are two of the drilling industry’s greatest resources. The men and women in the field operating machines need products that work, are durable and can be replaced quickly and inexpensively.

Mission statements are often created first and then implemented afterwards. Just say yes and then figure the rest out later, right? Well, designing products with value as the primary goal means knowledge of real-world conditions is paramount to getting the product right.

Where does time enter the conversation? While products created and delivered quickly are always appreciated, there’s a balance to be struck between being prompt and being right.

An early product that doesn’t work properly is is still worthless.

Defining Culture

The way we do business has changed; as a company, as an industry and as an international community of manufacturers. Outdated methods of building first, selling second and asking questions later are thankfully being eliminated. As the price of oil and the manufacturing industry inches towards a hopeful resurgence in 2016, it’s crucial that our industry rewrites contracts that place importance on valuable products and cost efficiency above all else.

The only casualty with this method will be time. The time to interact with potential end users, the time to test new products before mass production and the time to gather feedback.

If time is all that’s required to design new products that are ultimately less expensive yet more flexible than their predecessors, isn’t that a worthwhile price to pay?

A Blueprint for New Products

Value by design is more than a mission statement because it’s not just a goal for which we’re reaching, it’s the very definition of how we do our business and how we work. The design is what matters – the capability of our industry’s new products – that’s how the future will remember us.

I’ll stop short of claiming a new revolution is at hand, but for those of us working on the ground in the oil patch, in the bush, on the docks or in the far north, the last thing we want is to waste time with attachments that aren’t up to the task. No, there’s more value in getting the design right first.

And we’ve all got time to do things right.