Focused on the Future: 4 Ways to Contribute to a Prosperous Drilling Industry

We’ve spent a lot of time in the last six months exploring the drilling industry. From the Groundwater Expo in Las Vegas in December to the PDAC Convention in Toronto in March, we’ve seen the best the industry has to offer. We’ve met intelligent decision makers, hard working operators and determined investors. All have a stake in constructing our economy’s future, and all have a unique way in which to do so.

We like to think we’re unique as well. Heck, we know we’re unique. We know we’re doing things our own way and those methods are adding a lot of value to the local market we’re working with here in Langley, overseas and everywhere a Viking West attachment is found.

Here are four methods we focus on to ensure Viking West is heading in the right direction.

1. Find Hidden Ways to be More Productive

The problem with productivity is that it can initially take some time to find better procedures that work for you. Our industry has been guilty in the past of sticking with methods that work – and there’s nothing inherently wrong in that, it’s just that if we never try anything new, then our industry, or more specifically, your corner of it, will stagnate. Find new ways to shrink schedules. Look for new methods of automation. Leverage your engineering. If you pay close attention to your productivity, chances are the time will save itself.

2. Dedicate Yourself to Safety Without Fail

“Everyone wants to go home safe.” My Dad was a welder for 45 years in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, and he found it humorous how often companies would talk the talk without walking the walk. Safety isn’t just a mission statement, it’s a culture. ‘Going home safe’ seems to exempt us from working safe between the time we arrive at work and the time we leave. While we’re looking for new ways to be productive, let’s look for new ways to be safer while we’re on the job.

3. Take Calculated Risks

I asked Viking West’s Kevin Reimer about risk the other day, specifically regarding the production of a brand new Scorpion Pipe Handler Attachment.

Here’s Kevin: “On the one hand, it’s a custom attachment that hasn’t necessarily been done before, so sure, there’s risk involved, but only to us, not the customer. We could go through the process of designing and testing to ensure the attachment will fit properly or maybe the schedule we’ve been given is too tight. Our industry needs to use its time wisely, but we believe it’s still wise to use your time to make new things that have a great chance of contributing to the industry.”

4. Work Hard to Minimize Those Risks

Ok, so we need to put ourselves out there a bit, but that doesn’t mean we should sweat it when we take calculated risk.

Here’s Kevin again: “In the case of the Scorpion Pipe Handler, we were filling a customer’s order to their precise specifications, so the risk was diminished greatly. Again, it’s simply your time that’s on the line, but we look at exactly what the customer is asking for and if we think it’s a machine that could be of use to the market then we’ll produce it on a larger scale.”

When it comes to manufacturers or equipment dealers, there’s action we can take to help stabilize a global economy that’s taken its fair share of hits. We talk a lot about working smarter rather than harder, but the truth is that there’s no substitute for hard work. Dedication, enthusiasm, innovation – all these characteristics fall under the banner of hard work. If we all take the time to contribute a little more to the economy, then there’s no question we’ll all be richer for it in the end.

The March Wrapup: Sonic Rigs & the Keys to Good Exhibiting

March was a busy month for the team here at Viking West. Vice President Kevin Reimer flew across Canada to co-exhibit at PDAC 2016, a convention held by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada that attracts members of the mineral exploration community from all over the world.

Back home in BC, we were busy exploring options for a local customer in need of a unique attachment.

So unique, in fact, that the machine it’s being built for doesn’t exist.

Yet.

I caught up with Kevin to talk more about the new project and his experience at PDAC.

Kelvin: What are some of the keys to good exhibiting?

Kevin: Having a machine there for people to see is a necessity. There’s benefit to having something tangible they can see and touch, a machine they could potentially purchase for their drilling application. We have video of our machines in action as well as all our standard marketing literature. We bring a small machine normally, it’s easy and economical to ship. We’re toying with the idea of bringing a 4000 to Groundwater at the end of this year.

What are the specifications of Viking’s sonic drill rigs?

The first distinction is that we sell a large size and a small size. On the small size, we sell a mini sonic head attached to a terrier track drill or a Dando multitec 4000 track drill. On the large size, the full capacity, we can supply a sonic 50K drill head on a Dando 375 track drill.

The unique variations of these two sizes would be that on the mini side, we’re one of the only companies that can offer a small, limited access, lightweight rubber tracked drill with a small sonic head at an affordable price.

Where are both heads being used?

 The large-sized head is in North America working for an environmental drilling company. For the large head, we’re working with customers on a 375 size machine, full capacity sonic with onboard rod storage and pipe handling.

The small sized head is in south America sampling for gold right now. This head is used in muddy conditions in the jungle, it’s drilling into clays mostly. This is where the sonic head really excels, in soft unconsolidated conditions. If you drill and sample down to 100 feet with sonic you can achieve nearly 100% representative core samples. This is true both of the little and big machine.

Back to PDAC, did you talk to any potential customers about sonic drill heads?

We did, but most of the conversations centred on their conditions first. We learn what we can, then it’s our job to provide solutions. There were a couple clients looking for special custom drills specific for their market. These companies have to drill in jungles, in swamps and on the sides of mountains. Clay drilling conditions are quite unique so it’s always rewarding to be able to provide solutions for these kinds of challenging applications.

Ultimately, whether we’re dealing with sonic drill heads or custom tooling or other products, the key is to listen first. This is how you work smart. Conventions like PDAC, provided you’re prepared, are a great way to meet people in the industry and learn more about their unique challenges. This is the nature of our business, solving problems. The more we solve, the more seem to come our way.

Which is a good thing, right?

(laughs) You bet. It means our industry is working in more ways than one.

Drilling Trends in North America: What Worked For Us In 2015?

2015 was a tumultuous year for a lot of people in the drilling industry. Heck, every corner of the energy sector all over the world felt pressure due to an imbalance between oil supply and demand. Drilling trends saw costs cut across the board, which included trimming down on new equipment, halting production, and, unfortunately, thousands of lost jobs.

There is a bright side. The mining industry still saw increased production in certain areas despite the market. Companies were more determined than ever to keep working – the key was to work smarter, not harder. Innovation became more important than ever, as did safety. There are hints the market could correct itself in the next couple years, but while we’re in the middle of the economic downturn, it’s important to establish healthy processes so we can commit to a stable workplace in the future.

Despite the experience our team working in the construction, drilling and forestry industries in varying capacities, Viking West is still a relatively new company. We were established during a time of market instability. This means that we’ve had to develop processes to adhere to the realities of the economy right out of the gate.

Here’s what we relied on in 2015.

Global Supply Chains

“As the world has gotten flatter and supply chains have gotten longer, the need for companies to follow best practices in global supply chain management has intensified.”

That’s Dave Blanchard from an article at IndustryWeek from 2012. The message remains a strong one four years later, and as a company serving customers in a growing number of markets globally, it’s one in which we believe strongly.

Utilizing the global supply chain means we’re not only keeping costs down for our customers, we’re contributing to a global market by purchasing the very best in quality and craftsmanship.

Designing With Care

We took our time designing new products in 2015. In our industry, the temptation is always there to rush the design process and make a sale. This is how the entire oil and gas industry operated in the past when the oil and the revenue flowed easily.

Well, those days are behind us, though the harsh lessons of rushing are still being felt.

We took our time by:

  • Communicating with customers multiple times during the design process
  • Testing, customizing, testing, developing, and testing some more
  • Writing clear goals and achievement points for every piece of equipment we built

The Value of Time & Space

There are ways to save money other than, you know, not spending money.

Prior to 2015, we’d see OEM’’s invest in large warehouses and shops to store their equipment before selling. In the past this was a process that was hardly questioned; until the fact arose that the money used buying floor space could be better served elsewhere.

We really started to take advantage of time and space in 2015, and it didn’t end with our own internal operation. We were able to create massive cost savings for our customers last year by delivering products on a predetermined schedule so they didn’t have to find the floor space to store them. We leveraged our Canadian and overseas facilities, engineering resources, project management experience and global logistics expertise to build products for clients as they were needed, whether we were dealing with single units or higher volume orders.

2015 was a challenging year, but we were able to leap over many hurdles and so were a lot of our colleagues and partners. There’s no question we’re all anticipating a time when the oil market evens out, but when that happens, it’s nice to know we’ll be prepared to keep it stable for years to come.

Case Study: Viking West’s Precision Gears Are On Top of the World

Whether you work with them or not, I think we can all appreciate the awesome power of the gigantic wind turbines dotting the landscape throughout southern Alberta. From a distance you might think hey, they’re not that big. And then an hour later you’re right beside one with your neck craned to the sky and you realize they’re massive.

So can you imagine climbing 40 metres above the Earth to switch out a precision gear?

This is just one example of the variety of conditions in which our customers find themselves. Whether you’re on top of the world or deep beneath it, gears are the final piece of the puzzle. Without them, the job simply stops.

I caught up with Viking West’s Mike Schlender to talk about the company’s custom precision gears and a couple of the unique projects that require them.

Kelvin: What’s Viking’s focus when it comes to precision gears?

Mike: Obviously it’s a piece that technical machinery needs if it wants to operate. OEM’s need gears that fit perfectly to operate their machines. You can have the most complicated, sophisticated design in the world, but without proper-fitting gears it’s not going to work. So that being said, we make new custom gears and we offer replacement gears as well for gear boxes, drive mechanisms and so on. We work with designers on any range of specifications to manufacture them properly. 

What are some of the variables you work with?

We work with different materials, common or exotic, and that could be said for the conditions we make gears for as well. We did a large ring for a wind turbine that was stainless steel which is a bit uncommon. In an application like that you need extreme durability, you don’t want to climb on top of a turbine if you can avoid it. The stainless steel doesn’t corrode and it has great wear.

Another piece we did for a wind turbine was a combination bearing and gear together. There’s a drive motor turning the turbine, but we made an integrated turbine and gear as well. That was cool.

Your clients work in various locations and conditions. What are some of the challenges you try to help them overcome?

It’s really all dependant on the job, or the conditions like you said. Everything goes through a process to determine its viability in a particular environment. If you have a bearing or a gear in an application that isn’t meeting expectations for durability then we work to improve the specs. The properties such as fatigue resistance and the roots of the gears are crucial. We can change out the material or modify the heat treatment or simply the geometry of the design to suit the machine’s specs.

Tell me a little more about your approach to treatments.

There’s surface treatments and coatings that deal with the material being used and we use heat treatments to improve wear or strength. This all has to be done in combination with the material you select. The cycle is actually fairly delicate, if you miss the mark with one step of heating or cooling then you’re starting over again. I love that part, the controlled temperature cycle with the furnace. The cycle has to be done just right. 

What other types of projects are being completed with the help of Viking’s precision gears?

There’s a range of projects, everything from precision gears for a gear box to pieces for a planetary drive. One extreme we dealt with was a replacement gear in a sawmill, which might not sound extreme, but it was unique.

A lot of people call us when their gears start wearing out. Hopefully they call before that happens actually. This is happening a lot locally, particularly in lower-tech industries, gears made in the traditional manner are at the end of their lifespan.

These industries traditionally operate on a budget, they have to stay efficient, so their manufacturing has built-in limitations. We offer solutions for that to keep costs down while making our gears available. For example, a traditional gear could be a steel plate you can buy anywhere and cut and weld on a rung. So instead of that we offer a one-piece, sturdy forged gear. The steel is stamped and the forging is a higher quality that was out of reach in the past, but because we can leverage our engineering we can pass on some savings, so those sophisticated precision gears are becoming a reality for a lot of people who need them to get the job done.

Even if that job happens to take you to the top of the world?

In the literal sense, sure!

See complete details on Viking’s Precision Gears ->

5 Common Questions About Viking West’s Construction Products

We hold a special place in our heart for the construction industry. There’s just something about picking up the earth, moving it around, and finishing with something new, something greater. If you have kids, it’s that special feeling you get watching them operate a miniature (yet still heavy-duty, of course) bucket in the sandbox. After all, those great buildings and roads aren’t going to build themselves. The construction industry is built by dependable people operating dependable equipment, and it’s a sector to which we’re a proud contributor.

We get a few common questions regarding the construction industry, so we thought it would be a good idea to capture them all here.

1. What types of construction products do you make?

Viking West has three main streams of products: guarding, attachments, and after market parts.

Guarding

  • Fops Cab Guard
  • OPS (City) Guards
  • Catwalk Kits
  • Foot Rungs/Steps
  • Track (Rock) Guards
  • Belly (Stump) Pans

We also make underuse guarding, door guards, window guards, perimeter railings and hydraulic cylinder guards. The key to all our guarding is safety first, productivity second.

Take a look at images and more details for our guarding products.

Attachments

  • HD Dig Buckets
  • STD Dig & Cleanup Buckets
  • Mini Attachments
  • Lug Adapters
  • Hydraulic Thumbs
  • Stick Rippers
  • Tilt Buckets
  • Manual Wedge Coupler
  • Hydraulic Coupler

All shapes and sizes, our attachments are built to last and built to get the job done right.

See further details on our construction attachments.

After Market Parts – Accessories

  • Linkage Arms
  • Pins
  • Bushings
  • Bucket Teeth & Adapters
  • Bolt On Cutting Edges
  • Cylinders: Booms, Arms, Thumbs
  • Work Lights
  • Soft Covers

After Market Parts – Undercarriage Parts

  • Carrier Rollers
  • Track Rollers
  • Track Chains
  • Track Shoes
  • Spring Assemblies
  • Ice Lugs

2. What’s the process like when you’re designing new attachments and guarding?

We work specifically for individual customers. This means that we listen, work together to understand challenges and we come up with efficient solutions. This gives us the ability to leverage our engineering and make products that are flexible and durable. At the end of the process the customer receives the completed product, so its a complete turn-key solution for them.

3. What are some of the challenges faced by the construction industry these days?

The bulk of our construction attachments are made companies, who, like many people, are under pressure because of the state of oil and gas prices. Particularly in Alberta where the market has been hit hard, equipment dealers are under intense pressure to reduce costs, so we have to be mindful of that and work smarter instead of harder. There is a lot of selection in heavy equipment, so it’s up to us to stand out by making better products.

4. Why do customers buy construction attachments from Viking West?

The design process is where we can really cut costs, and these days it all comes back to the budget. Customers use Viking to produce specialized attachments to their specifications. We sell them at good value for what they’re accomplishing and then the customer can sell the completed machine at a reduced price. 

5. What unique benefits does Viking West offer for equipment dealers and manufacturers?

Our customers receive their products when they want them and how they want them. We’ve talked about it before, but everyone’s schedule is so important these days. Companies simply don’t have the luxury of storing equipment for 6, 7 or 8 months every year. That space is costing money, so we ship attachments on the customer’s schedule. We’ll even carry inventory for our clients so they don’t have to worry about it.

Looking for attachments for your next job? We can help, contact us!