How Viking Creates Custom Drill Bits to Withstand Extreme Stress

Imagine being deep in the field (or the jungle, or the forest) and the work has been flowing smoothly for a couple weeks and you’re nearly three quarters finished. It’s an important job, a big contract, and you’re poised to not only hit your projected timeline, but you’re going to do so under budget as well.

Now imagine your first thought, or the first 4-letter word you’d use, when the last of your custom-made drill bits cracks and breaks.

The crew is onsite, your drilling rig is humming along, but it all comes to a screeching halt because one of the smallest pieces of the puzzle has crumbled under the pressure.

It happens. We’ve all been there. Drill bits and tooling is expensive, so the longer the last the more cost friendly they become. It’s a familiar refrain, and one we’ve worked hard on since Viking West was created a couple years ago.

How do we save our customers from those frustrating moments in the field? How do we make custom drill bits that can withstand extreme stress?

To find some answers, I turned to Viking West’s own Kevin Reimer.

Kelvin: I think the key to creating custom tooling and drill bits to last is understanding exactly where they’re going to be used, right?

Kevin: For sure. We’ve got customers working in conditions all over the world. It’s not just the drilling rig that needs to adapt, which is something we see when customers report back with specific needs regarding slopes and limited access locations.

One particular customer of ours is currently on a job drilling into rocky formations that are completely bone dry. There’s no water table to speak of, so the bit gets incredibly hot in no time at all.

How do we solve the issue to make the bit last? We test, test, and test some more so we know exactly how a bit will perform. After that it comes down to selecting the appropriate wearing materials and tungsten carbides and carbide patterns to provide the best performance.

Is the process different for each customer, or does it only hinge on where they’re going to be working?

It’s always a bit different, cost is a factor that changes so we don’t want to overdo something that the customer won’t need. With this customer, we did some variations of sample bits. They’re dealing with heat and dryness, so the variations we sent were chosen carefully. Based on the feedback for those variations we were able to make adjustments on the design until we hit the sweet spot.

When it comes to finishes and treatments, is it a little like a chef’s private recipe? Do OEM’s guard these secrets with their lives or are there common methods everyone uses?

The first part of that question is a yes, but it really just depends on the testing. Bits perform differently based on everything from the shape of the bit to the pattern of the carbides and the material. These are the essential components when it comes to bits made to withstand extreme conditions.

But the other part, and the more important component, is simply listening intently to your customer. We make sure we’re talking to more than one person in the organization as well. If you’re talking exclusively to the sales manager then you could miss the opinion of the operator. Who’s in the field doing the drilling? Who’s building the rig in the shop?

What happens in the field or shop doesn’t always get transferred to management. That multi-tiered communication is a huge part of our job. It’s amazing what you’ll learn just by putting in a bit of extra time.

Looking for custom tooling for your rig? Give us a call!

How to Sell Multi Feature Drilling Rigs at Standard Costs

“We never shy away from a new design because that’s what keeps things interesting, and that’s how our company has grown. We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘well what about this? Can it do this?’ And then we make it do that (laughs).”

That’s Callum Mee from Dando Drilling International. I’ve been speaking with Callum for the last couple weeks about Brexit, Dando’s evolution as a company, and their brand new MK 2 Dando Terrier.

Read part 1

Read part 2

Here’s the final piece of our interview.

Kelvin: Last week we were talking about keeping costs down on the new Terrier Mk 2 while also ensuring it’s capable of pretty much anything. How do you plan to accomplish that?

Callum: The new rig comes with the ability to add or subtract components as you see fit.

So as you can imagine, there’s a lot of thought when a customer purchases the rig because they have so many options. As a salesmen it makes the job more interesting. juggling the options. We were selling a lot of different rigs and the terrier was 14 years old, so we thought the 15 year mark was a good time to evolve and modify it with new technology and features. We’re bringing it into the current age with new components, technology, and abilities. We wanted to build a rig that gave us and our customers as much flexibility as possible.

And so the MK 2 was launched with several new key features, one of the coolest of which is the ability for the customers to retrofit it with other options down the road. Hydraulic stabilizing legs, the rig will already have that capability. SPT casing will be standard, lever casing – these are elements the customer can retrofit themselves in the field or wherever they are in the world. People can use the rig as is and they can add new things, so they can maximize their budgets and purchase new attachments as required.

I feel like, mix and match drilling rigs – I feel like this isn’t a standard way of doing things. Is Dando blazing a trail for other OEM’s?

I think it’s just the path we’ve taken; this is how we’ve responded to challenges in the field, these are the solutions we’ve come up with. We’ve always dealt with customers directly and maintained our flexibility. A lot of big companies will come up with the best product they can and feel it’s perfect and leave it. That works fine, but we’ve taken a different approach. Every customer is different. It’s a commercial tool. Jobs are different, applications are different. Having all those options available to us makes things easier for everyone.

The terrier will be more user friendly than ever. This is where things are going, so I suppose we’re being progressive. We want to make life easier. Little examples, there will be easy-to-follow decals and signage demonstrating components that could be added down the road, so you know where to go next. Sort of like a puzzle, but the original pieces include a diagram to finish the rest of the picture.

So the best kind of puzzle.

(Laughs) Yes, I suppose so. The terrier allows customization down the road after the initial purchase. Some people just want a stripped down drive system and they’re fine with that, but some want to get more out of it.

Our standard line has grown so much over the past decade, but the idea now is to build upon what we’ve got. The terriers, the multi tech rigs, we’ve got all these new models, new sizes, the IBEC slope climbing rig we’ve introduced in recent years – we’ve got everything we need for right now, and it’s the perfect time to really perfect what we’ve got.

Perfecting what you’ve already got can certainly take you a lot further into the future, right?

Right. There’s always changes and challenges to come, but as we come out of this period we want to be in the strongest position possible. And with the new terrier, so far so good.

The new Dando Terrier Mk 2 has something for everyone, and we’re proud to contribute to its success here at Viking. Thanks so much to Callum for the time.

Happy drilling everybody!

See all the awesome features of the Mk2 Dando Terrier.

Product Profile: The Flexibility of the Dando Terrier Mk 2

Last week we checked in with Callum Mee at Dando Drilling International to learn more about how the European Referendum was affecting business, although I’ll admit the interview was originally scheduled so we could talk about the Dando Terrier, the company’s new MK 2 drilling rig.

This will sound ironic at first, but stay with me: it’s always been fascinating reading and writing about companies barreling through a challenge. Did you know water buffalo that encounter a storm will turn into the dark clouds and rain instead of retreating in the opposite direction?

It’s because you’ll get through the worst of the storm when you confront it head on. The darkness is moving one way, so move through it to safety and sunshine on the other side.

There’s no way to know just yet how the European Union’s Brexit referendum will affect the longterm stability of business in western Europe, and indeed, throughout the world. Many companies in the drilling industry have been forced to ask tough questions and make difficult decisions long before the referendum passed, and now a complete new set of concerns has been born.

The good news it that Dando’s philosophy – flexibility and adaptation – has allowed for the impact of Brexit. It’s this creed that’s allowed Dando to thrive over the years, and led to rolling out a brand new Mark 2 Terrier rig that’s as flexible as ever.

Read last week’s interview with Callum.

Here’s the rest of our conversation.

Kelvin: Tell us about early versions of the Terrier, what was it built for?

Callum: We sold the first unit to a UK contractor and we agreed to build a second that we were going to test in house, but during the build we ended up selling the second one as well. Through working with the contractor and listening to their feedback we’ve made some cool improvements and adjustments to the second. While this was happening, Luke from our design team was hard at work on the updated design we’re going to use moving forward.

The MK Terrier 2 is available and has been thoroughly tested in the field with excellent results so we are now planning for production of high volumes so we can offer the units from stock.

What’s the process been like getting the MK 2 off the ground?

As the design process wraps up, we’re contemplating the right number to put into production right away so we can maximize production and maximize economy of scale. We sell a lot per annum and we obviously want to sell more, and we think the demand on this one will be huge. The terrier people want them quickly, sometimes in 2 to 4 weeks instead of your standard two to four months, so putting this many through will make the lives of our sales department a lot easier (laughs). It’s a win win situation, our margins get better and the cost is lower for the customer.

What are some of the upgraded features of the Dando Terrier MK 2?

First off, we wanted to improve simply how it looks. So new finishes and designs to improve that while also improving functionality. When I started at Dando ten years ago the rig was just for drive sampling and general investigation work. Over the last five years or so it evolved rapidly. It has a rotary attachment, different strokes, angle drilling capabilities – it’s evolved to include a whole range of different requirements and different setups.

However, just because one customer wants a certain feature doesn’t mean the next one will. So it was important for us to take that into account so we could keep costs low for everyone.

Next week in the final instalment of my interview with Callum we’ll learn exactly how Dando plans to control costs for customers looking for different features.

Want to learn more about the terrier? See all the specs here.