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 the UK’s Dando Drilling is Dealing With a Turbulent 2016

Here at Viking West, it’s important to stay in touch with our friends and colleagues in the drilling industry. We’re the North American dealer for Dando Drilling and we’ve built a great working relationship with the guys across the pond in the last few years.

So, in the wake of the European Union’s referendum a few weeks back, we decided to check in with Callum Mee and the gang to see how things were going.

Kelvin: Brexit aside, how has business been for Dando in the first half of 2016?

Callum: It’s been quite busy, now that I think of it. Last week I was at the Hillhead Exhibition, which was interesting. I also recently attended a geotechnical show up in London as well, so it’s been busy in just the past month or so.

Overseas in the last six months has been busy as well. We’ve been exploring some potential contracts overseas as well as here in Europe and Asia. We normally work with two teams, one working with larger contracts and then another on the client relations, the smaller details. So that approach has led to some great conversations. Indonesia is busy, Sudan has come back online, there’s a lot of interest from Pakistan. The exports side has picked up considerably as confidence is re-established in global markets. Latin America is showing interest and strength as well. We have great representation in many countries in central and south America and our efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

Has the European referendum slowed things down for Dando?

It has had some impact in the UK but we expect this to be short term. Early in the year we got off the ground with some pace and there’s still a lot going on, we have a lot going through our workshop and some great leads that we expect to convert soon. We’ve been speaking to companies and contractors, some of the big companies are still busy, but a lot of that is due to the fact some of those companies are still expanding, so they’re busy in other areas in the industry. Overall the referendum has had little impact on us as most of our business is overseas. One positive side in the short term is that we have become more competitive as the pound has weakened.

That’s definitely good news. The global drilling community has been dealing with a worldwide recession, and then the referendum develops. It’s good to know that people are pushing through. What are some of the specific methods you’ve used to overcome these hurdles?

We really try to turn the focus back on ourselves, to internalize the challenges. We’ve had to adapt and make changes like everybody else. Our product range has grown over the last couple of years in line with market demands. People no longer have the cash to invest in large capital plans so they are looking for cheaper machines that have multifunctional capabilities to allow them to make their offering more diverse. This is an area where we have focused our efforts along with continued improvements of all our products. We’ve also made a number of changes internally with a view to streamlining processes in all departments which allows us to improve productivity and our competitiveness.

We believe that the recession presents choices and opportunities rather than problems – a time to reflect on our own operations as well as product range.

We have our own unique challenges, most of our success and growth comes from the export market. It’s important to get the best structure, the right people on board, and spend the right amount of time and effort in design. We believe the recession is loosening, so we want to take initiative now instead of waiting. The minimum market will come back online and we want to be well equipped when that happens.

At Viking we talk a lot about controlling what you can control in light of the turbulent price of oil. What advice do you have for companies or people feeling the pinch of the economy?

I think ultimately you need to concentrate on your strengths. At Dando, that’s always been our flexibility. We work with customers to build custom rigs. We’ve taken years of that experience and it’s really stronger now more than ever. We’ve made several rigs over the last few years from scratch and we’ve tried to build on that and make the process easier for us and easier for the customer. The modular design is a big part of that direction in which we’re headed. People can now swap out components easily, which makes their lives a lot easier. With both the sales team and the design team, it’s important to maximize our strengths to make sure we’re understanding and utilizing them efficiently.

Callum and the gang are always so great to talk to – what was intended as one post has grown as well. Check in next week to learn more about the specific improvements to Dando’s Mk 2 Terrier.

Climbing the Ladder: How to Land Oil Rig Jobs With Big Potential

Our work at Viking West is based on finding ways to augment machines with helpful attachments that are cost competitive, guarantee safety, and get the job done quick.

No small order, right?

Well, the best way to go about the process of building these attachments is to talk to people. This means we have a lot of discussions with original equipment manufacturers, dealers, and hard working men and women committed to the drilling industry.

Fortunately, we’ve watched a lot of colleagues work with new recruits who have been positive additions and able to climb the ladder in their respective companies. It’s not easy – particularly given the state of the economy and the imbalance between oil’s supply and demand – but now more than ever, valuable resources will rise to the top.

Here’s a few ways to find a valuable fit, followed by ensuring you are a valuable fit.

Evaluating Potential

The first perspective we’re going to consider is that of the potential employee, he or she on the job-hunt. In order to prove yourself a valuable asset, it’s important to determine the opportunity awaiting for you.

  • What do the company’s future prospects look like?
  • Does the company have a void you could fill with unique skills?
  • Can you push the business over the top?

If there’s a fit in terms of financial logistics, that’s great news. The next step is determining fit based on the company’s values, mission statement, and how its employees and contractors conduct themselves on a day to day basis.

In short, can you see yourself fitting into the culture of this company? If we’re all yes’s so far, let’s assume you’ve snagged the job. Now it’s time to perform.

Performance in Entry Level Positions

Some companies call them floorhands, others leasehands, but one thing is for sure, all hands must be on deck and ready to go when you’re working in an entry level position. You might be tasked with general labour and maintenance responsibilities, but if you’re eyeing an ascension up the company corporate hierarchy, it’s probably a good idea to do the best job you can possibly do no matter what.

It happens to educated recruits with tangible, technical expertise; it happens to veterans who’ve spent years in the industry – but it’s beneficial to buy into the new guy mentality.

And just because you’re busy with entry level tasks doesn’t mean you can’t learn more about how the work is done and how you can move up through the system.

Acquiring Technical Expertise

The level up from entry level is one of the sweet spots in the drilling industry, both from the deckhand’s perspective and the perspective of the company.

Why? Because these positions are based on value contracts. The worker is ambitious, eager, and focused on improving their skills moreso than they’re worried about their salary. This is the level where people get to work on more sophisticated drilling rigs and machinery. They’re contributing to the work of the company and well on their way to becoming a valued member as they climb the ladder.

We’ll stop here, because it’s important to learn the ropes before moving into management positions. There’s big benefit to learning the ins and outs of a company. if you can do that at an entry level position, you’ll be well on your way toward leveraging that into more responsibility, more input, and eventually a greater salary.

Everybody wins!

4 Ways to Commit to Offshore Drilling Rig Safety

According to the Wall Street Journal, “government and industry officials continue to wrestle with a problem investigators say was at the heart of the 2010 Gulf oil spill: human error.”

There are a lot of differences when you’re drilling into the earth below the surface of the ocean as opposed to setting up your drilling rig in the South American jungle, the northern Canadian prairies, or the brutal high arctic.

The main difference we’re going to focus on here is the isolation. Drilling teams could be stationed 25 km’s from the shoreline, but it could be 250 km’s and the same environment would completely surround the hard-working men and women who commit to that lifestyle.

Isolation, hard work, and extreme conditions are the perfect recipe for unfortunate offshore incidents. Here’s five ways to avoid those accidents.

1. Work Life Balance

Kind of a reversal of this post’s introduction, but since the biggest cause of injury is human error, it stands to reason that focus and concentration are keys to offshore drilling rig safety (not to mention drilling rig safety of all types).

How do we ensure we’re focused on the job? We take care of ourselves when we’re not on the job. Particularly when it comes to offshore drilling, an occupation that requires long shifts and intensive work, a healthy work life balance based on quality time with family and loved ones will go a long way toward refreshed, inspired work.

2. Patience

We’re obviously big fans of the front lines in the drilling industry. But the ambition that made a career working on an offshore drilling rig possible is also the attitude that can lead to mistakes.

Accidents don’t always have to make international headlines either. It might be quicker to pick up something heavy in order to move it – equipment, an attachment, you get the idea – but these impatient practices can lead to chronic injuries to the back, shoulders, knees, hips – the list goes on.

3. Behavioural Diligence

Diamond Offshore Drilling works with a program called the Diligent Observation Decisive Intervention process (DODI), an implement “built on the principle that targeting undesired behaviors for correction and encouraging desired behaviors will help us protect our most valuable assets: our people, our environment, and our equipment.”

Programs and safety measures such as DODI put the responsibility for safety not only in the hands of individual workers, but on the colleagues and teammates of those workers. Most of us consider ourselves invincible – it’s why we get careless and end up getting hurt.

It’s easy to miss a potential accident happening to you, but it’s tough to miss to see a potential accident happening to someone else.

4. Handsfree Operation

Hand injuries account for half of all injuries that occur on offshore drilling rigs. Safety is a priority on the water, and it starts with hand safety. This is why we designed our Scorpion Pipe Handler to operate completely handsfree. It’s human nature to get the job done quickly and easily, and when that blue collar mentality mixes with years of hands-on experience, it’s easy to see accidents happening as operators reach in to machines to make adjustments.

We’re not going to eliminate accidents entirely until we remove human beings from the front lines of offshore drilling rigs. However, we can implement new methods and technologies to prohibit the conditions necessary for accidents.

We all want to go home safely each night, but if we have to spend multiple nights on the water working for the offshore drilling sector, then we’d better be doing everything in our power to keep that job safe.

On Brexit & the True Cost of Safety Advancements in the Oil & Gas Industry

A lot of drilling, forestry, and construction companies all over the world are wondering how Britain’s Brexit vote will affect the way business unfolds in the oil and gas industry. While it’s true Brexit represents significant threats to the energy sector and financial markets all over the world, the true measure of the damage will take time to sort out.

At Viking we’re big believers in worrying about what you can control. Unless you were an active voter in the Brexit referendum, chances are you have little control over the European Union other than an ability to contribute to the economy in some form.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to be mindful of your company’s procedures, mission statement, and approach to business on a global scale.

There might be fluctuation here in North America, but that experience likely pales in comparison to the situation being faced in the UK. People working in the energy sector on the other side of the pond are in the midst of a brand new type of upheaval – hopefully North America can offer support.

How Brexit Relates to Job Safety

The implications of the Brexit vote got us thinking – we’re not politicians, and far be it from us to comment on the right course of action for an entire continent.

But we are excellent observers, and while we can control our own companies and how we do business, Brexit proves that even the best of intentions can have negative side effects.

The drilling industry has never been safer, but it’s not like people working in the oil and gas industry before the turn of the century were actively looking for ways to hurt themselves on the job site. It’s like my Dad says all the time, “Corporations all want you to go home safe these days. Do they think I didn’t want to go home safe 45 years ago when I was working by myself with my welding truck?”

Advancements in safety measures have created a new niche for OEM’s (like us) to offer something valuable to the market.

  • The chance to achieve greater than ever levels of productivity
  • The ability to attract intelligent new recruits
  • The opportunity to work with sophisticated technology

It all sounds like a win-win, no-brainer development, right?

Well, as with the Brexit vote, be careful what you wish for.

Drilling Deeper into a New World

With the developments in safety features over the years, the reality is that for something shiny and new to work, normally that means something else in the industry must be pushed aside to make room.

In a lot of cases, that something else is people.

We’ve all spent time on a project with that guy – the person who takes safety for granted, who’s stuck in the past, and who operates as though he or she is invincible. We’ve all also seen the dangerous consequences of those attitudes.

It’s simple: eliminate those attitudes, eliminate danger in the workplace, right? Well, again, just like Brexit, the expulsion of those attitudes requires the expulsion of people. Easier said than done. Men and women working in the industry developed unique habits and became entrenched in their traditions for a reason. No matter where you’re at in your career, your methods are going to be outdated at some point, too.

Working in a safer environment is good for everyone, right? Well, not so for people who are laid off, released, fired, let go – whatever you want to call it – because they’re failed to adapt with the times.

Safety requires patience. The oil and gas industry hasn’t always been synonymous with patience. Dated values need to find a way to progress with the advancements of tomorrow, but perhaps those leading the charge into a brighter, safer future ought to be aware of the potential damage that future is bringing with it.

It’s easy to rid ourselves of outdated methods, but voting someone off the island because they’re entrenched in their ways could end up being a huge loss.

Besides, we’d surely live to regret it if we made a rash decision.

3 Rules to Work By that Fly in the Face of Drilling Industry Challenges

The global economy is kind of like an elementary school playground at recess. Small groups of people huddle together to share their time, knowledge, and marbles. Ok, it’s 2016, maybe they’re not sharing marbles, but whether they’re sharing snacks, toys, or innovative techniques, it’s easy to compare this dynamic with that on a global scale.

For years nations all over the world have adopted trade agreements like NAFTA to facilitate international cooperation on the basis of mutually dependant goals while barricading trade with non-participating groups. 

Some trade agreements withstand the test of time and the politicizing of goods and services. Some agreements evaporate faster than a country can be shaken down for its lunch money.

New trade patterns are just one of the challenges the drilling industry and the oil and gas sector are faced with in today’s turbulent economy. What works one day might not work the next as corporations are forced to come to grips with fluctuating oil prices.

The other major challenges?

Read more about the oil industry’s challenges.

Drilling industry challenges aren’t a new development by any stretch, but the only way to succumb to these challenges is to let them control us. Well, we’ve got good news: you’re in charge.

Here’s three ways to keep working productively while the economy sorts itself out.

1. Work for Improvement, Not Wealth

The last thing on earth you should ignore during an economic downturn is your finances, right?

No, that’s crazy, what are you talking about?

Yes, you should worry about your finances, but there’s a lot of things at stake here if that worry threatens to take over. The quickest way to either drive yourself crazy or drive your company out of business is to focus exclusively on all the money you’re not making. Face it, the days of grossly overspending just to speed up the work are over. You’re not going to make as much money during this stretch, so stop worrying about the extra time you’re putting in and do the best you can to create the best work possible.

Time is often equated with money which makes our industry rush to get things done. Well, this is a great time to focus on making your product better rather than maximizing your return.

2. Invest in Growth

On second thought, while you’re not worrying about your finances, divert some of those finances into potential new growth. There are so many different ways to grow your company outside of selling your products or services.

  • Attend a conference
  • Boost your social media presence
  • Buy a new machine capable of new work
  • Combine forces with a related industry or company
  • Train yourself or your staff in new methods or new technology

Or, you can simply grow your team and do more work. This certainly flies in the face of the drilling industry’s challenges, and while we don’t want you to run your company into the ground, for some it’s beneficial to delegate responsibilities.

3. Borrow Perspective

One of the most important ways in which we’ve mitigated the impact of the economy’s struggles is by simply putting ourselves into our customers’ shoes. Just like strolling around a playground, the drilling industry is filled with hard-working men and women who are left to the whims of their environment. It can be frustrating, depressing, and downright scary.

The more you talk with others in your field, the more you’ll understand their specific challenges.

Why is that important?

Because the more you understand, the better equipped you’ll be to help out; and probably at a bargain, too.

Look, in all honesty, it’s impossible not to worry about your income, your company’s earnings or, ultimately, the roof over your head.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

How to Build an Ironclad Reputation in the Drilling Industry

If we could sum up the state of the global drilling industry in 2016 with one word, what would it be? First, sticking to one word is asking a lot of a blogger, but if I have to choose then it’s really not that difficult.


Every day we’re challenged to create products that help our customers solve problems. It’s a worthy challenge to build new things, and it’s an even worthier (is that a word?) challenge to make new parts that don’t cost an arm and a leg; figuratively and literally speaking, of course.

However, through the challenges with which we’re faced on a daily basis, we’ve actually managed to not only maintain a solid reputation, we’ve actually improved our reputation in the eyes of our customers, our colleagues, and, yes, our competition.

There’s two areas we focus on when it comes to building our reputation in the drilling industry.

1. Customers

Real Examples of Good Work. Not to be confused with testimonials (we’ll get to that), above everything else, the best way to create and maintain a rock solid reputation is to help people. Do good work. Solve problems. One of today’s biggest challenges for OEM’s and drilling contractors is to get the job done within a strict budget, so if we can help facilitate that process with an attachment that doesn’t break the bank, then the customer is happy and word travels. Which brings us to…

Word of Mouth. Do a good job and people will talk. This is where your testimonials live – on the tongues of satisfied customers who will return to your shop in a heartbeat if they need something else. The drilling industry is about tangible work done in physical locations throughout the world, but a lot of the talk happens in the digital market. This is why when we’re looking for content for the blog, it’s not that hard to find!

Read more about Thoroughbred Engineering or Dando Drilling International.

The Little Things. Alright, full disclosure: the little things count for a lot regardless of the industry you call home. In our industry, it’s always nice to work with OEM’s, contractors, and large corporations that value honesty, transparency, and approachability. Most of our work happens as the result of simply asking questions and making unique requests. In fact, that’s how our partnership with Dando began.

2. Recruits

Fulfilling Atmosphere. The oil and gas industry has always experienced a large degree of turnover. New recruits are hired, they learn, they excel, and then they move on to roles with greater responsibility. And like customers, men and women working their way up through their career will talk about former employers whether their experience was positive or negative.

Professional Support. One way to attract and keep skilled workers is to provide professional support and a good work/life balance. Your market might require seasonal work, so there’s a busy season and a slow season. Even if you’re working in South America or a location without a fluctuating climate, it’s important to provide resources and certification to employees so they can improve and, ultimately, help the company improve.

Creative Encouragement. People do better work when they feel a sense of ownership. Building pride into your career is important for employees to stay engaged with the work and, in turn, better work is created. This means that sometimes people will need to take creative risks in order to achieve success. Foster this. Encourage ambition, even if it means you’ll end up losing your employee to larger roles.

Because once they’re there, they won’t forget where they came from.

3 (Non-Financial) Ways to Attract Industry-Leading Talent to Your Shop

When we started Viking West a couple years back, one of the key elements in our mission statement was to save our customers’ money. Pretty standard, right? What business doesn’t want to save money? There are two key distinctions to be made here from our perspective.

Customization & Collaboration: we believed (and still do) that money could be saved at a higher rate by committing to a detailed customization and planning process. We talk to potential customers and build to specification.

The Economy: the sticking point, however, is that Viking was also created during a time of economic turbulence. Oil prices were sliding downhill and not only did was it crucial to save time and energy during the design process, we needed to be mindful that for many companies in the lower mainland and all over the world, never before had budgets been so constrained.

However, the work must go on. Today we’re talking about additional ways to save money. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the drilling industry, construction, or forestry, recruiting smart new talent will boost your company’s reputation through reputable, helpful work.

So, how do we recruit the best and brightest talent our industry has to offer?

1. Immediate Responsibility

New graduates armed with technical knowledge and theoretical training want to hit the ground running when they’re hired. Gone are the 90’s when oil soared past $100 a barrel and recruits were happy with a paycheque and as little responsibility as possible. These days, responsibility equals opportunity. So the next way to attract industry-leading talent?

2. Potential Opportunities

A chart explaining the hierarchy of the shop isn’t going to cut it. After all, if a new recruit believes the only way to climb the ladder is by taking your job, then chances are they’ll be looking elsewhere (unless there’s something you don’t know). A realistic opportunity is represented by an avenue that doesn’t exist yet. How can a new recruit push the operation to the next level? A new skill not currently employed? A new line of thinking? An opportunity that only exists if a new recruit is hired immediately grants a sense of empowerment and responsibility.

3. Innovative Machinery

Alright, the real meat and potatoes of recruiting industry-best talent to your company: give them something awesome to work on. A few weeks ago I was talking to Mike Schlender of Viking West about how cool it was to work on the specific heat cycle involved with heat treating precision gears. The passion for the work was obvious – it almost made me want to switch departments!

On second thought, maybe not. What would become of the blog, after all?

In addition to immediate responsibility and ownership over a specific area, potential opportunities to contribute to the company and work with innovative equipment is a big priority for new recruits. Hiring people with these three points in mind also builds in natural accountability, too. No matter who shows up at the interview, we all want to hire people who earn their paycheque at the end of the day, right? Your budget might not permit you to go on a hiring spree, so that’s why it’s so important to find intelligent people who represent value.

And hey, it’s a bonus if they’re enjoyable to be around, too. The good news is that’s a common trait for most people who work hard, are intelligent, and are passionate about bringing something new to the table.

Hard On Equipment: Going Back After Fort McMurray’s Wildfire

On the highway in front of the car: a never-ending stream of vehicles slowly inching forward. In the rearview mirror: a wall of fire from the scorched Albertan earth reaching up to mix with black clouds of swirling ash.

A couple weeks ago, the northern Alberta oil-town of Fort McMurray was ravaged by a wildfire that forced over 90,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Fort McMurray has been growing steadily since the 1990’s – it includes a sizeable permanent population as well as temporary residents. Some estimates measure the city’s shadow population at around 20% of the town’s total inhabitants, although it’s a number that’s constantly in flux given the ebb and flow of itinerant workers..

No matter how many people live and work in Fort McMurray, it’s a town that, for a week at least in May of 2016, only had one direction.


Leaving It All Behind

It’s human nature to take our possessions for granted. It’s alright, we all do it – but it’s situations like the Fort McMurray wildfire that help us re-achieve perspective. Our homes are where we plant our roots. Our vehicles transport us and our most prized possessions (our families) to and fro.

With the mass exodus out of Fort McMurray, people left behind much more than toys, appliances, and TV’s – they were forced to abandon the memories they’d spent years building in a town that welcomed them from all over the world.

People left behind their jobs. Their life’s work. Their offices. Their homes away from home.

Certainly, the loss of one’s home cuts deepest, but it’s the tiny cuts from a million other losses that stings as well.

I imagine heavy machines left to the mercy of the flames on abandoned job-sites. The outskirts of Fort McMurray are home to work camps that house thousands of men and women. Fortunately the people got out, but the work, the equipment – that’s all gone.

For now.

The Nature of Hard Work

There are plenty of publications that will deliver the stories of people affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire in the years to come. It’s not our job here on the Viking blog to pretend we’re something we’re not: a newspaper or magazine.

But when a blue collar town goes up in flames, it hurts, even here on the sidelines. The nature of our work reminds us of the difficulty these men and women are going to have when it comes to rebuilding not only their homes, but their livelihoods. Fort Mac is the centre of petroleum production in Canada. Veins of black gold flow from this boomtown all over the world. It takes a lot of planning and hard work to extract and refine oil so it’s useful for the rest of the world – we’ve all been fortunate that the people working in northern Alberta possess these qualities in spades.

Home For Some, Heartland For Many

As Fort McMurray’s oilsands developed and attracted people from all over the world, it started to become clear that this was a place where you could leave behind your past and look forward to a lucrative future. Fort McMurray offered opportunity for anyone unafraid of using their hands to provide for themselves or their families. The oil industry, and the drilling sector in particular, is not elitist. The values of hard work, determination, and motivation are welcomed here, and not even a devastating brush with an apocalyptic fire can burn those qualities away.

Fort McMurray is home to oil rig workers. Skilled tradespeople. Small business owners. Grocery store clerks. Bankers. Wait staff. Farmers. Forestry specialists. Original equipment manufacturers.

Fort Mac is home to families and people who’ve come to put their skill to good use and subcontractors who started with nothing and built a life for themselves.

For now, that life is on hold and it’s tough to say what will be waiting when everyone goes back.

And if we have to start over again, so be it. Bring it on.

Kevin Goes to England: Dando Drilling & the Other Side of the Pond

“It’s true, I feel like I’ve been all over the world lately, but there’s still so much to explore. That’s the beauty of this business, there’s hard working, smart people everywhere.”

That’s Kevin Reimer, one of Viking West’s vice presidents and an explorer at heart.

“Here at home we’re constantly looking for new ways to get better, whether it’s in the office or in the factory, so it makes sense that we’d seek those answers elsewhere, too.” Last month, Kevin had the opportunity to tour the facilities of Dando Drilling, our partners from the UK. I caught up with Kevin to hear about the trip.

Dando Drilling Head Office
Dando Drilling Head Office

Kelvin: Dando’s home base is in a town called Littlehampton in the West Sussex area. Here’s a softball question: what was it like?

Kevin: It was so cool, that’s my first thought. We were close to the ocean on the southern tip of England, about an hour and a half west of Dover. Dando put me up in this cool little town called Arundel which was a ten minute drive from their factory. It was in a really quaint, old village with a castle overlooking the entire village area, which was adjacent to the River Arun. I stayed in the Swan Hotel which was built in the 1600’s. Cobblestone streets. It’s like time had been standing still for centuries.


What were the Dando facilities like?

Their head office is actually in an old customs house on the edge of the river. When shipments came in via the river ages ago this was where they were processed. Their factory is about five minutes away on an old World War II runway called Ford Airfield which has been converted into an industrial park.

We had meetings at the head office and meetings at the factory. I got to see the new Terrier Mark 2. The Terrier has been re-designed and it’s even better now, it worked really well before but the improvements have really touched on a lot of important details. I love watching the progression of these machines.

I also got to see the Multitec 4000 series machine and the Multitec 9000 series machine in production at the factory, so it was neat to see the real meat and potatoes of the operation as the equipment takes shape.

That being said, and not to discredit the experience of the machines, but the really great part was spending time with the team over there. The sales team, engineering team, production; our industry is still about people, and it will always be about people making new things and sharing new solutions.


Viking is a manufacturer of attachments, Dando is an original equipment and machine manufacturer. When it comes to values and goals, what do Viking and Dando have in common?

Both companies definitely want to provide innovative and cost effective products for the North American market., which as we all know throws new challenges at us constantly. We’re both focused on providing solutions. Viking works closely with customers and listens intently to find areas where were can assist them and be more competitive and reduce cost and Dando does the same thing. This is really why this partnership began. We think the same. Dando has always been great at thinking outside the box and coming up with clever drilling solutions. That’s why I contacted Rupert Coler, the sales engineer at Dando, four years ago and challenged him to create a new sonic rig that didn’t exist. Back then we worked together to develop this new machine and it was a great experience. So much so that here we are today with Viking and we’re taking our partnership to the next level. 

Having a pint at the pub beneath the shadow of an old castle?

(Laughs) Yes, exactly. We’re excited about the future with Dando and the new projects we have planned, but it’s great to get along so well and share a few laughs. That always makes the work a little more rewarding, right?