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Viking Installs Its No. 600 Champion Nailing Machine for British Customer: Viking to Observe Milestone in 2008 with Special Promotions
Viking Milestone: Viking Engineering delivers its 600th Champion nailing machine to customer in Great Britain; Viking to mark milestone in 2008 with special promotions.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 2/1/2008
FRIDLEY, Minnesota — It took Bernard Perron, one of the owners of Palette et Produits de Bois Perron Inc. in Saweryville, Quebec a good bit of time to find exactly what he wanted — a used Viking Champion nailing machine. Eventually, he found one.
“In 1993, there was not a lot of used Viking (equipment) in the market,”
The Viking Champion nailing machine that Bernard purchased used from another pallet company 15 years ago is still running today, “every day,” he said. “It’s still running, and in 10 years it will still be running, I think.”
Bernard did not realize it when he purchased his used Viking Champion nailing machine in 1993, but the particular machine is very distinctive. It was the very first Champion nailing machine sold by Minnesota-based Viking Engineering and Development. The machine was shipped new from the factory to its original owner in 1987 following a development process that began in early 1986.
While the company’s first Viking Champion is still going strong, Viking recently reached a new milestone: the company sold its 600th Champion nailing machine. The new machine was scheduled to be brought into service at a pallet manufacturing company in England in late January.
It is the second Viking Champion nailing machine for Somerlap Forest Products Limited in Somerset, England. Somerlap is a diverse manufacturer of wood products, including pallets and fencing.
The Champion is Viking’s best-selling automated pallet assembly system, and the company is planning special promotions in 2008 in observance of its latest milestone. Viking will sponsor a number of contests and other events that will be open to its customers as well as others in the pallet industry. The promotions will be announced later and also will be posted on the company’s Web site (www.vikingincorporated.com).
In addition to the Champion, Viking also offers the Turbo 505, a high-volume machine that can assemble 1,800-2,000 pallets per shift. Both machines assemble pallets with bulk nails, and Viking also sells its own brand of nails.
What has made the Champion so popular? “It is a mid-level production machine,” said Rick Autey, equipment sales manager for Viking. “It was our first single-man operating machine.” Viking promoted the Champion as a “one man, one pallet, one minute” machine, noted Rick. The most modern version of the Champion, the Champion QC306, has the capability to produce 500-600 pallets in an eight hour shift.
Size also has been a factor in the popularity of the Champion, said Rick. The Champion has a smaller footprint than some other nailing machines.
Rick began his career with Viking the same year it developed the Champion and has been in sales the past five years. “I started on the manufacturing floor,” he recalled. He was promoted later to a shop supervisor and eventually was responsible for all installations overseas, a position that took Rick to Japan, Australia, Italy, Ireland, England, Singapore and Malaysia.
The experience Rick has had in pallet manufacturing facilities around the world led him to conclude that the global pallet industry has much in common. “Different lumber” is the big variable, he noted.
In fact, selling nailing machines to customers in Japan prompted Viking to design its hardwood option Champion. “Japan uses a much harder, denser wood than we do (that is) three or five times harder than oak in the United States,” said Rick.
All Viking equipment is made in the U.S. “We manufacture all our equipment here in Fridley, Minnesota,” said Rick. That includes voltage changes and special CE marking requirements necessary for export to and installation in other nations. “We accommodate to enter the country,” said Rick.
Viking is an employee-owned company. “Throughout the company, we take pride in what we produce,” said Rick.
That includes customizing the Viking Champion or other machines when necessary to meet particular requirements. “We’ve done some specialties,” said Rick. “We’ve done some very large machines (for up to) 120-inch pallets. We’ve modified the Champion to build bed frames and playground equipment.”
New product development at Viking is a direct result of feedback that the sales and service groups get from the customers.
“Viking always continues to look at the market and what the market wants,” said Rick. “We’re always listening. Our engineering department is always open” to new ideas.
Viking’s headquarters in Fridley, a town of about 28,000 people, is just a few miles north of Minneapolis. The company’s reach, however, is global. Founded in 1975, Viking has more than 2,000 pallet assembly systems in place at 1,500 customer locations representing 19 countries.
In Quebec, Bernard added a second pre-owned Viking Champion since he acquired the company’s very first model in used condition in 1993. One feature he particularly likes about the Viking machines is their heavy-duty construction, he noted. “The frame is very strong,” said Bernard.
Another thing he appreciates about doing business with Viking is the company’s strong level of technical assistance and customer service. “We had a lot of help from Viking” in refurbishing both used machines, said Bernard.