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Viking Vision Focuses on Combining Technology and Flexibility to Help Customers at a Competitive Price
Leading pallet nailing supplier, Viking Engineering, expands offerings to provide greater flexibility and improved automation technology to customize unique solutions for customers.
By Dr. Ed Brindley, President
Date Posted: 7/1/2010
New Viking Vision
Although Viking Engineering and Development has made its reputation with high volume pallet nailing systems, I was not surprised to see the new innovative systems in its booth at EXPO Richmond. This includes the Skute nailing system and a materials handling robot.
As I talked with Rick Autey, equipment sales manager for Viking, he shared the new image that Viking is unveiling to the industry. Viking is much more than Champions and Turbos, and it is determined to make its future by offering solutions to the pallet industry’s needs. Viking has no intention of limiting itself. Rather, it is opening up to listen to its customers and provide solutions to their problems
Mark Stevens, president and CEO of Viking, said “We will not go away from basic production machines. We have spent a lot of money the last couple of years getting outside of our historic box. We are addressing more specifically what our customers tell us they want, finding approaches that allow them to more cost effectively run their businesses. You can still look toward Viking for your nailing needs but can count on us for innovative solutions to a much wider variety of your challenges.”
Viking no longer looks at itself as just a nailing company. Its new message is to keep helping customers push for solutions. Viking is working to better understand its customers’ businesses, including but not restricting itself to nailing. This may include the development of automated technologies for pallet recycling, box and crate manufacturing, materials handling, sorting and other functions.
The Skute and robot that Viking demonstrated at EXPO Richmond in May illustrate the flexibility that the company now wants to offer the market.
Mark said, “Our approach has been to reinvigorate our efforts. We have spent money on new technology, working on different solutions and different products for the market. The market is very competitive. Any new technology has to lower costs and provide flexibility for our customers.”
Viking recognizes that only through a discovery process can the company look at solutions and new technology for its customers. Mark indicates that Viking is looking for partnerships that are deeper and more intense than ever before.
The Skute – Flexible Nailing
The Skute incorporates all of the qualities that Viking says it desires for its new focus – flexibility and versatility at an affordable cost. Unlike other Viking nailing systems, which are designed primarily to manufacture pallets efficiently and in large quantity, the Skute is designed for flexibility and versatility at a system cost of under $100,000. Viking promotes the Skute as offering versatile, intelligent, and ergonomic solutions for assembling wood packaging products.
Just about every pallet company, no matter how automated it may be, manufactures odds sizes, small quantities, and some special designs on hand tables somewhere in the corner of its factory. The Skute is designed to automate this portion of a company’s production. The Skute is an excellent example of Viking’s response to a customer’s need. Rod Scott of Rod Scott Pallet & Box in Australia wanted to automate the nailing of a specific long skid that is used for transporting extruded aluminum. I have seen a similar product in several pallet plants over the years.
Vikings’ engineers set out to solve the problem and created the Skute, a machine that can be configured to meet a variety of needs. With up to 10 nailing heads and a working surface that measures 20’ long by 4’ tall, the Skute can be configured to automate an almost endless variety of repetitive nailing patterns.
It utilizes high load nail coils of up to 3,000 nails for less down time on a work surface that can be extended indefinitely in 10’ increments. A pallet plant can create its own fixtures. Simply screw the fixture pieces to the plywood work surface for easy setup and pattern changes. Fixtures can be removed for reuse or built right on the work surface. The flat table configuration provides for two-sided loading. An angled work surface allows for ease of operation and an ergonomically positive system.
The Skute has virtually an unlimited number of possible nailing patterns. It is designed to build wooden packaging in less time with less labor and more consistent nailing quality than hand nailing offers. An operator can adjust its nailing speed quickly and easily with a turn of the variable speed control dial.
In its “teach mode”, the save switch can be used to automatically save a nailing pattern, which can be recalled at any time. Nailing patterns can be stored and reused in both directions. If the nailing heads align correctly, the Skute can nail multiple fixture patterns in a single pass. Variable speed control allows the Skute to nail at a rate from 3 to 18 inches per second. All of this can be done without any operator involvement other than supplying a name to the project so it can be later accessed.
The Skute is the most flexible nailing system that Viking offers. It provides a machine that is flexible and can tackle a wide variety of nailing patterns and products from mats to pallets, both stringer and block, fencing, etc. If it is made from wood and uses repetitive nailing patterns, the Skute may offer a solution. An in-house testing video can be seen at www.vikingeng.com/Skute.aspx.
Rick said, “We will build a specific machine to match a specific need.” This thrust carries over in machines that have little to nothing to do with nailing. One of the new machines that is still in the development stage and has not yet been released is a new mat machine.
Viking’s new “Skute Challenge” encourages people who are interested in how the Skute would benefit their specialty products and sizes to e-mail or call them at 800/328-2403 for a free review. Viking will conduct a free analysis of your specifications to determine if the Skute can replace more costly hand nailing with an automated solution.
Refurbishing Existing Systems
Viking has about 2200 systems in the field around the world. Viking is placing more emphasis on refurbishing and selling pre-owned Viking equipment. With the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) act making bonus depreciation available this year on used equipment, now is the time to take advantage of unique tax incentives. You can upgrade your manufacturing capabilities, and Uncle Sam will give you a tax break to do so.
By purchasing a pre-owned Viking through Viking, a customer is assured that his system can be supported and serviced by Viking. Viking indicates that it has sometimes been impossible to service pre-owned machines that were retrofitted and had after market work done on them by others.
By having Viking do any refurbishing, it assures a new owner that his system can be supported and serviced by Viking. Viking Service offers installation, training, and genuine Viking Parts. Viking offers to do a search for pre-owned Viking systems with a form to be filled in on a web page at www.vikingeng.com/previouslyowned.aspx.
Robotics – Materials Handling and Recycling
Viking has become reinvigorated and has spent money on new technology to bring different technology used in other industries to the pallet market. Its new robot and pallet dismantling machine were demonstrated at the Richmond EXPO. Because they were adjusted to run at slow speeds (20-50% of normal speed), they may have seemed slow to some observers. While Viking had none of these machines running in a North American pallet company prior to Richmond, Viking does have some running in Europe.
Rick said, “I am confident we can increase the speed on our robot so it can handle every pallet coming off of a Turbo. The dismantlers we have running in the field are much faster than the one shown in Richmond, and it has a much larger blade that requires considerably fewer cutting strokes per pallet.
One of the eye catching features in Viking’s exhibit arena was its new robot. In addition to putting a pallet into the new dismantling machine, the robot demonstrated its ability to pickup, stack, and move a pallet. This showed the robot’s potential to perform material handling functions related to pallets, such as removing finished pallets from a Skute or some other nailing system. Other functions could include stacking finished pallets and replacing flipping nesters. The robot is fully programmable to enhance its versatility. Applications can include feeding pallets to a variety of equipment, including reducing the number of operators required for its existing nailing machines. There is no need to be down due to absenteeism; the robot can replace a person where repetitive tasks have to be done, which includes many tasks in a pallet factory. Robotic applications can include feeding boards, stringers, mats, etc., working in free sanding work-cells to nail pallets, picking up pallets and moving them to a brander, stacker, etc.
Both low-tech and high-tech applications are possible. Some people envision robots doing the pallet sorting now done by an operator and performing repair functions, which would be considered to be at the higher end of the technology spectrum. It has sold new production systems outside of the U.S., mostly in Europe. Systems are running there now.
Viking will partner internationally with the right companies to build on technology. It is currently leveraging relationships with international companies and expects to introduce new solutions to the North American market soon.
Viking indicates that it has learned from a few past international relationship problems that it has experienced during its life. Past problems have generally been execution issues; Viking is aware of this and is working harder and smarter to prevent any similar problems. Viking has formed technology partnerships with companies in the U.K., Sweden, France, and Australia. It will be exchanging technology and experiences with them to enhance engineering technology and product development. Companies with which Viking currently partners include Joint Tech in Sweden and PrePack.
Building on a Strong Tradition
It is fitting that Viking announced its new focus at EXPO Richmond. This event has been a key showcase for Viking products throughout the years.
One of the things that has stood out through the years about Viking, its people and products, has been its level of professionalism. Viking Engineering functions as a cross between a small, entrepreneurial company and a larger more sophisticated company. Viking took a major leadership role in our industry and developed a worldwide reputation. With over 2200 Viking nailing installations around the world, refurbishing opportunities have been a viable market option for many years. Viking is now focusing a little more specifically in this direction than it once did. In the last six months, Viking has sold pre-owned Viking Champion and Turbo systems around the world. About a dozen of these systems have been sold in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.
As always, Viking supplies a wide variety of nailing products including bulk nails to customers.
For more information about Viking or its products, call 800-328-2403, email email@example.com or visit www.vikingeng.com.