Viega offers glimpse at move to Colorado
Editors also tour the Kansas operation, including the new MegaPress facility and expanded PEX production.
Viega LLC made headlines earlier this year when the company announced it was moving its American headquarters from Wichita, Kan., to the Broomfield, Colo., about a half hour drive from the Denver International Airport.
But to hear it from the standpoint of Jason McKinnon, Viega’s director of training, the idea of a move one state over began toward the end of 2013.
“It started out as just a new location for a training center at that point,” he said during a trade media tour at the company’s McPherson, Kan., campus last August. “We considered other locations, too. We do a lot of business on the West Coast, but it’s hard for those wholesalers, contractors and reps to go to New Hampshire for training.”
That would be Nashua, N.H., where you’re most likely to see McKinnon who joined the company as a design engineer in 2004 and soon after was promoted to various training positions.
The company couldn’t dream up a better trainer than McKinnon who worked for more than 15 years in the plumbing and heating industry before joining Viega and has since designed hundreds of radiant heating systems for residential and commercial applications.
The New Hampshire site had served as the company’s North American headquarters until the move to Wichita 10 years ago, and still houses Viega’s main education center. However, as the company grew, McKinnon and others knew they needed another training site.
“From many cities out West, it’s a six-hour flight,” McKinnon said. And that’s if it’s direct. Factor in a connection, and a “quick” trip for a two-day training event can easily consume two days for travel alone and end up costing the entire week.
“A lot of our customers have a hard time spending that much time out of the office,” McKinnon said. “Denver makes sense from a traveling logistics standpoint,” said McKinnon.
Eventually, however, the vision for the new location expanded to include not just building a training center, but also constructing a new headquarters and relocating the Wichita headquarters.
“Moving to the greater Denver area ultimately makes our corporate staff more accessible to our customers and partners throughout the country,” said Dave Garlow, president and CEO, Viega. “A new state-of-the-art headquarters and training facility will drive further innovation, serve as the foundation for the next phase of Viega’s growth and allow us to better serve our customers throughout North America.”
The move west has already begun with many staffers already in temporary office space. We saw preliminary artist’s rendering of the new site, but the company is keeping the looks of the new buildings under wraps for the time being.
Suffice to say that McKinnon will have thousands of square feet of new classroom space, plus a view of the mountains in the buildings. If all goes according to the architect’s plan, the headquarters and training center will play off the shape of one of the company’s well-known fittings. (Viega plans to be completed on Broomfield construction in 2018.)
All of which is not to say that Viega is forgetting about Nashua. Far from it since that location will still serve as a focal point for its Northeast customers in an area that has always been a strong market for hydronic and radiant heating installations.
Besides, McKinnon says more than 25,000 people have been trained since 2006 in the Nashua. As a result, McKinnon also shared some news of additions in store for those who head for training in New Hampshire.
The company is currently putting the finishing touches on revamping part of the training space and turning it into an Interactive Learning Center. The new space should enable McKinnon to take a modular approach to training and easily update his teaching approaches to new subject matters. Assorted pipework and ducts that are currently behind the ceiling and walls will also be open for viewing.
“We want everyone to see how our products work,” McKinnon said. Fortunately, the industry won’t have to wait to see the company’s handiwork in Nashua as long as it will to see the new Broomfield campus. The company expects the educational enhancements in New Hampshire to be completed by the end of the year.
McKinnon also outlined other plans the company, including new takes for online courses and bilingual education.
It’s only appropriate to hand the last words on education to McKinnon since what started out as what he called “his Christmas project” a few years ago transformed into much bigger things.
“Two locations for training may not be enough,” he said. “This is the next step.”
While the company wouldn’t allow us to take pictures inside the manufacturing facilities, Viega did provide us with an assortment of official images of our tour of the MegaPress carbon steel press fitting manufacturing facility, as well as the plastics facility.
Two years ago, Viega announced it would begin making its MegaPress fittings at the McPherson manufacturing and distribution campus – marking the first time the products would be made in the United States.
Viega broke ground for the 80,000-square-foot manufacturing addition in November of 2014. Last June, the first Viega MegaPress forming cell began production. The new facility cold forms 1/2- to 2-inch press-by-press and straight elbow MegaPress and MegaPressG fittings.
“MegaPress use continues to grow in the U.S. market and by manufacturing it here, we can more effectively and efficiently deliver MegaPress product solutions to our distributors and customers across the country,” Barlow added.
One thing that may not be apparent from our pictures is how positively spotless the place is, and how much room the company still has to reach full capacity.
Under full production, the new facility is capable of annually manufacturing 3 million MegaPress fittings. In addition, Viega assembles 250 different MegaPress fitting configurations, nearly every MegaPress product option available, at its metals production facility and is able to assemble 1.5 million fittings annually.
“The new facility is functioning perfectly for our current MegaPress manufacturing needs,” said Eric Wicker, director of manufacturing at Viega. “We built the metals manufacturing facility with plans to add more MegaPress production cells and additional high-tech manufacturing processes.”
The new MegaPress facility sits across from what Viega refers to as “Building 1.” There, the company manufactures its plastic products for the PureFlow and ProRadiant lines, including the Manabloc homerun water distribution systems and assembled panels to make quick work of radiant heating installations.
Two years ago, Viega also moved the production of PEX resin used to make its ViegaPEX Ultra tubing for plumbing systems from a Georgia plant to McPherson.
By centralizing the PEX tubing manufacturing process in McPherson, Viega is better able to monitor its PEX products for quality, improve product innovations, as well as to better integrate sustainability practices and improve the carbon footprint of production.
The move allows Viega to become the first manufacturer to quality control PEX tubing from raw material through finished product nearly two years ago.
We’re now able to monitor the materials more closely and make innovations much faster,” said David Perciful, director of quality assurance at Viega. “We work with thousands of pounds of materials each day for PEX tubing production here in McPherson with a close eye on quality, providing the PEX tubing that exceeds our customers’ expectations.”
The ViegaPEX Ultra tubing produced in McPherson includes the standard blue, red, white and black ViegaPEX tubing as well as the purple ViegaPEX tubing for reclaimed water that was introduced last February.