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Viking Group - Business Innovation in America: EP 27.

Viking Group - Business Innovation in America: EP 27.

David Tabar David Tabar
12 minute read

Viking Group - Business Innovation in America: EP 26. - Mighty Line Minute with Dave Tabar

Greetings everyone. Welcome to the 2024 NFPA Convention and Expo in sunny, Orlando, Florida. I'm here with one of my favorite guys, James Golinveaux, the CEO of Viking Group Incorporated. I am pleased to have him here, and today we're going to learn some things that we haven't heard before from the top guy. So, I want to take this opportunity, James, to thank you for coming, aboard and listening to Mighty Line Minute and being a part of our podcast today. 

It's a pleasure to be here. First of all, you know, I've known Dave for a well over 25 years, maybe 30 years. And it's nice to meet people that still have a life-safety, safety to life-safety to property mentality that you do, that you bring into your new company. 

Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. 

And I appreciate you having me on here. 

Well, you know, we met, when it was it, how many years back at Northbrook, Illinois, for lunch one day, and we were both involved in doing fire research. We had quite the journey. In fact, Viking was instrumental in helping the company I was working for at the time really advance themselves in the area of fire protection and fire research. So, thank you for that, in your commitment to fire and life-safety. 

It's still a mystery. We still struggle a little bit on understanding the interaction of water and fire, and the different hazards that are out there. And we'll talk a little bit more about that, but, you know, it's really exciting doing research and development and trying to bring new technologies into this market. I always tell people that fire protection is slow to adopt. But it's slow to change. So, once you get something in it's great, but it takes them awhile to get there. It's not a cell phone where you have a six month return on investment. It's more of a 5 to 7year commitment. And you've got to be in it for the long haul. 

That's true. And you've got to be an innovator, you know. And that's one of the things I've come to like about your company and your firm and the way you go about business, because you take the time to invest to get the results that you're after. And you don't see many companies that do that. 

I tell people the easy projects are iteration, where you're just doing what other people have done before. The true innovation is things that your customers don't even know that they need or want. 

And that's true. It takes a lot of learning. I know in my career I've had to do a lot of education. And in areas that I never expected. I came into this field not having a background in fire and life safety. My background was occupational safety. And I came to really enjoy this field because there's so much you can deliver. There's so much you can do to educate others. And more importantly, you can effect change that affects lives. 

Correct. And people don't know the hazards that are in front of them, and it doesn't matter whether it's a single-family home, or a flammable liquid storage warehouse. 

That's true. 

You know, everyone knows labels and fear factor, but they don't know how much risk there is even in their own homein office furnishings, and new combustibles that are out there. So, it's constantly changing which keeps it exciting for us. 

Yes. And Viking I know has become a leader in residential sprinklers as well.(Yes) Can you tell us something about residential fire safety? 

Well, I can tell you a lot about it because my house burned down! I had a lithium-ion battery. You know, life experiences make you stronger if they don't kill you. I was fortunate to make it out of a house fire that started with a lithium-ion battery on my back deck and burned my entire house down. 


So, I have a great appreciation for lithium-ion batteries and some of the changing technologies that are out thereand also how fast a fire can occur. I research fire. I've done 3,000 full-scale fire tests in residential. (Three thousand?) Over 3,000. And when it happens in your own home, it's faster. It's faster than anything you can imagine because you're not in a controlled environment. Everything we've always tested in our careers we've been in control. We had backup systems. We knew what we were doing. When it happens in your own home, to your own person, it's different, and you've got to have an appreciation for that. 

What can we do for homeowners who haven't got there yet with residential sprinklers? 

Well, the first thing you do, if you have lithium-ion batteries, when you charge them, unplug them. Don't leave them on the chargers. That's the most common cause of these things going rogue .. while they're charging. So, unplug them if you can, after they're charged, and leave them in that state. 

Well, thank you for that. I tell my own family the same thing. And I sometimes get that look like, are you kidding me? But I do not leave any lithium-ion battery charging over night or when it's unattendedI'm also cognizant of where I'm doing the charging.

Right, don't keep it around a whole bunch of combustibles or plastic mattresses or pillows or something like that. (RightKeep it where if it did go, you can keep it controlled. (Right

Well, when I walked up to, the booth here today in Orlando, I saw that you were using some virtual reality. And I was amazed by how far you've gone in the 3D world. What are you doing? 

When I first knew I was going to talk to you, you know, I talk about passion in our industry and the ability to learn, and you and I have been teachers our entire career. Where you teach people about what we do. And it's difficult to find the generation that wants to spend 2 or 3 weeks in the classroom learning 38 different valve configurations. What they want to know is what's in front of them, while they want to know about that particular valve. (Yes) So we're going to great lengths to make sure that they have all the resources with apps in virtual reality to find out 100% of what they need to know about, exactly what they need to know. 

So how can our viewers at Mighty Line Minute learn more about what you're doing with virtual reality? 

On our website, we have Virtual Viking. So, if you go to the Viking Group website (VikingGroupInc.com) you can find a virtual Viking that'll link you in. You can download it off of Steam. Steam is a gaming platform. That's beyond my pay grade herebut there's a gaming platform called Steam and there's a Virtual Viking in there. So, you can download it free of charge, and play with all the valves and systems and foam. We have full foam systems, we have gas systems. We have dry, wet, deluge, spray. Kind of fun to go in there and play! 

Well, I'm certainly going to do that, and I hope our viewers are going to take the time to do that! James. It was great being with you today. I'm going to let you have the last word here. Why don't you just finish up saying hello to our listeners. 

Hello. Thank you for the time today and thanks for listening. Things are always changing in our industry. Just stay tuned. There's going to be more advanced technologies. Our industry's going to electrify. As we advance the scienceswe're going to get smarter about what we're doing. And someday, we're going to figure out this fire protection. We're going to continue to work on it. And thanks for what you do. 

Well, thank you, James. And it was great seeing you here again today in Orlando, and we'll look forward to learning more about Viking and hopefully our followers will take a look at what they're doing today, and the innovations that they are making. Thanks again, and have a great day, everyone. 

Have a Mighty Day

Dave Tabar

The Viking Group Inc.: A Legacy of Innovation in Fire Protection

by Alec Goecke

Origins in Innovation: Emil Tyden’s Vision

The origins of the Viking Group Inc. can be traced back to the industrious efforts of Emil Tyden, a Swedish immigrant who arrived in the United States in the 1880s. Tyden's initial venture was the development of an innovative railroad car seal in Chicago. This invention marked the beginning of Tyden's long journey in the field of industrial innovation. By the late 1890s, Tyden relocated to Hastings, Michigan, following a business proposition that promised greater opportunities. There, he established the International Seal and Lock Company to manufacture his patented seals.

Tyden's knack for innovation did not stop at seals. He created one of the world’s first automation systems, a significant achievement predating Henry Ford’s mass production of automobiles by a decade. This pioneering spirit laid a robust foundation for Tyden's future endeavors.

Turning Tragedy into Opportunity: The Birth of The Viking Corporation

In 1920, a devastating fire razed Tyden's factory, leading to a pivotal moment in his career. Determined to address the vulnerabilities exposed by the fire, Tyden shifted his focus to the fire sprinkler business. He acquired The Viking Corporation after recognizing the potential in a struggling business introduced to him by a St. Louis businessman who had developed designs for fire sprinklers and valves. Under Tyden's leadership, The Viking Corporation began manufacturing fire sprinklers and valves in Hastings, marking the company's official entry into the fire protection industry.

Expansion and Contractor Collaboration

Tyden's strategy for growth involved partnering with talented "sprinklermen" across the United States. This approach enabled Viking to rapidly develop a network of highly qualified contractors who were instrumental in installing Viking’s fire protection systems. This contractor-focused model remained in place until the mid-1960s, contributing significantly to the company’s rapid expansion and solid reputation in the industry.

Shifting Focus: Manufacturing and Distribution

The mid-1970s saw a substantial surge in the fire sprinkler market. To better serve the growing demand, Viking established a network of affiliates. These affiliates were responsible for distributing Viking products and other essential components required for sprinkler installations. By the mid-1980s, Viking had divested its contracting and design interests to concentrate solely on the development, manufacture, and distribution of fire sprinklers, valves, and related devices. This strategic shift allowed Viking to refine its focus and enhance its product offerings, establishing itself as a leader in fire protection solutions.

Global Expansion: Viking SupplyNet and Beyond

In the early 1990s, Viking took a significant step toward global expansion by founding Viking SupplyNet. This entity served as the exclusive distributor of Viking products and related fire protection components. Viking SupplyNet International was also created to extend the company's reach globally. Today, Viking SupplyNet operates over thirty wholly owned locations worldwide and collaborates with a vast network of independent distributors, ensuring the availability of Viking products on a global scale.

Innovations and Integrations: Viking Fabrication Services and Viking Plastics

Continuing its tradition of innovation, Viking Group Inc. launched Viking Fabrication Services in 2002. This new division provided contractors with comprehensive fabrication services for steel pipes, a critical component in most sprinkler systems. This addition aimed to streamline the installation process for contractors, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.

In early 2007, Viking expanded further by incorporating Viking Plastics into the group. This acquisition allowed Viking to offer an integrated package of products and services to independent fire sprinkler contractors worldwide. Viking Plastics’ inclusion created a seamless, single-source solution for residential fire protection, further solidifying Viking’s position as a comprehensive provider in the industry.

A New Era: The Minimax Merger

In 2009, Viking Group Inc. reached a milestone by merging with Minimax, forming one of the largest fire protection companies globally. This merger brought together unparalleled capabilities in fire detection, control, and suppression technologies, creating a powerhouse in the fire protection industry. The combined expertise and resources of Minimax Viking positioned the company to lead the global market with a diverse array of advanced fire protection solutions.

Conclusion: A Legacy of Safety and Innovation

The Viking Group Inc.'s history is a testament to the power of innovation, resilience, and strategic growth. From Emil Tyden’s early inventions to the global presence of Minimax Viking, the company has consistently pushed the boundaries of fire protection technology. Viking’s commitment to safety and quality continues to drive its success, ensuring that it remains a world leader in fire protection solutions for years to come.



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