Recently, the Mechanical Hub team took part in a two-phase, two-state trip to visit Viega’s North American manufacturing in McPherson, Kansas, and toured the brand new HQ and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. Impressive is the first thing that comes to mind when describing both facilities.
The McPherson manufacturing facility exudes the company’s philosophy of both progress and vision for the future. “We are constantly looking past the immediate future and into the distant future,” Eric Wicker, director, manufacturing, Viega.
This summer, Viega completed a two-year building program in McPherson that included: a 90,000-sq. ft. expansion of a manufacturing plant, completed in Dec. 2017; a new 205,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant, completed in June; and a new 25,000-sq.-ft. tool shop and apprentice building, completed in July. And, the company is currently building a 55,000-sq.-ft. logistics expansion—a high-bay storage and retrieval area for inventory.
Mimicking some of the processes from its global HQ in Germany, robotics and machining take center stage throughout the meticulous McPherson plant. Fear not, all of this new-fangled technology is not taking jobs away, rather increasing them. Currently at approximately 300 employees, the company hopes to hit the 500 mark by years ’23-’24.
McPherson is where Viega produces its PureFlow line of PEX product, as well as select fittings from the ProPress Copper and 80,000 sq. ft. dedicated to its MegaPress product lines. McPherson is also home to Viega’s master distribution center for North America.
Continued expansion is a testament to the company’s progressive philosophy. For instance, the company has dedicated 270,000 sq. ft. to the copper fitting production. “The goal is to be producing the majority of copper fittings sold in the U.S. right here in the states,” says Wicker.
The state-of-the-art distribution center incorporates the latest technology and automation, as well as an upgraded warehouse management system that provides faster product turnaround. With additional metals products being manufactured in McPherson, a larger distribution center for both metals and PEX products was necessary.
Although media wasn’t allowed to shoot photography inside the plants—understandably—the tour started in the 36,000-sq.-ft. Plastic Injection Molding area which exemplified the company’s high investment in tooling. Twenty machines produce approximately seven million fittings per month. This particular building was well lit and comfortable, due, in part, by the implementation of its own radiant heating and cooling technology.
Quality is never understated at Viega; we strolled through the Quality Assurance Lab where dedicated staff monitor product and equipment through a series of rigorous testing.
Next, we toured the 200,000-sq.-ft. Extrusion Area where the plastic piping is made. Once made and exported from Georgia, Viega now produces its own resin—which is transformed into pellets—onsite. The rejected pellets are not repurposed, yet recycled and sold.
There is a Special Extrusion Area where plastic metal plastic tubing extrusion is performed. The only company in America making this, the plastic piping is integrated with aluminum so it can better hold its shape rather than returning back to its original form. (Nearby is a 40,000-sq.-ft. dedicated machine shop.)
We then toured the 270,000 sq. ft. of ProPress copper fittings production area and 80,000 sq. ft. of the MegaPress/Metals production area. Strategically, it makes sense for Viega to start producing here in the states. With press technology introduced here in 1999, education and awareness of the process and technology have helped contractors nationwide run a more efficient business. Viega system solutions are designed to work together in plumbing, heating, cooling and pipe joining applications, making the contractor’s work fast, easy and safe.
The following day we were flown to Denver to tour the recently opened Viega North American headquarters and Seminar Center in Broomfield, Colo. The 55,000-sq.-ft. headquarters resembles a pipe fitting, and its interior is the real testament to Viega innovation. I can’t express enough how beautiful these two buildings are, and, of course, amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. The HQ building opened in January and the first official training took place April 8, and weekly training is booking fast. “Viega is absolutely committed to its customers and their success in the field,” says Bo DeAngelo, manager, technical training at the center.
Yet, I am always interested: when a new facility is built, does it incorporate its own products? While the cross-laminated timber beams are imported from Austria, the exposed ceilings give employees and visitors a clear view of the many uses of Viega’s innovative technology.
Potable water is carried through copper pipes connected with ProPress fittings. The carbon steel fire sprinkler system is joined with MegaPress fittings. Radiant heating and cooling keeps the building comfortable, while a snowmelt system keeps the courtyard free of ice and snow. Manifolds ensure the systems operate smoothly and efficiently. The restrooms feature wall-hung bowls and no exposed tanks, thanks to in-wall carrier systems and Visign style flush plates.
The new 23,000-sq.-ft. Broomfield Seminar Center next door supplements Viega’s Nashua, New Hampshire Seminar Center, which has trained thousands of people since opening in 2006. The new center is an innovative training experience and is equipped with four classrooms, two hands-on labs, and interactive displays throughout, which allows attendees to see, touch and experience Viega products. “Demand for training has been increasing steadily. This facility will allow us to continue to provide and expand on the training that our industry deserves,” says CEO Dave Garlow.
Viega experts lead single- and multi-day classes in everything from radiant system design and fire protection to hydronics and pathogen prevention. Despite being open only since April, it is on track to host more than 2,100 students this year, says DeAngelo.
I walked away very impressed, telling DeAngelo I—and I’m sure the clients that visit—can’t help but feel energized the minute I walk in this facility. Shaking his head in agreement, “That’s what Dave Garlow tells me every day he walks in here,” responded DeAngelo.
Make no mistake, there is a lot of money, time and resources invested in Viega North America. But it’s a huge testament to the dedication the company believes is its biggest investment: its customers and its employees.