VIKING GmbH has delivered an extremely positive summary for the year 2008: The gardening power tool manufacturer increased its turnover by 26 million euros to nearly 119 million euros in the 2008 fiscal year, which corresponds to a growth of 27 percent. The number of employees has also once again increased, with VIKING counting an annual average of 219 employees during 2008 – 24 more than in 2007 (+ 11 percent). With an equity ratio of 65 percent, VIKING has further consolidated its position as a strong domestic company in Austria.
"The year 2008 was again extremely successful for VIKING and we were able to further enhance our strong market position despite a progressively weakening market environment. We will resolutely continue to pursue our premium strategy in all segments and, as a family-run company, are not subject to the whims of any stockholders," says Managing Director Nikolas Stihl summarising the past fiscal year. VIKING has been a member of the STIHL Group since 1992 and has consistently increased its turnover figures ever since.
VIKING has bettered its sales figures for all product groups. The newly-introduced T5 and T6 Series lawn tractors in particular have contributed to the positive figures. The strategy of concentrating on the major European and Eastern European sales markets has been vindicated.
VIKING has prepared itself with targeted measures to ensure that it is well-equipped for the coming months. In addition to quality and design, as well as sustainable, resource-conserving production and life cycles for the VIKING products, the VIKING strategy is characterised by innovative concepts in the training and development of its own employees, as well as flexible production planning. Production is currently adapted to the market situation on a fortnightly basis.
In order to secure competitiveness, in-house optimisation projects have been implemented. "With the traditional method of selling our products through our 10,000 partner dealers, we ensure an excellent service for the advice and support of our customers," says Stihl, emphasising the difference with respect to low-cost competitors.
New VIKING tractors are big sellers
With the launch of its new T5 and T6 Series lawn tractors, comprising a total of ten different models in three cutting widths, VIKING presented a special innovation in 2008. The tractors feature an impressive design, which has received a number of awards. "With our MT 6127 ZL lawn tractor, we succeeded in obtaining the ‘Good Design Award' in the ‘Vehicles' category," says a delighted Wolfgang Simmer, Sales and Marketing Manager at VIKING. VIKING has been presented with this prestigious, long-standing, globally recognised award for the first time. The assessment criteria included innovation, form, materials, design, concept, function, utility and styling. Some 3,000 entries from almost 50 countries are received each year for this coveted award.
It is not, however, merely the awards received that confirm the high quality standard of the products. The order trend in particular demonstrates the successful market introduction of the T5 and T6 Series lawn tractors. "The order situation in the tractor segment was very good in 2008, and we are confident about the coming year," says Simmer, Sales and Marketing Manager at VIKING, regarding this trend.
Winner of comparative tests in established gardening magazines
In the past months, VIKING was the test winner of numerous comparative tests in established gardening magazines throughout Europe. The lawn tractors and lawn mowers in particular convinced the experts in the field. Recently, the GE 150 garden shredder received an award from the respected Scandinavian magazine "Gör Det Själv". A 6 Series lawn mower has also just been rewarded as the test winner in the German "Familienheim & Garten" magazine. These results are further proof of the excellent quality of the VIKING products and confirm that VIKING has no grounds to fear any comparisons at the national or international level.
Proof of confidence within the Group and commitment to Tyrol as a production location
Following extension of the production plant and expansion of the research and development facilities, production capacity was increased in 2008. This made it possible, for example, to relocate assembly of the battery-operated STIHL hedge trimmers to VIKING at Langkampfen in early April 2009. Brush cutters, hedge trimmers, blowers, vacuum shredders and pole pruners have already been produced for STIHL since the extension building was opened at Langkampfen. "Within the Group, this has permitted us to once again assert ourselves against our competitors in the international field. Our parent company, STIHL, trusts in the good work of our employees and confirms our commitment to Tyrol as the ideal location for the production of our quality products," says Managing Director Stihl.
Sustainability and environmental awareness
From the planning and development stages of the VIKING products, great value is placed on sustainability and the conservation of resources. This is also reflected in the product range, which increasingly comprises electric machines. The plastics employed are also recyclable. "We produce in a resource-sparing manner, using recyclable materials. Contrary to the contemporary trend, VIKING products have a particularly long service life. Once that service life has nevertheless ended, most of the product components can be recycled," says Nikolas Stihl regarding the life cycle of the VIKING products.
Training and further education in focus
The number of employees has also grown steadily in recent years. At the end of 2008, VIKING offered 219 employees a secure job. During 2009, further personnel recruitment has taken place, and the trend is upwards. "In the long term, VIKING can only assert itself on the market through top performance and premium quality. Management's most important task is to empower our employees to achieve that top performance. We promote the professional development of our employees in a targeted manner through training and further education, delegation and sophisticated job design," says Stihl, outlining the guiding principles set forth in the VIKING management guidelines.
VIKING deliberately places its focus on the training and further education of its employees and encourages a willingness towards life-long learning. This strategy has allowed VIKING to fill the majority of its management positions with in-house personnel. Low employee turnover confirms the success of the prevailing team-oriented style of personnel management. It is not only internally that investments are made in training. VIKING was one of the sponsors of the Mechatronics Training Centre in Kufstein. Beginning in autumn 2009, a larger number of apprentices will be taken on within the administrative departments.
KAIZEN philosophy at Langkampfen
In August 2008, a KAIZEN project was initiated at the VIKING Langkampfen location. The KAIZEN philosophy strives towards continuous improvement in all areas of the company. It involves all employees, concentrates on real value added and eliminates waste in the case of non-value adding activities. In order to emphasise VIKING's Tyrolean character, KAIZEN was re-titled "Operation Edelweiss" by the company. "We are optimising our processes jointly with our employees and are trying to eliminate potential waste in order to remain competitive," explains Stihl. Customer requirements are a priority for VIKING in this respect. "Exposing ‘waste' does not mean that poor work has been performed in the past. However, it is necessary to identify potential waste in order to perform even better in the future," adds Stihl.
Product innovations – the basis for success
Originally developed specifically for the English market, lawn mowers were designed with a roller in place of the usual two running wheels on the rear axle. The roller creates a traditional striped pattern in the lawn. These machines proved popular on the English market and VIKING has consequently added two further models in two cutting widths with rear rollers as standard. The MB 650 VR and MB 655 VR both belong to a generation of lawn mowers that meets especially high demands in terms of lawn care.
Particularly in the spring and autumn, garden owners wonder what to do with all the tree and hedge cuttings, garden waste and leaves. Here, the new powerful GE 355 and GE 375 electric shredders can be useful in several respects. The new shredders are equipped with an innovative and patented blade reversal technology that permits them to be used for shredding both garden waste and branches with a diameter of up to 40 mm. Powerful and kickback-free, the VIKING garden shredders create space in the garden while also providing valuable raw materials for composting. The volume of the material is reduced significantly, allowing space-saving disposal. The mulch or compost obtained from the shredded material is a high-grade natural fertiliser for the soil and allows the lawn, flowers and bushes to grow even better.
A new product group in the VIKING range are the scarifiers. The new electric and petrol scarifiers (LE 540 and LB 540 respectively) effectively remove thatch, moss and weeds from the lawn, allowing more light and air to reach the blades of grass. Scarifiers do not damage the "healthy parts" of the lawn in the process. With seven fixed double blades and a working depth adjustable in six settings, the new lawn scarifiers provide gentle and effective cultivation of the lawn.
The growth achieved in 2008 demonstrates that, despite turbulent times, VIKING can further strengthen its market position through innovations and the ongoing pursuit of its premium strategy in order to benefit from arising opportunities.
VIKING: Successful member of the STIHL group
VIKING has been a member of the STIHL group for 17 years. The VIKING gardening power tool range supplements the product range of the global market leader for motorised saws in an ideal way and the Tyrolean company profits from the support of the internationally-operating group. VIKING is a fully-owned subsidiary of STIHL International GmbH and increasingly produces parent group products in addition to its core range in Langkampfen. VIKING has consistently asserted itself in the tough internal competition among the STIHL production sites. The STIHL Group was also able to record an impressive balance sheet result for 2008.