The facility is a huge project, years in the making, that gives contractors a chance to learn in real-time, experience Viega products firsthand and extend their classroom knowledge in a tangible way.
“We’re always looking for new ways to teach, new ways to enhance the educational experience,” said Jason McKinnon, Director of Technical Services, Viega, and a driving force behind completion of the ILC. “This is an interactive opportunity. Visitors can touch and feel and experience digitally some of the things we’ve talked about in the classroom. It walks them through the products, and they’ll see some functioning displays. It’s one more method for us to educate the customers.”
The ILC is about 1,200 square feet in size and contains 16 individual vignettes, each tailored to a different topic, plus three product explorer kiosks and a digital wall. All of the vignettes have a touch screen monitor, which plays a looped presentation of images to grab the attention of customers, but the screen can switch to clear mode.
On clear mode, the screen becomes a window, where the viewer can see real Viega products behind it, along with digital graphic callouts that describe the benefits and features of the products. The monitors also allow the customer to further explore information about Viega products through the touch screen via product overview and detail menus.
Topics included in the different vignettes are process piping, water quality, compressed gas and air, a mechanical room, commercial plumbing, SmartLoop, in-wall flushing, shipbuilding and many others.
In the Smart Connect vignette, for example, contractors can see the feature working. There will be water passing through unpressed connections in several different systems, and then people can pick up a press tool and actually press the copper fitting to witness the Smart Connect innovation and see the water stop leaking.
For the ManaBloc vignette, workers at Viega’s McPherson plant actually created a ManaBloc with clear resin, so the water is visible inside. The display is lit up with LED lights, so visitors to the ILC can really see how a ManaBloc works The radiant bridge is one of the favorite parts of the facility for Jim DeBroeck, one of Viega’s marketing coordinators, who has worked on the project since 2014 and saw it through to completion.
“We’ve got heating and cooling right next to each other, and you can walk from the heat to the cool, seeing and feeling the temperature difference,” he said. “There is a thermal camera above you that shows the blue cold of the cooled side and the hot red of the heated side. It’s a really impactful way to display it.”
Several years ago, when the concept was just taking shape, McKinnon had a long wish list of things he wanted to see in the interactive area. He hoped for working displays and faucets, flushing toilets and working air lines. In the end, Matrex, the company hired to create the vision and execute the project, blew it out of the water, including all that and more.
“Matrix took ideas and incorporated the technology and working-display aspects. They came up with the cutting- edge clear screens to showcase what’s going on,” DeBroeck said. “They helped us tell the story of Viega. It’s not just a MegaPressG fitting: The fitting is attached to a gas meter that’s attached to a ‘house’ so you can see the entire scope of a product.”
Product managers and engineers spent hours working with DeBroeck and Matrix to create each of the vignettes, and lots more time went into creating all of the content contained in each section. It’s been a huge amount of work, and everyone is excited to see it come to fruition.
“The industry we’re in, it’s not a flashy, high-tech industry. But this is flashy and high-tech,” McKinnon said. “It takes a lot of technology that we see in our day-to-day lives and incorporates it into our plumbing and heating systems, which is really exciting. You don’t normally get those opportunities.”
Among other fun features at the ILC are a nine-foot video panel wall that plays the Viega corporate video, and a sculpture made of Viega ProPress and MegaPress Stainless product. The sculpture is about 10-by-10-by-5 feet, and it hangs in the center of the room.
“Really the biggest thing here is the connection between the classroom and the hands-on installation that we have. It melds the two things together,” McKinnon added. “This is another method of hands-on interaction to meet the learning style and needs of contractors.”