Viking Range plans to stay in Mississippi

Published 10:29 am Tuesday, July 26, 2016

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Viking Range is focused on quality and committed to staying in Greenwood, company officials say.

Kevin Brown, who had served as vice president of operations and engineering, was named Viking’s president July 5. Previously, the company was overseen by Selim Bassoul, CEO of the Middleby Corp. Middleby, which is based in Elgin, Illinois, acquired Viking in December 2012.

“Every day at Viking, we are looking forward with the relentless focus of making our today better than our yesterday,” Brown said. “This is what drives everything we do.”

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Tim Tyler, Viking’s director of marketing, said, “The products are better than they’ve ever been before, and Viking is here to stay in Greenwood.”

Brown, 46, earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mississippi. He started in manufacturing while still in school, working on the Maytag assembly line in Oxford.

Upon graduation, he advanced to electrical engineering and then reliability engineering within the company. He then began working at Whirlpool in Jackson, Tennessee, as part of the company’s Global Product Improvement program.

Whirlpool later bought Maytag, so Brown found himself working for his former employer. He came to

Viking in 2007 and has held several senior engineering positions within the company.

Viking occupies a special niche within Middleby, Tyler said.

“Middleby owns about 50 different companies in the commercial product range,” he said. “They are the largest food equipment manufacturer in the world. Two out of three restaurants have Middleby brands.”

Mention Jade or Blodgett or CookTek — all Middleby brands — and most chefs will instantly know of their reputation for quality and design, he said. Viking was the first residential brand in the group.

Viking has introduced 103 new products in its line of upscale residential appliances since Middleby acquired it, Brown said. Viking also has been able to use “bookshelf technologies” from other Middleby brands in order to produce a better, more reliable product while also reducing inhouse development costs, he said

Viking Turbochef oven Kevin Brown, the new president of Viking Range Corp., examines the cavity of a TurboChef oven. The oven can cook a frozen turkey in 42 minutes and is 15 times faster than a conventional microwave. It will be unveiled to the public beginning in August.

In August, the company is set to unveil its new TurboChef oven, which Tyler said is the fastest oven in the world.

It is 15 times faster than a normal microwave and can cook a frozen turkey in 42 minutes, Brown said. Wind speeds inside the oven cavity can reach up to 70 miles per hour — but although it cooks with fast, heated air, “there is no degradation in texture or flavor or taste” of the food, he said.

The Viking 7 Series range — billed by Tyler as the company’s new flagship — is also scheduled to debut in August. In addition, Viking Tuscany, a new product line inspired by the Tuscany region of Italy, featuring bold exterior colors, is set to be unveiled.

Other improvements, Brown said, include the use of “PokaYoke” connectors throughout Viking’s product line. PokaYoke, a Japanese term, refers to foolproof designed connectors that are similar to polarized light sockets and plugs, which prevent accidental wiring issues.

He said the company’s “pointtopoint” wiring system greatly reduces the amount of wiring needed in just one model alone.

Design robustness is a key focus at Viking, Brown said: “We want to design things to be able to be serviced, but we don’t want to design things so that they can be serviced, if that makes any sense.

“What you want to do is design for reliability. Serviceability comes with that process,” he said.

Brown said the company’s emphasis on quality has translated into “a lot more confidence from our dealers for our products.”

Today, the total number of Viking employees stands at approximately 645. That number includes 500 who work in the manufacturing plants, the corporate offices and the company’s Hospitality Group in Greenwood.

Viking also has employees working in 28 states serving as a national sales force in an East Coast office, a West Coast office and customer service and sales roles.

Brown said today’s Viking really can’t be compared to what it was before the Middleby acquisition because “we were staffed for a certain sales level at that time and the business model was totally different.

“We rightsized the business to align with our sales as well as purchased our distribution,” he said. “We now have a new structure without layers, are profitable and have a bright future.”

Brown said Middleby “has invested millions in Viking and is committed to Viking and Greenwood.”

Viking is committed to continuing to be one of Greenwood’s biggest corporate citizens, working with the United Way of Leflore County, the American Cancer Society, the Greenwood Interfaith Ministries’ Community Kitchen, and the Leflore County Boys & Girls Club, he said.

Brown said the upscale appliance market is making a comeback. As a result, the company’s product line has required the addition of a second shift to keep up with demand.

“We’re are working more overtime that I would like at this point,” he added.

Brown said they are excited about the future. “I always say that in business the metric will drive the activity.

So having a laser focus on the correct metric is critical to employee growth.”

He said the key is “working towards the internal growth for each of the employees we have now.”

More people might be hired for the company’s manufacturing division in the near future, he said.