By Glenda McCarthy
It’s not every day a post-secondary student gets the opportunity to work on a project from concept to completion, but for College of the North Atlantic (CNA) graduate Scott Glasgo, that’s exactly what happened.
Scott, who is from Calgary, Alberta, went back to school after an injury took him away from a successful job in the metal fabrication industry. He completed a Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) diploma in Vancouver, but wanted to get a leg up over the competition. That decision led him to enroll in CNA’s Mechanical Engineering Technology (Manufacturing) Co-op program.
“I was looking at the jobs and most required quite a bit more training than I had. You can do all the CAD drawings in the world, but if you are doing CAD drawings for a civil firm, they want you to have a civil technician designation, or for an architectural firm they want architectural technologists because they have more depth to the job.”
He, along with his wife and daughter, made the decision to relocate to St. John’s, NL, where Scott enrolled in CNA’s Mechanical Engineering Technology (Manufacturing) Co-op program to supplement his previous diploma.
It was here that he learned about the college’s Industry Engagement Unit (IEU), which helps small businesses throughout the province succeed in a growing marketplace. The IEU engages experts from CNA’s faculty and staff, as well as students and graduates from engineering technology programs. It pairs experts with rural businesses that need help with the development and implementation of products, process and organizational innovations.
IEU coordinator John O’Leary says Scott’s skillset meshed perfectly with what they do.
“I believe Scott’s successful engagement in this project, first as a co-op student and then later as a graduate of the college’s Mechanical Engineering Technology (Manufacturing) program, is a clear demonstration of the mutual benefits that can be realized through industry-college collaboration,” John says.
One of the main projects Scott worked on was with Goulding’s Wholesale, the owner of Chatman’s Bakery in Charlottetown, NL. The business was looking for an innovative solution to their hiring struggle due to an aging local demographic. The company wanted to explore adopting advanced robotic technology into their company.
According to Roxanne Weinheber, General Manager of the Bakery Division, the operator of the manual cookie cutting system at Chatman’s Bakery retired and they had great difficulty finding a replacement given the physical nature of the work.
“After our cookie cutter retired in 2015, we were very challenged in that area to find a replacement. Multiple people tried, but they just could not perform the job requirements. This position is enviably the heart of our business. If there is no one to cut cookies, then there is nothing for our bakers to do, and nothing for the packing people to pack,” Roxanne said.
“You can imagine that left us in quite the predicament. As much as our pride rode on the fact that we were a handmade bakery, reality finally hit us hard. In today’s changing world, technology is inevitable if we want to succeed.”
The company wanted to explore adopting advanced robotic technology, and that’s where Scott’s CAD experience came in handy. He was given free rein to come up with an idea and began to investigate various solution options.
“From the beginning Scott was very committed to the project. He put a lot of time and research into the project, and along with his team, did a wonderful presentation. Though I have to say the three-inch thick information piece he presented me was a bit overwhelming and intimating,” she recalls with a chuckle.
In the end, Scott presented the idea of a six axis robotic idea and ultrasonic cutting blade, which he says is a new, cutting-edge technology.
“It is in the food industry right now so it uses a knife that has radio waves going through it at high frequencies to cut through food product,” Scott says. “Really, it’s like a hot knife through butter. Nothing sticks to the blade like icing or cheese because of the frequencies. We proposed this to Chatman’s – they loved (it).”
While getting manufacturing quotes from local suppliers, Scott encountered the company Proax Technologies – a leading technical automation distributor that offers innovative product solutions in machine automation, motion control and machine safety. It has been in operation for over 50 years with 11 branch locations across Canada.
“I talked to the Newfoundland boss, Darren Wood, and we went through the project and he was very helpful. It was good because (Proax) was able to do more than what I was asking. It was a complete solution, which is pretty neat because I didn’t need to look around for other suppliers or distributers. It was a one-stop shop.”
After he graduated from the program, Scott heard through the grapevine that Proax was hiring. A long interview process ensued, which required multiple interviews over several months, but in the end he was hired by the company’s St. John’s location.
“It’s pretty cool because Proax actually got the contract to help Chatman’s with that IEU project, and here I am continuing on with my original idea.”
Two years after starting, the $250,000 project, which received funding through the Research Development Corporation (RDC), is nearing completion. The ultrasonic cutting blade was built at the Proax site in Oakville, Ontario and shipped to the college’s Manufacturing Technology Centre at Prince Philip Drive campus. He and John are currently conducting final testing on the machine. Once that’s completed, they will ship it to Chatman’s Bakery, where he will re-build it and test it before it rolls into production.
Roxanne says it is exciting to see two years of hard work finally come together.
“I can only see a positive impact on the business,” Roxanne said. “This is the heart of the business, and nothing can survive without a heart. This will allow us to have many options for cuts, and it will be a much cleaner presentable looking product. It should be ‘cutting edge,’ and allow us to compete along with much larger corporations.”
The IEU co-ordinator says the project was a win-win for everyone involved.
“This project provided Scott with experiential student learning that eventually translated into directly related employment as a graduate,” O’Leary said. “Goulding’s Wholesale was able to cost effectively access applied research and development expertise not available in-house or within the local business community, while at the same time strengthening their relationship with CNA and a network of medium-sized enterprises support agencies, such as the RDC.”
Being hired full time by Proax was the icing on the cake for Scott.
“The scope of what Proax does opens up so many different doors in this industry; robotics, programming, pneumatics, mechanical, and CAD, there are a lot of avenues I can go into. They are really great with training, so they will send me to the United States, Montreal, Ontario, and (attend) conferences. They are giving me free rein to design things and come up with solutions, so it’s very positive,” Scott says.
“They treat their employees very well. It’s kind of a family-based company – the owner, his wife and kids work there and they have offices all over Canada. It’s very family-oriented, but kind of on a larger scale, which is pretty cool.”