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Sault College students help streamline local mill's operations

Boniferro Mill Works teams up with engineering grads on project that will save the mill time and money, give students real-world experience

Sorting logs at hardwood sawmills can be a complicated and time-consuming job.

That task will be made easier in the near future at Boniferro Mill Works as students in Sault College’s electrical engineer automation process program have perfected their conveyor project.

There are several conveyors for logs at Boniferro Mill Works and the new technology designed at Sault College will sort them in a quicker and more accurate manner.

If a log is too long for one conveyor, mill workers have to remove that log and put it on another conveyor. 

That takes time, and the Sault College project — with the help of sensors — will ensure logs of a certain length will be put on the right conveyor.

“It’s going to simplify the operators’ day-to-day tasks,” said Nathaniel Boniferro, Boniferro Mill Works' general manager, speaking to SooToday at a recent demonstration of a scale model of the automated conveyor project at Sault College.

“At present, they have a lot of tasks to manage. This will take something off their plate. It’ll help with their decision-making, their organization, and it’ll help us to train people at other tasks.”

The new time- and money-saving technology will be put into effect at the mill in approximately six months, Boniferro said.

The project took approximately four months to complete and was funded partly by an applied research and development grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and partly by a contribution from Boniferro Mill Works.      

Maxwell Reid, Ethan Bergamin, Justin Milner and Joshua Rodriguez — who all recently completed Sault College's three-year electrical engineer automation process program — gave a demonstration of how the new technology will work.

“They already have a process at Boniferro, but what we did was basically include automation because theirs is not completely automated,” Bergamin said.

"We provided a certain type of automation where basically the sensors will measure the logs and confirm that they’re going to go to the right mill."

“This is the biggest project we’ve worked on,” Rodriguez added. "It feels good. It feels like we’re getting some real business experience instead of just school experience."

 — SooToday