From setback to success
COREngineering’s Conrad Cormier discusses his design firm's history, process and plans to take on greater challenges.
What’s your background and how did COREngineering come to be?
Long before I started COREngineering, I had a passion for designing mechanical things, dating way back to the days of playing with Legos where I would love to build crazy race cars and big off-road trucks. This passion led me to study mechanical engineering.
When I graduated, I worked with companies that specialized in designing and building custom automation equipment for various types of industries. I gained great experience in designing various products – from small pneumatic equipment for making rings out of wire to massive conveyor systems for concrete panels and a hydraulic multi-axis head attachment for heavy equipment.
When I was laid off from my previous employer back in 2012 due to lack of work, I told myself I would use this misfortune as a blessing in disguise and take the opportunity to start my own custom design firm. In 2013, I founded COREngineering Ltd.
What is the “sweet spot” for COREngineering?
Our clients tend to be mostly in manufacturing. We have worked with clients from various industries, including: Marine, aerospace; glass and building materials; farming and mining machinery and equipment; food and dairy product manufacturing and packaging; furniture manufacturing and textiles.
We have been doing some projects in the seafood industry. There is a growing trend to automate the seafood processing industry because shops are having a hard time filling their labour positions. Overall, our sweet spot seems to be projects that others said could not be done.
What is one notable project you’ve worked on, recently?
One project we just finished a few months ago was an un-winder for textiles. The client was using long 16-foot rolls of textile products, which can be difficult to move around the plant and harder to source out.
The client wanted to transition to a system using four shorter rolls of 4 feet. Since no machine was readily available for such application, they came to us. We designed and built a machine with four staggered 4-foot rolls. We were able to achieve the same 16-foot-wide output, while using the easier to handle and more readily available 4-foot-long rolls.
What is your firm’s design process?
Typically, we offer full-turnkey equipment where we take care of the project from beginning to end. This includes consultation, design, manufacturing, installation and testing/commissioning.
Some clients have access to an in-house machine shop and/or welding shop and prefer to build and install the equipment themselves. In those cases, we simply supply them with the required drawings.
Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?
One project that was a bit different for us was the design of a pneumatic system to do testing on plastic crates. The system simulated the impact of a drop tester (dropping a weight from a given height for impact testing).
The advantage of the pneumatic system was the increased speed at which multiple impacts could be done compared to a manual system. We had a lot of previous pneumatic experience but the challenge with this project was that the system had to be 100 per cent pneumatic and do without electrical controls or sensors. Various pneumatic pilot circuits were used along with some pneumatic push buttons and switches for the different speed options.
How do clients find you in Memramcook, NB? What are some of the challenges to working in the Maritimes/NB region?
We get most of our clients through word of mouth and sales visits. We also have a partnership with vendors selling electrical components, for which we are integrators.
Working in the Maritimes is certainly an interesting challenge due to the smaller population and lower economy. While the big cities like Toronto and Montreal can have thousands of manufacturing plants within a 50 km radius – we only have a fraction of that.
To give you some numbers, the population of the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia combined) is only 1.8 million on 133,851 square kilometres (13.4 residents/square kilometre). Toronto alone has a population 2.8 million on only 630 square kilometres (4762 residents/square kilometre). This results in quite a bit more travelling to go from client to client for us.
What prompted your recent decision to expand?
COREngineering being a young company, we are still in the growth phase. The main reason behind this latest expansion was to bring PLC programming and electrical capabilities in-house so we could have more control on that side of the projects, and to make changes and testing faster and easier.
This lasted expansion prompted the need for a bigger office and shop space to accommodate the growing staff. The benefits are that we now have a new in-house capability and more shop space for bigger projects. The main challenge for a young company is the extra operating cost of a bigger team.
What’s next for COREngingeering?
In the next few years, I would personally love to develop a Hypercar with a custom high horsepower, ultra-light weight engine. We are currently in the early stages of design. We have ideas for technologies that would make this car one of the fastest in the world. And right now, we are looking for investors and funding to help get this project off the ground.
We would also like to keep growing and add a few more designers in the next couple of years (mechanical and electrical), along with growing our sales effort and expanding our territory to Central and Western Canada, and possibly to the United States.