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UPEI engineering students help a paper bag company sort things out – Prince Edward Island

Even after making bags for more than 80 years, the P.E.I. Bag Co. Ltd in Central Bedeque, P.E.I., is still looking for better ways to do things. 

Recently, the company needed to come up with a more streamlined way of sorting kitchen compost paper bags for a client. 

P.E.I. Bag Company general manager Thane Smallwood says currently the only way to package the bags properly is to do it by hand. ‘That was really the reason why we needed those UPEI folks.’ (Pat Martel/CBC)

Help came from UPEI engineering students, as part of the School of Sustainable Design Engineering’s collaboration with more than 20 industry and community partners.

Real-world experience

“I firmly believe that the engineering students need this real-world experience,” said Thane Smallwood, general manager of the P.E.I. Bag Company.

The problem the company faces is with a client’s special order of kitchen bags every week, put into packages of 15 bags.

If the bottom of the bags all lie the same way, the stack will be higher on one end.

When the bags are all stacked the same way, one side is higher than the other, making it harder to package. (Pat Martel/CBC)

To make the pile sit flat, the workers manually place five bags one way, five more on top the other way, and the final five the original way.   

“The issue is is that you need them oriented that way in order to pack them in boxes and to ship them,” said Smallwood.

Employees currently sort the bags by hand, which takes three employees from another part of the plant.

UPEI engineering students help sort things out for a P.E.I. paper bag manufacturer0:43

‘It’s not super fun … sorting bags all day’

“It’s not super fun to be sitting there, sorting bags all day in the way that this bag requires,” said 4th year engineering student Javon Mayhew, who was part of the group tasked with finding a solution to the problem.

“It was definitely something that we were happy to introduce a new way of doing.”

Workers sometimes have to manually sort through 50,000 bags in an 8 hour period. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Back at the university, Mayhew and his fellow students designed and built a prototype from scratch — complete with a conveyor belt and sorters.

Mayhew demonstrated the prototype, and at first it didn’t go well. The bags ended up getting caught in the sorter. 

But after some tinkering, the bags were sailing out smoothly. 

“At the start of the day, you have to run it for a couple of minutes just to make sure everything is set properly,” said Mayhew.

When the P.E.I. Bag Company currently gets a special order every few weeks, workers must sort the paper bags by hand. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Will it work at the factory? Thane Smallwood is optimistic.

‘You have 50,000 bags going through’

“I think the concept has been proven that it will work,” said Smallwood. 

“Taking it from a concept and a prototype and then taking it into an industrial environment…

Read the full article from the Source…

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