2012 Winner: Outstanding Achievement In Applied Technology And Innovation Sponsored By SAIT
Collaboration Fuels Advances For Innovative Company
An Edmonton company with a long history of adapting to new technologies, is again stretching the boundaries of industry through an innovative collaboration with the University of Alberta.
Becoming a Leading Manufacturer
Drader Custom Manufacturing (Drader) was established as a machine shop outside of Sherwood Park 63 years ago. The company shifted its focus into plastics about 30 years ago and has continued to finesse its operations to work with increasingly lighter plastics.
Under the helm of Mr. Gord McTavish and his sons, Kevin and Jeff McTavish, Drader continues its history of change. Now it is a leading custom plastic product manufacturer in Canada with offices in Toronto and Edmonton.
The company’s engineering innovations are changing the plastics manufacturing industry. For example, they invented a plastic welder product that allows plastic pieces to be effectively “welded” into a structure. The company’s technological upgrading projects include being a pioneer in the use of advanced 3D design software and automation on its production lines.
“Drader has always been an innovative company,” says Mr. Kevin McTavish. “We’ve been working with customers to solve problems for years and years. And since we’ve developed our relationship with the University of Alberta professors, we can use sound scientific information to back up our designs and products.”
Since 2009, under a NSERC and industry collaboration, Drader has sponsored Dr. Yongsheng Ma, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and his research team. They work closely with Drader’s design team to provide scientific insight into product reliability, failure mode prediction and material use effectiveness.
They worked on static and dynamic loading analyses for Drader’s key container products — like milk crates and returnable plastic containers — to identify product weaknesses and fault causes.
“Why were the bread trays breaking?” asks Mr. Kevin McTavish. “That was a big question. Even if it was a fault in their process, we had to come up with a solution.” The team tested the design using a 3-D-modelling program to generate calculations that guided them to the flaws in the design and to the fix.
Traditionally, the plastic moulding industry practices have been based on intuition of experienced engineers. That required constant adjustment of process parameters in a trial- and-error fashion and was expensive and time consuming.
Armed With Scientific Information
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years based mostly on intuition and experience,” Mr. Kevin McTavish says. “Now, we can present the scientific numbers to our clients and go into the design and build of the products armed with this scientific information. That helps us with accuracy, and saves us money and time. That’s great.”
Through its technology upgrading achievements and its collaboration with the University of Alberta, Drader has made significant contributions in the field of plastic product development and has found a better way to grow their business through science.
“I am motivated by knowing a challenge exists and then coming up with solutions,” says Mr. Kevin McTavish. “Helping customers be more competitive in what they do is what makes me tick and what makes Drader successful.”
Equipped with its science grounding and under the McTavishes’ entrepreneurial guidance, Drader is poised to continue impressive forays into business and technology. The company is exploring opportunities in the automotive market in Ontario and the oil and gas industry in Alberta.