The Color Group Converts Facility to Fight COVID-19
PRESS RELEASE – The Color Group—a Canadian Custom Packaging division that usually manufactures care and beauty products—answered the call launched by governments to reorganize manufacturing operations to provide essential products in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic: The business quickly converted its facility in the Sherbrooke Regional Industrial Park to make hand sanitizer gel, in collaboration with a number of Sherbrooke business partners.
“In less than five days, we converted the facility, trained our employees, produced test batches, and launched production,” said Alexandre Nault, Director of Operations at The Color Group. “During the process, our sister facility in Toronto provided us with the technological transfer of the hand sanitizer gel formulation, which was already approved by Health Canada. We are now producing two tonnes of hand sanitizer per day, and we are working to increase our production capacity to meet strong demand.”
The Color Group has acquired two filling machines that were provided locally through the Centre de valorisation de l’aliment (CVA), a networking connection made possible through Sherbrooke Innopole.
To increase its productivity, the Sherbrooke company also introduced its first two cobots, COVI-01 and COVI-02: COVI-01 is used for filling bottles while COVI-02, operating since Wednesday, seals and prepares bottles for packaging. In this respect, The Color Group is working with Uniro, a Sherbooke robotics integrator, to optimize its processes.
“Before the crisis, we were already in the process of evaluating with Uniro how we could integrate cobots into our practices, specifically to compensate for the labour shortage, but the pandemic greatly sped things up. The production of hand sanitizer provided us with a great test platform to eventually integrate these cobots into our usual production lines to perform simple and repetitive tasks,” said Mr. Nault.
The Color Group is planning on taking advantage of the Government of Québec’s Programme actions concertées pour le maintien en emploi (PACME – concerted action program for maintaining employment) to develop internal skills linked to integrating and programming cobots.
“These new collaborators facilitate the work of our employees, who are resilient, motivated, and working diligently to supply an essential product to counter the spread of COVID-19. We are also planning on adding a second hand sanitizer production line shortly.”
However, The Color Group, like other companies that produce hand sanitizer, must manage issues relating to alcohol and bottle supply, as a number of suppliers have imposed quotas. “We are working with Sherbrooke Innopole to secure supply sources.”
“The Sherbrooke Innopole team is playing an essential role in this time of crisis: To help solve business problematics, whether they be in relation to strategy, human resources, operations, finances, etc., but also to inform, simplify, accelerate, and especially continue to support industrial and technological businesses toward a recovery that will hopefully be as early as possible,” said Sherbrooke Innopole’s Director General, Josée Fortin.
The Color Group supplies the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS and Ambulance de l’Estrie, in addition to supplying pharmacy chains and national distributors. “We have orders for more than 200 000 bottles of hand sanitizer; this is a great all-Sherbrooke collaboration success story!” enthused Alexandre Nault.