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From Challenges to Solutions: Celebrating Canadian Innovation Week 2021


Research and technology is key to the work Irving Woodlands is doing today. Whether a forester is using technology to provide real-time updates from their on-the-ground assessments or the team is relying on technology to architect the efficient delivery of more than 20 forest products to over 30 mills across 30,000km, innovation is continuing to drive our business forward.


From Inspiration to Action

As J.D. Irving, Limited continues to adapt new safety protocols at its sites, new technology has been introduced to help employees maintain physical distancing and advancing rapid contact tracing during COVID-19. 

New proximity sensors can be worn by employees, and provide an alert if two metres of social distancing has been breached. They can also complete contact tracing in less than 10 minutes.

“The safety of our employees is our most important priority – everyday, at every work site,” explains Jim Ramsay, Vice President of Safety at J.D. Irving, Limited in Saint John. “This new technology builds on our current COVID-19 safety efforts to date. The sensors were extremely helpful in expediting contact tracing at the St. Leonard Sawmill, following positive COVID-19 tests by co-workers.”

Close to 2000 of the new proximity sensors are making their way to JDI manufacturing sites in Canada and the US. Upon arrival at the work site, employees have their temperature checked, review the COVID-19 assessment questions and pick up a small new electronic sensor.

The sensors don’t track specific locations like a GPS but they do “talk” to one another. They sense the location of another co-worker wearing a sensor and deliver a visual and audible alert if physical distancing is being breached.  

The technology keeps track of when employees are in close proximity, and for how long. The technology can deliver a worksite contact tracing report in less than 10 minutes, should a positive COVID-19 case occur.


From College to (Cloud) Computing 

New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) is the first post-secondary institution in Atlantic Canada to become part of Microsoft’s Canada Skills program, offering certifications in in-demand skills like cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI). 

As the largest employer of NBCC graduates, J.D. Irving, Limited is looking forward to having access to the resulting homegrown tech talent pipeline. 

“Microsoft and NBCC are a quality combination of talented people and world-class technology,” says Doug MacAskill, Vice President of Information Technology at J.D. Irving Limited. “We congratulate NBCC on being the only Atlantic Canadian institution selected as one of 10 sites across Canada for this prestigious Microsoft program. This is a real tribute to the quality of programs and graduates that NBCC provides. As the largest employer of NBCC graduates, we are very proud to have on our IT team 65 NBCC grads who are making valuable contributions in advancing our digital journey at JDI.”

NBCC is one of only 20 post-secondary institutions in Canada to become part of the Canada Skills program. The addition of NBCC is the latest in Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to enabling greater access to digital skills and providing students with the tools they need to support the Canadian economy as it emerges from the challenges caused by COVID-19.


From Vision to Realization

Universal Truck and Trailer is expanding its use of Microsoft HoloLens technology across operations, building knowledge and providing better, more expedient service to customers. The HoloLens is an augmented reality tool that allows technicians to view-share and contact experts directly when looking for a second opinion or troubleshooting with a vehicle. 

First piloted with the company's Mobile Service units, technicians on the road were able to call into the Dieppe or Saint John shops when they wanted assistance diagnosing an issue, or in providing a service. 

Next, the Universal Truck and Trailer team began developing guides - visual training and instructional sequences developed by expert and experienced technicians - that more junior technicians could watch and then follow step-by-step while wearing the HoloLens. 

This culminated in a "test" scenario, where the company's Human Resources Director volunteered to complete an oil change in the company's Dieppe Shop, using the HoloLens to communicate with shop experts. Cara VanBuskirk successfully completed the task, pictured below. 

"The traditional way to train a Truck and Trailer Technician is to pair them with an experienced technician," says Paul Terrio, Truck Service Manager with Universal Truck and Trailer. "While they learn on the job, they're not necessarily working independently or bringing a great deal of value to to business. Now, as young technicians can draw on the HoloLens and the guides we've created, it's really changing the game."

The latest development in J.D. Irving, Limited's experience with HoloLens includes a new partnership with Daimler and Freightliner, a brand of trucks carried at both Universal Truck and Trailer dealerships. Technicians will now have the ability to use the HoloLens to call the paramount Freightliner experts if and when they're looking for counsel or troubleshooting assistance. This project has been undertaken with five other Daimler dealerships and is expected to transform the way these businesses do business.

As Atlantic Canada's largest heavy-duty truck dealership, parts and service provider, Universal Truck and Trailer dedicated to providing quality service and finding a better way to do business every day. The team is incredibly excited about the new opportunities created through innovative thinking, technology and creativity.