Bonnie Douglas - Industrial Engineer

Ice CreamBonnie Douglas

Industrial Engineer at Nestle Ice Cream Factory, London, ON

What is a typical day like for you?

I spend the majority of my time meeting with our various factory teams to agree on ways to work more efficiently and reduce our costs. I need to take a break twice a week for some mandatory ice cream tasting. It’s true! I am a trained taste tester, as are most of the factory employees, and we take time out of our day to ensure we are manufacturing a product that will make kids smile! When I’m not in meetings or eating ice cream, I am part of the team that develops new products for full-scale manufacturing. After Marketing finalizes the details of a new flavour, our research and development team develops the formula on a small scale. That’s where I come in. Based on that formula, I determine which machines will run the product in the factory, what the best line speed will be, and how much labour will be required. Occasionally we require new machines to run new products so I am part of the team that develops the specifications for new equipment.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

The ice cream tasting of course! We manufacture such a wide variety of products that I never get bored of what I am tasting. In a close second, I really enjoy working closely with the teams and processes involved in making our product. It really is amazing when you think about all the steps required to make something like an ice cream sandwich!

What is the least enjoyable part of your job?

Because so much of my job is calculations and analysis, I spend a lot of time at a computer with a spreadsheet. I would much rather be closer to the ice cream action!

Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).

I studied Biological Engineering with a minor in Food Engineering at the University of Guelph. While studying I did 3 co-op placements, all in the food industry. This gave me experience in 3 different food manufacturing environments. One of those companies hired me after I graduated so having the work experience that co-op offered me was a great asset.

Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?

In high school I enjoyed the challenge that my math and physics courses gave me, but I knew that I wasn’t interested in theory such as pure mathematics or theoretical physics. I always found math and science more interesting if it was being applied to “real life”. At the time, I didn’t even know that engineering was the field that best fit my interests. One day as I was enjoying some sour cream on a baked potato I found out that my Mother had served me FAT FREE sour cream. “How could this be?” I asked. “How do they make fat free sour cream that tastes just the same as full fat?” And thus my interest in food science was born. In order to harness my strength in math and my interest in physics, I decided to study Food Engineering. I hoped to find a career where I could use math and science to solve problems in the world of food. Guess I found it!

What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?

Many of the engineering students I knew in university had an engineer in their family (like a parent or grandparent). I didn’t have the family connections to help me get that first summer job in my field. Going through a co-op program in university really gave me the experience I needed.

How does your job make a difference?

I believe it makes a difference in two main areas. One, because I focus so heavily on ways to increase our factory productivity, I am helping to ensure our factory stays competitive in the food manufacturing world. It’s always my hope that all employees, from the guy receiving milk off the trucks to the girl who ships pallets off to the stores are proud of the improvements that we make. Secondly, my job ensures that next great ice cream cone is waiting for you on a hot summer day!

How do you use science, math and technology in your job?

Using the scientific method is the central pillar of all that I do. When looking to improve a process, I use facts and data on a daily basis to validate hypothesis. I’m always working with numbers, using anything from weighted averages for budgets to statistics to determine process capability.

Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?

History. I didn’t have time for it between my focus on math, science and music, but I didn’t know what I was missing. There are so many interesting and pivotable moments through the ages.

What makes this job right for you?

Being an industrial engineer allows me to work with a variety of people and projects. I do have a number of routine tasks to do, but I really never get bored with the challenges a new project brings. I love that I can use my scientific skills for “good” and have some fun making delicious ice cream.

What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?

I’ve tried my hand at manually filling tubs of ice cream. It’s a skill not easily acquired and I’m not going to say I was very good at it!

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I’ve played trumpet since I was 10, kept it up through high school and university. When I entered the working world I quickly found my life was all work and no play. I needed that musical balance back in my life, so I joined the Plumbing Factory Brass Band based out of London, ON. The band is a traditional brass band and I love the challenge of the repertoire and the camaraderie of the group.

You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?

Buy a Tesla - a beautiful, beautiful electric car.

CurioCity Careers

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