Inside Logistics

Dematic funds scholarships at Waterloo

Research relationship helping to build software capabilities


December 30, 2015
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Dematic is funding scholarships for University of Waterloo engineering students studying supply chain optimization. There will be two awards each year, for the next two years, each worth $2,500. They will be granted based on grades and an essay, to one male and one female second year student.

The scholarships were created to celebrate Dematic’s first year of operations in its Waterloo, Ontario office. The company opened the location in September 2014 to capitalize on the world-class technology and engineering talent in the area. Shortly after opening, Dematic established a relationship with the University of Waterloo to also contribute to the educational community.

Pete Devenyi was brought on in February 2014 as vice-president, global software development, just as Dematic began to “invest heavily and grow its software team and really start to focus on software as a differentiation point within the company,” he said.

“It’s all focused to ensure we stay a step ahead in a number of key areas. The University of Waterloo now is recognized inside Dematic as being one of the leading research institutes in this area in the world, spoken about in the same breath as MIT and Stanford,” he added.

The software centre has grown in its first year from one to 30 staff and includes a number University of Waterloo graduates. They and other Dematic team members are currently working on two research projects with the University, funded by a federal Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grant and a provincial Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) grant. In addition, Dematic is participating in and supporting the University’s co-op education program.

“We’ve taken on all sorts of interesting new initiatives,” Devenyi said. “Dematic chose Waterloo because the quality of the tech talent here is undeniable. We wanted to mark our anniversary by investing in the community and the people we hope to recruit and mentor. This scholarship is a natural addition to an already great partnership with the University of Waterloo.”

“Waterloo Engineering is delighted that Dematic has launched an undergraduate scholarship in supply chain optimization, an area of specialization in our Management Engineering program,” said Pearl Sullivan, Dean of Engineering for the University of Waterloo.

Dematic’s research projects focus on two areas. One is looking at developing an algorithm for mixed-case palletization—primarily in the grocery industry—while the other is working to build an operational analytics product.

According to Scott Wahl, director, global software projects in Dematic’s Waterloo office, there are three to four students involved in each project, and beyond the co-op program, one of the post-doctoral students has recently been hired by the company.

“Attracting talent is important,” he said. “Without the research projects they wouldn’t necessarily even know who we are.”

And the benefits run both ways. Waterloo’s academic staff are also gaining from the partnership.

“Through this relationship they’re able to tune and upgrade a number of their internal initiatives to be more in sync with the kind of real world problems that we face, so it’s a good two-way relationship,” Devenyi said.