Reinventing working from home – How a Sherbrooke start-up managed to continue activities despite the pandemic …. in a garage!

by Propulsion Québec
Reinventing working from home – How a Sherbrooke start-up managed to continue activities despite the pandemic …. in a garage!

One of our members, Calogy Solutions, a young company focused on the creation of sustainable thermal management solutions for electric transport, normally conducts their experimental work at the shared laboratories at the University of Sherbrooke’s Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT).

Following the public health and safety orders issued in March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Calogy Solutions team began to anticipate the possibility of loosing access to these facilities vital to their operations. It was then that three employees, Mehdi Hedhili, Samuel Fillion and Nicolas Voeltzel, some of whom had just begun employment at Calogy, proposed a very innovative approach to the situation. In a great display of adaptability, creativity, and passion for their work, they took action to relocate the necessary equipment and operational functions to be accessible at their homes, including setting up a temporary laboratory in a garage. The innovation applied to working from home never ceases to amaze us!

What does a lab in a garage look like?

In the final days of the shared lab being open, the three colleagues managed to move all the necessary equipment into Samuel’s garage. This new “in-house” lab allowed the team to continue carrying out preliminary trials to test their prototypes. They set up their space to accommodate, among other things, a thermal bath, heating elements, a data acquisition system for temperature, voltage and amperage, and a brand-new hydraulic press, which they had just purchased. All these tools were used for material characterization, testing both insulating and highly conductive materials. They were able to conduct an in-depth analysis of their results and validate valuable data.

They went on to also create other “departments” in their homes. The installation of a high-powered server turned Nicolas’s apartment into computing center, allowing the team to carry out engineering simulations remotely. Mehdi’s apartment also became a temporary warehouse and quality assurance center. He used his kitchen to receive and validate components coming from suppliers and parts designed by the team.

The Calogy team made sure to comply with all health and safety regulations by respecting social distancing and disinfecting all work surfaces after use. All of this extra effort to ensure the health and safety of the team members and their families was well worth it as the results of these “in-house” experiments were conclusive and enabled them to meet their ambitious deadlines set prior to the confinement.

Other benefits of this innovative approach to working from home have revealed themselves to be a true exercise of resourcefulness, a quality highly valued in start-up culture, as well as a new spirit of comradery developed between the team members as they undertook this unusual project. They hope now that the “Covid garage” will live beyond the pandemic, allowing them to continue experimental operations while limiting interactions to participate in the effort to limit the spread of the virus.

We wish them much the same success as other famous companies that begun in a garage!