When Rockline Industries, a Sheboygan-based private-label manufacturer of consumer wet wipes, needed to conduct specialized product research, the company turned to St. Norbert College in De Pere for assistance.
Doug Cole, vice president of global product development at Rockline, says the company wanted to see how a new antibacterial surfactant compared chemically to one already used by the manufacturer. Rockline makes personal care wipes, such as baby wipes, toilet tissues and facial wipes, under a variety of brand names.
“We were wondering what portion of the molecule did the preservative action and which part killed the bacteria,” he says. “The project required the tri-section of a molecule. It helped us better understand the individual ingredients that we use.”
This is the first time that the global manufacturer teamed up with St. Norbert on research. Rockline has relationships with several colleges and universities, but a personal connection and available equipment brought the project to De Pere.
During an alumni reach-out, a chemist employed at Rockline mentioned the company could use more interns or help on research projects. He recommended St. Norbert reach out to Cole, says Amy Kundinger, director of the college’s business engagement.
Cole indeed had a project, one that required the college’s microbiotic equipment. The research project also required expertise in both chemistry and microbiology. St. Norbert professors Jon Russel (chemistry) and David Hunnicutt (biology) were brought on board to oversee the research, which was completed by two students, Bailey Hanson and Sara Rolfs.
During the summer of 2019, Hanson broke down the surfactants to compare the chemical structures, and Rolfs executed the microbiology portion of the project. To cover the students’ stipends for working on the project, Rockline made a gift to the college.
After the students completed the research, which showed what portion of the surfactant killed the bacteria, they presented their findings to Rockline’s senior leadership team. “That was a tremendous opportunity for the students,” Kundinger says.
The research allowed the manufacturer to remove a preservative in the product that wasn’t needed, Cole says. The products, which are sold at a variety of retailers including Target, Walmart and Walgreens, now have fewer ingredients and are safer, he says.
“The quality of the work was something Rockline found valuable,” Cole says.
Kundinger says a lot of good came out of the project. “Rockline received valuable research, students received hands-on, real-world experience and provided the college with a way to utilize the tools we have,” she says. “All sides of the triangle — the students, the company and the college — have benefited.”
The research partnership has led to closer ties between Rockline and St. Norbert, Kundinger says.
“Out of the research, other ideas were spawned such as a student suggesting a field trip to Rockline, which the company organized, and having an alum from Rockline speak about his career at one of our Discover Science seminars, which look at science-related careers,” she says.
Cole says Rockline can only benefit from its relationship with the college. “We have employees here who are already St. Norbert grads, and if students can work on a project like this and see what they did is being applied to products used around the world, they may consider us as a potential future employer,” he says.
Rockline is planning to launch another project with St. Norbert and its students this fall.
NEWMA Names education award winners
The NEW Manufacturing Alliance announced the winners of its 2020 Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnerships Awards.
Typically, the alliance would hold an awards dinner that’s open to the public the evening prior to the start of the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference. Due to COVID-19, it will present the awards at a smaller, closed gathering this fall.
NEWMA plans to recognize the winners of its 2021 Manufacturing All Stars awards at a ceremony in March near the time of the New North Summit, scheduled to take place at Lambeau Field March 11.
Award winners include:
2020 Manufacturing Awards
Brighter Image: Walker Forge, Inc.
Educational Partnership: Valley Packaging Industries, Inc.
Leadership: Sargento Foods Inc.
Visionary: Wilson Jones, Oshkosh Corp.
Youth Apprenticeship: Suburban Electric
2020 Educator Awards
Brighter Image: Kaukauna High School
Career Pathmaker Administrator: Leah Michaud, Winneconne Community School District
Career Pathmaker Educator: Joe Turner, De Pere High School
Career Pathmaker Technology Education Teacher: Steve Kiel, Sheboygan North High School
Education Innovation: Omro High School
Higher Education: Andrew Rinke, Fox Valley Technical College
2020 Community Partnership Award: Michael Frohna, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin
2021 All Star & Mentor
Fiberglass Solutions LLC
Fincantieri Ace Marine
Great Northern Laminations
Heartland Label Printers
Pioneer Metal Finishing
TIDI Products, LLC
Valley Packaging Industries
Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry Co., Inc.