Descon Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence in Learning, Innovating and Delivering Success!

In 2023, Descon is proud to celebrate 30 years of learning, innovating, and delivering success for clients in the food and beverage packaging industry and beyond!

In honor of this milestone, Descon founders Dave Farquhar and Geoff Oliff, current-day CEO, Steve Nixon, and COO, Jeff Philpott shared some of their memories and insights into how Descon grew from humble beginnings to become a significant player in the industry today.

Visit our interactive timeline page for a more detailed breakdown of key milestones in our history.

The Early Years

Dave and Geoff met working together for Coca-Cola Canada Corporate Engineering in Toronto, Ontario. They became friends through their shared interests and talents, and in collaboration, they brought innovative ideas to the company’s layouts and designs. 

“We started working in the background and said let’s influence this project by manipulating some of these drawings and find a way to improve the line designs”, says Dave.

Significant Changes in the Food & Beverage Packaging Industry

Having established a productive friendship, Dave and Geoff began working together on multiple projects and earned a reputation for innovative solutions.

“We started building a name for ourselves with the plant managers in the different plants,” says Dave. “And they started asking for Geoff and me to be involved in some of their projects.”

This was during a transitional period for the industry as brands were moving away from glass bottles and into PET bottles. European technology was ahead of North American technology, and it became clear that there was a need for more innovation and skills in the local market to keep up with the pace of technological advancement.

Taking a big leap of faith

Call it fate, luck, or both, but Dave and Geoff got an unexpected push in 1993 when Coca-Cola Canada restructured their business, which resulted in the closure of the conveyor fabrication division.

“It opened a door for us,” says Dave. “We both knew we had a strong understanding of bottling and canning, and strong mechanical and electrical aptitude.”

After many discussions, Dave and Geoff decided to move ahead and start their own business.

Developing the Descon brand

The name Descon was formed, inspired by the words DESign, CONtrols/CONcepts/CONveyor.

The original incorporated name was Descon Turnkey Systems, though the business operates today as Descon Integrated Conveyor Solutions to better reflect its ability and strength in providing complete solutions.

During the first few years at Descon, Dave and Geoff worked on layouts, electrical panel design, conveyor design, and site installations and service. Their experience helped get the business off the ground. Dave and Geoff understood the beverage industry and clients’ needs and soon developed customer trust in Descon’s philosophies.

The first major client was Coca-Cola Calgary in Alberta, Canada — replacing a conveyor system supplied by a large European company that looked impressive but ultimately didn’t deliver. 

“To have our first project allow us to illustrate our capabilities by fixing a competitor’s system went a long way in building up our credibility. I won’t lie, that one felt good!” says Dave with a laugh.

Today, Descon’s team of engineers, assemblers, installers, service technicians, and support staff consists of over 110 talented knowledgeable, and dedicated experts in packaging line automation.

The innovation that sets us apart

Since its inception, Descon has placed a strong focus on innovation and determination to find solutions.

One of the first innovations to put Descon on the map was a patented air conveyor system for handling empty PET containers. Descon invested heavily in this technology and high demand for the product brought the business into a lot of new facilities. To this day, this continues to be the most technologically advanced and accurate air conveyor system on the market. 

Example air conveyor system

While continuing to focus on its core competence of high-speed conveyor lines across a range of applications, Descon remains committed to innovation.  By constantly fine-tuning their process, layout development, line control, and material sourcing, they continue to improve their ability to deliver high standards of quality, efficiency, and reliable solutions on budget and schedule that their customers expect.  

With the move towards automation and robotics in the last five years, Descon has once again stepped up to the challenge, introducing a wide variety of robotic and gantry systems such as their Variety Pack Uncasing System, Tray Loading System, De/palletizing System, Variety Pack Sorter, and Pick & Place Glass Packing System.

As new technologies enter the market, Descon continues to adapt. Examples of this include simulation software, virtual factory acceptance testing, and 3D layout navigation tools.

“To innovate is part of our DNA and it drives our long-term success,” says Jeff Philpott, COO of Descon. “This technology helps us create better solutions for our customers that deliver on performance and optimize workflow areas with serviceability in mind.”

With the expertise and experience gained developing and implementing multiple projects and line solutions across so many different applications to over 1000 clients, Descon has truly become a full turnkey solutions provider and continues to meet the unique and evolving needs of its clients.

The Future of Descon

With such a strong foundation, the future looks bright as Descon continues expanding its product line and customer base.  

Of course, this continued growth is only possible through the investment and importance that Descon places on the team and culture.

Dave Farquhar and Geoff Oliff

“We’re committed to learning and building our skills every single day,” says CEO Steve Nixon. “That’s why identifying and training the next generation of packaging industry experts is a key component of our five-year strategic plan. Everyone at Descon is encouraged to walk the shop floor, ask questions, and get involved. To achieve continuous improvement, you have to continuously learn.”

“What I value most about what Descon has accomplished in the last 30 years,” says Dave, “is that our partnerships have no end date; by embracing change, we remain agile and responsive to evolving needs and requirements of our customers. I’m deeply honored to work with our amazing team, partners, and customers and I can’t wait to see what else we accomplish together.”