GB’s professional cycling team won the Tour De France just three years after implementing a simple yet effective strategy – searching for 1 percent improvement in all areas of the sport.
This “aggregation of marginal gains” methodology has been applied by refrigerated vehicle conversion company CoolKit, who are striving to improve in every area and every vehicle they build.
Within the Burnley-based company, the R&D department is headed up by John Drummond, Quality and Engineer Manager. John has recently helped CoolKit secure the latest ISO9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 standards.
John, an engineer by trade, is tasked with re-engineering processes and solutions to ensure each vehicle is completed to a high standard, with more speed and efficiency.
He said: “We are always developing and improving what we do by using new materials, new fixtures and new techniques. Reducing the weight of the floors has been our biggest challenge, because they have one of the largest surface areas. Rather than using plywood – which is heavy and swells if it gets wet – we now use different types of composite materials.”
John said striving for the ISO standards has helped them to adapt. CoolKit have made a concerted effort when it comes to reducing, reusing and recycling materials – their current recycling rate is 90%.
“We are constantly adapting our business plan to make sure the company runs efficiently, cleaner and at the end of the day is more profitable. Because we have grown so quickly, we feel that each department would benefit from striving for that 1 percent improvement.”
Design Engineer James Smith, who works alongside John, said: “It’s all about shaving off bits of time – whether that’s reducing bottlenecks created when parts are not in stock, or updating design software to speed up the manufacturing process.
“We are also trying to make sure everything a fitter needs is positioned around them so they’re not wasting time looking for parts. All these efficiencies, however simple, will lead to a slicker production process.”
CoolKit is renowned for using alternative materials in the construction of their vehicles – and is currently looking into an alternative to rivets when it comes to fixings.
John said: “Not only do I personally think that rivets are unsightly, they do not provide the best watertight seal. We have started using more adhesives instead – which reduce fitting time and offer a more solid fix because they adhere to a larger surface area rather than one fixing point.”
The company also prides itself on being able to react quickly to the market’s needs, developing products to suit customer requirements or gaps in the market
James is involved in the design and development of new products and has been instrumental in the creation of CoolKit’s latest product – the lightweight refrigerated box body.
“We adopt a smart approach from the start. By asking the right questions you can find out how the client plans to use the vehicle and what they need it to do.”
The lightweight box van construction, which replaces traditional plywood with lighter and more durable composites, has enabled CoolKit to offer clients a better payload per vehicle.
Food distributor Wellocks received an extra 1 tonne payload per 10 vehicles. They also benefited from a reduction in CO2 emissions, manpower and number of trips needed for deliveries.
Even when the vehicle has come to the end of its life, the box body can be double-lifed on to a new vehicle and reutilised.
CoolKit also have a patent pending for the panel vans they created for a pharmaceutical client . To meet the strict GDP industry legislation, CoolKit fitted the vehicles with a bespoke solution to provide free-flowing temperature-maintained air inside the van.
John said: “We looked at what we had to do, and worked out how we could do it. The approach was actually quite simple, and we purposely made sure we didn’t over-engineer the solution. We utilised what we already had while combining this with new materials and techniques.
“The end result was the client getting exactly what they requested – a refrigerated vehicle that conforms to strict legislation and is fit for purpose.”
James has also been involved in creating a free-flow air system for another pharmaceutical client which includes ‘invisible’ under floor ducting.
CoolKit have used composite flooring which is lighter but just as strong as plywood, but has holes in the structure that the ducting can pass through. An added bonus is that no treatment is required to prevent it from delaminating.
He said: “It’s about taking the best parts that have worked on other projects and using them to create a new product, along with new materials and processes. With every vehicle we build, we try and improve on the last. A small amendment in the build process may make a huge difference to the customer, and we’re all about passing on these benefits to our client.”