CoolKit has well-established links with Burnley College, bringing the engineering talent of tomorrow onto their shop floor. One of the latest recruits to come from the College has had an interesting journey so far.
We meet Chris Bromley, Junior Design Engineer, to discover what made him completely change direction in his career, find out what he gets up to at CoolKit and how he’s making a real difference.
29-years-old Chris is a musician by trade and had been performing lead guitar for a number of years while having a day job at the Department of Work and Pensions – but it wasn’t where his true passion lay.
“I’ve always been interested in the manufacturing field, especially motoring engineering like Formula One racing. I’m also an aero modeller, so I build model aeroplanes and go flying with them – all the technical elements of it really interest me,” explains Chris.
“Meeting up with CoolKit while studying was perfect timing for me and the rest is history as they say.” Chris has now successfully graduated in Mechanical Engineering, which followed on from his Higher National Diploma at Burnley College in the same subject – the point at which Chris was brought into the CoolKit team.
“They took a chance on me and I really appreciate it. It was mostly down to James (fellow Designer Engineer) that I’m sitting here now – he got me the job. I think he struggled making his own brews!”
Starting initially with three months of full time work, Chris then started combining part time work at CoolKit with his University studies. Getting a foot in the door of the engineering world without having the necessary experience is notoriously tough, so Chris knew how valuable his time at CoolKit was while he was studying.
‘Experience is huge in this industry – you can have all the degrees in the world but it won’t compare to actually doing the work. I know I’ve got the potential to be a really good engineer, but I also knew I’d struggle to get into a job straight from college and without experience. Having the chance to be hands on is so beneficial for me. I’ve probably learned more practical skills in eight months here than I have in two years of college – I’m lucky enough to have the support, experience and guidance from my colleagues to help me progress much quicker here.”
Chris’ first job at CoolKit involved the digitalisation of components, such as the aluminium footplates which are fitted inside each van to protect the edge of the flooring installed.
“There’s a whole rack of these footplates on the shop floor but they weren’t in any order – we needed them sorting by drawing format so every time we needed a new one, they wouldn’t have to be measured again by hand and re-drawn. I used CAD to add them all to a digital library, so if a certain part is needed, they can just print off the drawing, saving loads of extra time. They’re all bespoke to each van and each thickness of kit which we make, whether it’s chilled or frozen.”
As the box bodies started to become increasingly popular, the need for a standardised range for customers to choose from became apparent – and the job landed on Chris’ desk to start designing a solution.
“A lot of the box bodies we create are completely bespoke, but we also come across customers who request a variety of standardised sizes. One of my jobs was working out which sizes we could offer in the standardised range and from there, I started building up a library of production drawings so we can offer a range of standard sizes, and these drawings are ready to go. The idea is to give customers a shopping list in effect, so they can choose from what we already have if they don’t need something completely bespoke.”
As Chris joined CoolKit whilst studying his degree, he often had to complete mini studies in specific topics as part of his final submissions.
“The materials used in the first fleet of 10 refrigerated box body vehicles formed part of a study for my degree. I looked at all the materials we currently use and the ones we’d like to use to increase the payload. This involved looking at all the different properties of the composite materials we used for the panels vans and whether they could replace materials in a traditional box vehicle construction. We use a lot of plywood in this industry, but using composite materials means the amount of plywood is reduced and the performance of the boxes is improved.”
Chris’ latest project is researching ways to cut the time it takes to manufacture a an insulated box body by half – so watch this space!
The long term goal is to digitalise all the designs produced by the team, creating a digital library to improve efficiency for future customers, and Chris has stepped up to help make this happen.
“There’s a lot of skilled people here and we’re trying yo collect all these skills and concepts from our team’s heads and put them into a computer so if somebody isn’t here or is busy with other projects, we can just print off a design that’s already good to go and start work on production.”
The challenges – and opportunities for learning and growth – are what gets Chris out of bed in the morning. He says: “That’s what is so exciting – its all new here. There’s no wrong way of doing anything. We’re experimenting with new products to make them into what the customers want. We’ve got so much experience in the team, I learn something new every day.”