CoolKit was crowned Manufacturer Of The Year and Business Of The Year at the BIBAs 2017, one of the most rigorously judged business awards in the county.
Run by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, the BIBAs is ‘the one they all want to win’. Entering these awards included much more than submitting a piece of paper and a quick chat. The shortlisting process also included face-to-face interviews with a panel of judges, selected based on their relevant experience in individual sectors, and a visit to the work premises to get a first-hand look and feel for how the business operates.
Lancashire is bursting with manufacturing excellence and this was definitely a tough category to be involved in. Judges were looking for businesses that have already made quantified, innovative and sustained progress towards achieving world-class status, in particular that one company that has delivered remarkable performance and results. Here is a summary of our main points during the application process.
1. Engagement with R&D, design, production and maintenance
Our fridge van conversions include cutting-edge technology and the latest materials, ensuring strength and durability, whilst also remaining lightweight, resulting in some of the best payloads within the industry. Over the last 12 months we have invested heavily in R&D to bring new and innovative solutions to the refrigeration market. This included working closely with local universities and colleges to develop new products and be exposed to new technologies within manufacturing and engineering. With a range of industry-leading accreditations, including Type Approval and ISO14001, we demonstrate our dedication to the quality of our product, with manufacturers warranty included within the maintenance package for both new and used vehicles.
2. How we have utilised new technology to improve our performance
We worked closely with Lancaster’s University engineering and mechanical department, allowing us to benefit from fresh-thinking by the undergraduate students and access to the latest technology. The students analysed the stresses of the new box body refrigerated vehicle launched this year, finding the exact measurements required to offer a competitive payload on this solution. When designing this box body solution, we also took the time to introduce a new GRP lining which is lighter and stronger than the solution currently being used.
For a third year running, we are set to double our R&D tax credit, based on our work being new and innovative. Last year we brought to the market a brand new solution for a pharmaceutical refrigerated vehicle for our customer AAH Pharmaceuticals, demonstrating our endless capabilities in creating a solution bespoke to our customer requirements.
3. Our commitment to skills development in the workplace
At CoolKit we have a precise induction programme which every new starter goes through, to ensure they work safely and to the high standards we have become known for. All our staff are provided with the training they require to carry out their role within the business effectively, including regular health & safety sessions, and management and leadership training for our workshop supervisors. We are currently witnessing an knowledge gap within the refrigerated transport market; but by engaging students at College and University levels we are hoping to close the gap in the near future.
This year we also dedicated time to support the Manufacturing Institute with the ‘Make It’ Campaign, engaging year 9 students in the world of manufacturing with a regional competition, allowing us to be active within our community. The vast majority of our employees come from Lancashire, and we believe in supporting our local economy, bringing jobs and skills to the local residents.
Our existing staff is always encouraged to continue with learning and training, allowing them to develop their career within CoolKit. We believe in teamwork, empowering our staff to become decision-makers and leaders, making sound business decisions.
4. Efforts in reducing our environmental impact
We have held the ISO14001 standard since 2011 after establishing a criteria for the environmental management system, mapping out a framework that the company could follow. We have set ourselves demanding recycling targets, including reducing waste, reusing materials and recycling waste. All our waste is separated into different components such as aluminium, steel, plastic and paper, and recycled or reused wherever possible. We have recently combined the ISO14001 standard with ISO9001 quality management standards, achieving a 100% pass rate at the latest inspection.
“CoolKit demonstrated a future-focused strategy, recognising solutions for gaps in the market and bringing operations in-house to improve business efficiency. Employees engagement was crucially evident with employees suggestions taken on board to improve working practices and minimising waste.”
Aimed at a business that simply stands out from the crowd, Business of the Year award is dedicated to the company that has demonstrated all-round excellence and implemented a growth strategy that has led to outstanding levels of sales, profit and market share. Outstanding products coupled with great people, innovative marketing and high levels of customer service were other strengths that the judges were looking for. Impressive financials to prove that the business plan is working were also key, as is an awareness of CSR commitments. This is the award for the all-round best business of the year. Here is a summary of our main points during the application process.
1. In what ways have we achieved excellence
We have continued a remarkable run of six consecutive years of year-on-year revenue growth of nearly 40 per cent each year. In 2016, the number of fridge van conversions sold was up by 48% and the number of refrigerated vans sold increased by 50%. This was achieved by expanding the number of markets we are present in and securing large fleet deals. With over 6,000 conversions completed over the last 11 years, we have become industry-experts in the design of bespoke insulated lining kits, made to match customer requirements exactly.
In 2016, we increased our number of employees to 75 and invested in new machinery and premises, trebling the manufacturing operations to 45,000 sq ft. To stabilise the recent growth, we have created and appointed people to roles that bridge the gap between departments, ensuring a smooth work flow and customer journey. Quality processes and procedures have been put in place that surpass the minimum requirements, ensuring it is a safe workplace for all employees, and all work is traceable, accountable and carried out to an exceptional high standard.
2. What strategies for innovation has your business employed
We are continually looking to solve problems in the marketplace. Our core product, a lightweight refrigerated panel van conversion, is established as the market-leader within the industry for payload, quality and durability. However, listening to feedback from our customers and potential buyers, we knew it was time to introduce an improved solution for a box body refrigerated vehicle. After a period of intensive R&D we have launched a vehicle never before seen on the market, with exceptional standard features that surpass the nearest competitors, providing customers with a quality product and value for money.
This year also saw the introduction to an air curtain solution for freezer vans, with CurtAir, a first for UK-market. Replacing traditional PVC strip curtains, CurtAir is a lighter and more efficient solution, providing improved payload and better temperature performance within the load space.
The ‘Pharma Van II’ launched in 2016 for our customer AAH Pharmaceutical, was awarded Technical Excellence at the Motor Transport Awards, highlighting the detail, innovation and craftsmanship present on the van which opened a whole new market for our panel van conversions.
3. Building an engaged, effective and motivated workforce
Our managing director, Rupert Gatty, has led us through a sharp evolution, infusing the team with his values and beliefs to create a successful business. As a result of working to the ‘Plan Do Check Act’ proactive methodology, we have managed to increase turnover year on year for six years, trebling the size of our operating facility.
Teamwork is not just a buzz word here: the company believes in empowering staff and involving them in the decision-making process of the business, giving managers autonomy to make intelligent business decisions. Every department plays a crucial part in the growth story of the brand and the products, and each department works in harmony with one another, with joined up thinking and effective communication. The obvious signs of growth – the larger workforce, larger premises, press stories about the company, new positions, prove to the staff that what they are doing is working and encourages them to continue the hard work.
3. Evidence of Corporate Social Responsibility
“We were impressed by the outstanding growth achieved the company, who has created an inspirational working environment with a truly great team spirit. CoolKit is a worthy winner and a credit to Lancashire.”