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CoolKit, the UK’s largest specialist in temperature-controlled vans, has appointed a highly-experienced engineer and manufacturing operations expert, who has held a succession of top managerial roles, as its new operations director.

Joe Gleave, 40, joins CoolKit as it enters into an exciting new era expecting to fulfil record sales orders for a second successive year – despite a blaze which destroyed its main van conversion premises in Burnley only six months ago.

Since then CoolKit has re-established its conversion premises at a new site that is some 50% larger than previously. Situated on a secure four-acre plot just off the M65 at Blackburn, Lancashire, the site includes 75,000 square feet of workshop that accommodates 60 vans at a time. At the same time it has relocated and upscaled its panel manufacturing operations to its other Burnley site.

Joe, who has a passion for enhancing businesses through process improvements and people development, said he had joined CoolKit to implement the transformation required to grow in line with the company’s business plan to double output within three years.

He said: “I’ve come for the challenge, a complex challenge. And, while I have been here only a short time, I already know I’m not on my own. There’s a ton of people with a can-do attitude trying to continually improve our processes and that’s massive.”

After leaving Sheffield University with a MEng honours degree specialising in Aerospace Engineering, Joe progressed from a manufacturing engineer with 3M Health Care to Site MT Leader and Lean Six Sigma Coach.

From there he rose through the ranks to Pratt & Whitney Value Streams Operations Director at RLC Aerospace before becoming UK Plant Director at the Aqualung Group, where he was responsible for the manufacturing operation in the UK as Managing Director of Apeks Marine Equipment.

Joe is recognised as working to extremely high standards with strong coaching skills, enabling change through giving team members the skills and support to make sustained improvements.

He said: “I’ve always been keen to help businesses grow. And CoolKit, which is already very successful, has huge growth potential.

“I believe with the highly capable staff we have there is a mass amount of optimisation that can be done in the new factory which will result in us being able to satisfy even more customers quickly and more reliably.

“I will be working with the team in the factory so we can ensure it’s optimised to meet and exceed our exciting sales targets.”

He added: “The thing that’s kind of central to me is the application of lean manufacturing principles – how you create value through a factory, how you make the processes link together and flow, and how you coach and develop a team to deliver that value for the customer.”

Joe has been impressed with the resilience shown by the whole team of just over 100 at CoolKit.

He said: “While the company was devastated by the fire only six months ago you have still got a factory full of people who are smiling, happy and passionate and keen about the business.

“For me, that’s clearly a testament to the company that I’ve joined. A lot of passionate people who want to do well. I see CoolKit has got more potential than any company that I’ve worked for or come across before.”

CoolKit’s Managing Director Daniel Miller said: “We have been fortunate in being able to appoint such an outstandingly experienced operations director as Joe.

“He has all the qualities we were looking for to help move the business forward. He is a consummate professional in his field and I am excited about the business’s future success as Joe joins an executive team that has made a transformational change over the last 12 months.”