K Coolers was founded in 1979 to refurbish electric beer pumps, and its success was based on an 85% ‘repair yield’.
This resulted in it being asked by the big brewers to provide a similar level of service for beer coolers (located in pub cellars), as the repair yield on these was only 50%.
Applying the same processes to refurbishing beer coolers as it used on the pumps, K Coolers raised the repair yield to 85%; the result was a significant increase in business — and the relocation to its current 24,000ft2
premises in 2006.
Although now established as a Tier One supplier for refurbished products, the company had to manage two major changes within the drinks industry: the first was the ‘environmental’ phasing out of certain refrigerants; the second was the rise in popularity of ‘ice-cold’ beers and lagers.
Both of these changes required amendments to the stainless-steel coils that sit within the cooler, which in turn placed greater demands on K Coolers’ tube-bending capacity.
Managing director Lee Worden said: “The new R290 refrigerant requires smaller-diameter tubes for the new gas to be effective.
“While the coils used for standard beers and lagers were between 3.8 and 4.8m long, they now needed to be 10m long to deliver ‘ice-cold’drinks, which had the benefit of eliminating under-counter chillers in pubs.
“To meet increased production demands, we bought a BLM 4-Runner tube-bending system with a motorised coil feed.
“Indeed, without this we would have struggled to maintain throughput.
“The assistance we got from BLM — both in the UK and from Italy — meant that we were bending tube within a couple of days of the machine being installed.”
Capable of bending tube up to 12.7mm in diameter, the 4-Runner from Ampthill-based BLM Group UK Ltd (www.blmgroup.com
) straightens tube before it is processed and can then produce fixed and variable left- and right-hand radii to form three-dimensional ‘serpentines’.
These complex forms are easily created using BLM’s VGP3D programming software, which enables all bends to be optimised in real time, with full 3-D simulation that allows production feasibility and potential collisions to be checked before any parts are produced.
This software also assists in calculating production costs, which Mr Worden says is especially useful in a sub-contract environment.
The 4-Runner, which has been designed with environmental considerations in mind, is part of BLM’s All Electric range.
It typically delivers 80% energy savings over conventional hydraulic-based machines; and with no hydraulics, it is also quieter — and much cleaner.
Moreover, the 4-Runner can be specified with end-forming modules.
Mr Worden said: “The changes in legislation and lifestyle brought new challenges in terms of a greater demand for coils, and the installation of the BLM 4-Runner has made a significant difference to our efficiency.
“Every element of the machine is an improvement on our previous pipe bender — particularly programming, which is much more straightforward.
“Before, we were struggling to keep pace; we now find ourselves with extra capacity, which will be used — in part — for the manufacture of new coolers rather than refurbished ones.
“In time, we may offer spare capacity on a sub-contract basis.”
The high yield of K Coolers’ pump and cooler refurbishment did not go unnoticed by the brewing industry, which is renowned for “sweating its assets and making items such as coolers last as long as possible”.
However, even with K Coolers’ expertise, it is necessary to replace the 15-20% of coolers that still fail.
“We were asked if K Coolers could make new coolers.
“We produced a batch of 50 brand-new coolers to a new design for testing by a major brewer.
“These ran without a problem, and we have now been appointed as their preferred supplier for both refurbished and new coolers.
“It was the change in legislation around refrigerants that made the development of the new coolers viable; and with our 30 years’ experience, our customers are assured that they will get the optimum solution to their beer-cooling requirements.
“We offer four tiers of service for old coolers, from a simple clean through re-gassing to a complete re-build, along with major savings; and now with the new coolers, we can offer a ‘one-stop shop’ for both refurbished and new.”