CB Transport Refrigeration moves into ‘green’ territory

Knowsley, Merseyside, UK: Two brothers brought up “on the spanners” are taking their father’s engineering firm into a new world of green and renewable energy to provide a post-downturn future.

Engineer Bob Collins started CB Transport Refrigeration with a Ford Escort van in 1981, maintaining refrigerated transport fleets.  In 1986 the firm was appointed as a service partner for Carrier Transicold in a link that still persists today.

CB opened a workshop in Aintree in 1983 but the company now occupies a site at Collins House in Knowsley, employing 22 staff. Collins senior now takes a back seat with sons Kevin and Michael steering the firm after moving straight from school to the shop floor.

Managing director Kevin Collins, 35, said: “I left school in 1992 and Michael did the same four years later.  We both went out on the road with dad on the spanners.  There was no free lunch.  We were apprentices and Michael was my apprentice.  It was natural progression for both of us.”

The brothers learned all aspects of the business, with Kevin taking over the running of a Warrington depot in 1998 and operations director Michael responsible for a St Helens site.

Both siblings are now based in the new Knowsley facility, which turned over almost £2m last year.  They secured a contract win to maintain the transport fleet at Tesco’s new regional distribution hub on Stobart’s Widnes multi-modal site two years ago, but Kevin Collins said: “That doesn’t happen every year.”

And as refrigeration becomes more reliable he sees the core business, for the near future at least, remaining stagnant until overall economic conditions improve, which is one reason the family has embarked on their diversification strategy as part of a 25-year business plan.

Last September CB invested £70,000 in launching CB Renewables that provides energy-saving systems such as solar panel and heat pump installation, and LED lighting systems that can vastly reduce energy costs. Kevin Collins said: “In this economic climate you can’t have all your eggs in one basket.