We were given a fully guided tour by Jane, one of the Amazon 'Associates'. and a tour Ambassador. She was extremely knowledgeable about the whole operation of the warehouse, or Fulfillment Centre, as they prefer to call it. It is about as large as 14 full size football pitches and some 1,200 employees work at the site.
Unfortunately the opportunity to take photographs was very restricted so we are not able to show in much detail how the Centre operated. However it was extremely slick and all controlled by computers and the use of barcodes.
We were surprised to learn that goods coming into the factory were stored entirely randomly and not in any particular order, yet that randomness allowed the whole system to work efficiently, without bottlenecks or hold-ups, which could have occurred otherwise.
Their special high level fork lift trucks are called pups and made especially for Amazon. They can lift associates to a height of 40 feet to reach the tallest stacked goods in the warehouse.
On leaving we were all presented with a choice of gifts to take away, exclusive to Amazon and not available to purchase anywhere! Well done the Amazon team for an interesting and informative visit.
The address labelling machine (below) was able to identify the name & address of a package within seconds of scanning it on a conveyor belt and then putting the label onto the package with a blast of air.
John Taylor Bell Foundry, Loughborough -31 Oct 2019
Bells from this foundry can be heard across the world, from Australia and Africa to The Americas and Europe. The biggest bell they have ever cast is the 16 ton 'Great Paul' bell which you can hear peal out daily from St Paul's Cathedral in London. But they will make smaller single bells as well as Carillons & Chimes. They will even make you a set of hand bells.
We were led on an interesting and informative tour of the foundry which remains much as it did when it was purpose built in the 1800s.
What set Taylor's apart from the rest in the early 1900s was understanding first how to tune their bells to get the best sound from them. They became renowned for their beauty and clarity of tone.
We even had the opportunity to make a bit of a noise ourselves at the end of the tour in the museum area.
Nottingham University: GSK Carbon Neutral Labs Tour -30 Aug 2019
We were given a marvellous presentation by Dr Nick Bennett which gave us an insight into this Carbon Neutral Laboratory built with funding from GSK. The building itself is made predominantly of wood and its architecture in not only striking, but the design makes best use of natural airflow to ventilate the building, and the latest technologies are used to produce renewable electricity and biomass. You can read all about the Laboratory from the linked website here; Nottingham University. We also learnt a great deal about the importance of chemistry in our daily lives and current research into renewable plastics (polymers) using natural materials which will biodegrade in time into their composite natural elements by Professor Steve Howdle. We were then given a tour of the building itself followed by lunch, courtesy of the University. Both Nick and Steve pitched their talks at a level we could understand while keeping it both interesting and informative. I think we all left with hope that the scientists are doing their very best to find solutions to the plastics & environmental problem we face! Long may it continue.
GH Hurt & Son Ltd - 23 July 2019
G.H.Hurt & Son are a family owned and run company based in Nottingham, UK. Since 1912 they have been using traditional handframe and subsequently modern knitting machines and knitted lace making techniques to create hand-finished women’s & men’s clothing accessories.
George Henry Hurt founded the company in 1912 having acquired an old seed mill in Chilwell, (built in 1781), for housing a large number of hand frame knitting machines.. The same building is still in use today along with a number of the original hand frame machines. We were given a fascinating tour of the works by Gillian Taylor, the 4th generation Hurt family member who currently runs the business. They now work with many international design houses, including Burberry and Dior and supply the likes of Fortnum and Mason and Harrods with high end products.
Their baby shawls were used when Prince George and then Princess Charlotte were first shown to the world and have been used by other members of the Royal family.
The machine being used in the video above was purchased by the company second hand in 1953. It's still going strong and the operator makes it look so easy!
Lincoln University: Film & Media Unit - 10 July 2019
Bryan Rudd & Ryan Jones gave us a fascinating insight into the world of television & radio production. We started by visiting the local radio station, Siren Radio, transmitting live from the University. And had a chance to talk to the student presenters in the middle of a live show about video games. We then moved onto the Media Archive for Central England, which is also based at the University and we shown one of the assistants splicing old film before it was to be digitally encoded. The storage rooms held vast numbers of old films, all kept at a very low temperature. We didn’t stay in the room for too long! We followed that by a visit to their television studios, one of the largest in Europe. Unfortunately we couldn’t get behind the cameras as they were all away getting their annual maintenance & service. Luckily all the lights in the studio are now LEDs so we didn’t all break out into a sweat as would have happened in the old days. We were also shown the Directors Studio where they control the cameras, lighting & sound.
We followed that by a tour of the high tech area where we could try out virtual reality headsets and control of animation through speaking and or moving our hands. It was interesting to learn how the virtual reality equipment was being used to help people with learning difficulties and dementia. There seemed to be lots of medical benefits being tested with new technology.
We then had an opportunity to test our skills in the photography suite on still life and portraiture. I’m not sure any of us showed any promise, but it was fun to try it out. We finished the tour in the Editing suites and sound dubbing studios. The cost of the equipment the university has available runs into the many millions of pounds but Bryan told us that the result was that 92% of their students leave university and walk directly into media jobs. He mentioned a few now with high profile jobs in the industry.
A fascinating insight into the world of Radio & TV.
Sleaford Renewable Energy - June 2019
The Group arrived for the visit with little or no knowledge about how straw was burnt to produce power but we left having learnt a lot. We marvelled at the numerous computer screens in the Control Room, the way lorry loads of straw were lifted layer by layer using a large crane system, how the bales were weighed, tested for moisture, rejected if not acceptable, turned to all be facing the same way ready for string cutting and were then transported to the burner. This was all automated with one employee sited up above the lorries controlling the unloading procedure from his very large swivel chair with screens and buttons on the chair arm! Annually the plant combusts 240,000 tonnes of straw (approximately 55 large bales per hour), sourced mainly from farms within a 30-mile radius of the plant. The straw is burned in a boiler to produce high temperature, high pressure steam, which is used to drive the steam turbine generator. The steam drives the turbine’s rotor, which in turn generates electricity that is then fed into the national grid. The spent steam is collected and condensed into water before being channelled back into the boiler to start the cycle again.
Rototek - Wed 24th April 2018
Plastic moulding was never so interesting! This company are THE experts in rotational moulding. They make such a diverse range of products from manhole linings, to water stoarage tanks; from prison furniture to racing sailing boats. you name it; they can make it! Their Director, Shaun Mills, gave us a short introductory talk followed by an extensive tour of the factory on the outskirts of Balderton. Shaun was able to give us a fascinating insight into the world of rotational moulding and his enthusiasm for the subject was infectious. A very enjoyable experience all round.
Take a look at the slideshow below covering the tour.
Just one of the rotational moulding machines in action
Greene's Mill & Science Centre - Wed 17th Oct 2018
A very interesting tour and talk by Andy the Miller about the history of the mill and the milling process
Hill Top Farm - Robotic Milking visit - 28 June 2018
Who would have thought farming could be so 'high tech'? The whole process of cows coming in for milking, to feeding them , giving them a comfortable place to lie down while they waited their turn to the actual milking operation itself, to cleaning the Milking Shed, are all operated by computer with no human intervention. And the cows decide when they want to be milked and how often.
The milking stations are all automated with lasers guiding the cups to the cows udders. The machines even wash the cows udders beforehand and apply lanolin after the milking has taken place. And if the there's a problem with the milk the machine detects it and removes it from the system.
As you can imagine with such an automated process it relies on a constant power supply for both the machinery and computers so the farm has its own back up generator to kick in in seconds should the main power supply fail, just like a hospital.
Did you know the cows even get water beds to lay on! Many thanks to the farmer, Vic Truman, who personally conducted the tour. Take a look at some photos below from our visit.
Stokes of Lincoln visit - 22 May 2018 If you think coffee is just coffee then think again! Since 2017 Stokes is now located at 'The Lawns', a Grade 11 listed Georgian building which previously served as a Mental Hospital, but is now being revitalised as their Roastery, Barista Training Centre and cafe. Our visit started in the cafe with coffee and scones with jam and cream. We were then given a fantastic guided tour by Nick, the great grandson of the founder, Robert Stokes. And he was expertly helped by one of his very enthusiastic roasting experts who explained how you can change the taste experience of the same coffee beans simply by changing the temperature and time in which you roast the beans. It's an art form, not just science! The tour finished in the wonderful theatre room which has been refurbished and is now used for concerts, plays and performances. Many of us stayed on to have lunch in their Lawn Cafe. Take a look at the slideshow below.
Great British Sports Car visit at Boughton We had a very interesting trip looking around the factory and looking at the kit cars.
Tour of Brackenhurst Campus - 23 March 2018 A fascinating insight into what goes on at Brackenhurst and the challenges they face, ably given us by William Donger, the Farm & Rural Estate Manager at Brackenhurst. (He's the man we are all listening to in the second photo of the slideshow below.)
Backstage tour of Nottingham Playhouse - 13 Dec 2017 Another interesting visit demonstrating just what goes on 'behind the scenes' to make a theatre run smoothly
Visit to the School of Violin Making & Repair, Newark - 6 Dec 2017 A fascinating & informative insight into the world of violin making.
Visit to Linney Printers in Mansfield, March 2017