Car Parts Manufacturer Repurposes To Make Reusable Cups

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The decline of the Australian car manufacturing has forced many homegrown suppliers to focus their skills elsewhere in search of new revenue streams.

Advantage Engineering, which has more than 50 years’ experience manufacturing car components, was watching the car industry crunch when Ben Young approached the company, based in Melbourne’s Braeside, with a big idea.

Factory equipment in the Advantage Engineering factory

Award-winning business

“I care about what we’re doing to our planet and I know we use too many single-use products, especially coffee cups and water bottles,” Ben says. “And it got me thinking, ‘How do I resolve it?’ ” The answer is frank green, Ben’s award-winning business.

In 2014, Ben launched a sports bottle with a removable coconut husk filter. Last year, frank green introduced its signature SmartCup, a reusable coffee cup with a double-walled thermo outer layer, available in dozens of designs.

The products, manufactured by Advantage Engineering, have been a huge success in Australia and abroad, and allowed the business to reinvent itself.

Advantage Engineering managing director Jamie Foster says that before the partnership with frank green, 85% of the firm’s work was through firms such as Holden, Ford and Toyota.

Ben Young and his smart coffee cups

Same engineering qualities and processes

“Things have changed in the automotive industry but we are happy that we can use the same engineering qualities and processes with frank green, to benefit a completely different industry.”

Ben says the SmartCup combines style with sustainability.

“It looks great, it’s spill-resistant [and] it’s made from high-quality materials so you taste your coffee and not your cup,” he says, adding that Australia uses three million dis­posable coffee cups a day.

“The majority of these end up in landfill. Our message is clear: drink smarter and reduce unnecessary waste by taking your own cup when you go for a coffee.”

Each frank green SmartCup is embedded with a chip that syncs with an app CafePay, allowing users to swipe their cup and make secure cashless payments as well as receive loyalty bonuses at a growing number of cafes.

World-first technology

It’s world-first technology that is creating plenty of buzz, with more than 200 customers in Melbourne and many more around the world, Ben says.

“What is also amazing about what’s been achieved is that it blends the daily routine; you’ve got coffee, you’ve got money, you’ve got loyalty and put together you have an innovative way for cafes to build lasting relationships with their customers.”

Written by Kathryn Kernohan, Photos Meredith O’Shea
March 02, 2016


Branching out

The Australian motor industry has developed a niche producing other products. Here are some examples:

Bosch Australia
Known for manufacturing automotive parts and accessories, Bosch Australia is developing non-auto clean energy solutions in areas such as solar and diodes.

IXL Backwell
This Geelong company, established in 1858, received a federal grant to produce consumer lighting and solar frames for international markets.

A long-time supplier to Holden and Ford, CME has moved away from the automotive industry to concentrate on constructions, plastics and non-auto composites.