Frank Green: the green way

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi


Australian reusable cup business Frank Green is calling on the government to support local manufacturing businesses

Frank Green: the green way
Straight forward and sustainable – that’s the meaning behind Benjamin Young’s business

 

Serious about reducing waste, former transport and logistics operator and founder and CEO of Frank Green, Benjamin Young, wants to manufacture his stainless steel products in Australia but says it’s hard without the government’s support.

Frank Green’s reusable plastic products are made by former automotive manufacturer Socobell, which was forced to switch up its business after Toyota ceased its local manufacturing operations two years ago.

Born and bred in Melbourne, Frank Green’s plastic parts are made in Altona North.

The fast-growing $20 million company was established five years ago and has expanded into the US, UK and Hong Kong.

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The business develops stylish and functional products – up to four million a year.

However, the cup’s vacuum-sealed stainless steel body is assembled internationally.

Young hopes to keep as many jobs in Australia as possible while the company expands, saying he wants to see the entire supply chain here.

"We don’t manufacture our stainless steel product because we can’t do that in Australia but I’m working with the industry and government and it has been a long tedious process to try and bring that back to Australia, particularly with stainless steel and triple-walled construction with ceramic lining," Young says.

"We’re now able to give them a very big chunk of work; it’s not like we’re a start-up anymore, we’re saying ‘hey come with us, here’s a big parcel of work – millions of stainless steel products a year’.

"Manufacturing plastic has been easy because we’ve got an amazing partner, they’ve been able to apply all that clever technology and the know-how and can-do Aussie spirit into our products," he adds.

"Socobell is Australia’s largest injection moulding manufacturer and they’ve never done a bottle like ours before.

"They’ve been able to grow with us to a point now that one of their factories is all Frank Green as we develop around the world."

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Young has been working with the government to help bring more manufacturing into Australia but it’s a continuing process, he explains.

"I’m frustrated – absolutely, because being able to bring, say, 100 engineering jobs back into Australia where they’ve already let them go somewhere else, we think that’s a great opportunity for the country.

"We’d like to think that the motivation of doing that is also hopefully going to inspire other people that they can do the same as well."

RIGHT FIT

Young spent three years researching the market before starting the business.

He’s become successful doing what he does best – focusing on marketing and sales while manufacturing partners handle production.

His cups and reusable bottles have in-built payment capabilities using Visa payWave so consumers can pay wherever Visa prepaid contactless cards are accepted.

The product is curved to fit comfortably in hand. Made of premium, safe materials, it’s recyclable at end of life.

A caffeine enthusiast, Young says his cups are specifically designed to fit under espresso machines – something common reusable cups such as thermos mugs struggle with.

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He’s been working with his first partner and coffee roaster, St Ali, since 2014.

"We’ve got a real proud partnership with St Ali. They were one of the first cafes to support us and their idea around making a better planet so we’ve continued to innovate with them where we’re coming up with different ideas and different ways of manufacturing and creating a special customer experience for our customers," Young says.

St Ali retail operations manager Lauchlan Ward says the company was looking for a reusable cup that was well-designed and barista-approved.

"The baristas have had a lot of objection to working with a lot of these cups previously," Ward says.

"This is well-designed and in the right shape.

"The second thing was because they’re an Australian-based company – we try to work with, from all levels – whether it be the guys we get the milk from to where we get our coffee from, our producers and suppliers, really closely.

"Those sorts of things are really important to us in our business, so when Ben approached us for using this cup it was a really natural fit," he adds.

SUCCESS

Young says his business wouldn’t be as successful if he hadn’t manufactured in Australia.

"The engineering, the material selection and tooling – yes we have travelled around the world but we’ve looked at other manufacturing processes in different countries and I just think in terms of getting to market and getting a quality product out on a daily basis is fundamental to us to be Australia-made," he says.

His vision is to stop the manufacturing and use of single-use products around the world.

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"At the start we had big plans and big ideas but we realised we couldn’t do that overnight so we’ve started on a journey, making sure we tick all the boxes from a consumer perspective. We’ve started around the design angles, making sure we had all the curves in the right places – the functionality of our product was there.

"After three long years we then started into the manufacturing side of things, doing that all here, which we’re really proud of," he adds.

"With clever people we can do anything, so understanding that the challenge was massive in putting technology into product, which had never been done before, and building partnerships with manufacturers like Socobell has paid dividend to us because we can have an idea and quite quickly we can put that into practice. It’s that speed to market [that’s a benefit], making sure that what we produce for our consumers meets their needs and is done in a really high quality fashion."

LOGISTICS

Frank Green delivers up to 1,000 products within Australia each day through TNT Express and Australia Post.

The Socobell warehouse is 100,000 square-metres in size and uses inventory and order management system TradeGecko.

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"That’s a new system for us – we get visibility around certain paths of our warehouse and different pick locations but then also stock that’s in transit from manufacturers and also our other warehouses internationally as well," Young says.

Changing our habits beyond reusable cups has taken some time and that’s the reason Young has made a lid that doesn’t leak.

"There was literally 100 things we had to do before we started the business; we had to have a lid that was dishwasher safe," he adds.

"It feels good seeing all these professionals in the CBD carrying the cups – the fact that they’re doing it and have parted with their hard-earned money to support the environment, is great.

"That’s how we market our product and we engage them and respect them as consumers –
that’s the bit we’re super proud of."

RECYCLING OR SORTING?

Young draws inspiration from watching the ABC’s ‘War on Waste’ program, which highlights the significant impact that single use coffee cups contribute to global landfill.

He believes recycling should be called sorting.


A look at fashion brand The Iconic's warehousing processes, here


 

"We don’t make anything out of that recycling – it just goes to landfill," Young says.

"We should call it sorting because that’s what we do, we sort it and put it back on the truck and send it to landfill.

"I was trained to understand what the market problem was and I went to research what [coffeehouse chain] Starbucks was doing in different movements and then seeing the knowledge that people were getting about the single-use products, which started with plastic bags," he adds.

"You could see businesses and communities around the world starting to think about banning single use cups, too, and people understanding that we don’t recycle things these days because the economics of recycling don’t stack up."

TRANSPORT ROOTS

Young’s career began in transport and logistics in 1999.

The 45-year-old says the experience at Mayne Group is the foundation behind his success.

"I see my experience in transport as a great grounding for me. Transport is a really tough business; the margins are slim, there are a lot of safety concerns to look at in terms of hours, operation and the things you need to learn [about] getting from one thing to another.

"All those things are what my business is and that’s what’s set me up.

"When we have so many different problems, you just have to deal with it through [using our] logistics experience and understanding
how freight goes out and pick up times, delivery cycles and prices, and what we do around picking parts in warehouses so people don’t have to travel too far to pick out product.

"Logistics is the foundation of so many businesses and I would always say to somebody if you have a choice to go into a logistics business earlier in your career do it because it’s tough but fair and you learn so many things that can be applied to other industries if you
try and do that in the future."

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TAKE ON THE WORLD

The best part of last year was spent designing a cup for the launch into the US, Young explains.

Different to Australian consumers, Americans are predominantly interested in a stainless steel product.

"In LA, people don’t drink as many hot, smaller coffees as we do, they drink ice coffees or black coffee, so out of that we had to create a lid that’s totally universal for our products," Young says.

"We designed more products in different ranges and bigger bottles. We’ve adjusted what we do to suit that market."

The Asian market is the same, with stainless steal the best fit for hot tea, he adds.

SOCOBELL

For over 40 years, Socobell has worked with industry leaders in the automotive, medical, electrical and communications fields.

Using 3D printing or computer numerical control (CNC) machines, Socobell delivers a complete tooling and production system package.

Operating with a fleet of over 100 injection moulding machines, Socobell is one of the country’s largest moulding operations.

Fully Australian-owned, it meets global best practice standards in all facets of operation.

HONEST APPROACH

Wanting a business name that had the values of the business, Young says the company is all about business dealings and how the 100 staff conduct themselves.

"Frank means straight forward and honest and we’re all about business dealings and how we conduct ourselves, both in business and externally," Young says.

"Then Green means sustainable – and that’s what we’re trying to do.

"There’s a second part of Green that I really like and that is do something green, be green at it.

"If you put your effort into it you’re probably going to be amazing at it. That’s the empowering side that we can be better and make changes if we try."

 

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