Having started up a coffee machine supply company importing the Visacrem range in 1962, Frank Maxwell found himself becoming increasingly frustrated with the Spanish firm’s 6 week summer shutdown. Being a highly qualified engineer in his own right, he felt he could make beverage machines himself and so the Fracino brand was born in 1990.
Now headed up by Frank’s son Adrian, a Rolls-Royce Aerospace alumni himself, Fracino operates from its factory and headquarters in Birmingham. Peter Atmore, head of sales and marketing, explained Fracino’s ideology: “The engineering ethos of the company means it has developed to bring as much in house as possible, right from the design concept stage through to full manufacturing.
“This manages quality control and enables us to produce components that improve the design and functionality of our equipment and which externally would be an inefficient line of supply and expensive to produce.”
Fracino also focuses on sustainability throughout its whole production process, as Atmore detailed: “This was a conscious decision from the start, as we are a Birmingham-based company and much manufacturing still exists in this area. Therefore components we weren’t able to make externally can be sourced locally, ensuring we have a small carbon footprint. We only ever source components from Europe, not the Far East.” This philosophy extends to all manufacturing equipment that Fracino purchases.
Furthermore, any waste from the production process is recycled, including brass, stainless steel and cutting oils. The company even generates its own oxygen for use in some of the cutting process, as well as installing solar panels on the roof to generate around 20% of required electricity. “Although the equipment can be running overnight, the minimal electricity we use in that period means we can actually be a net contributor back into the grid,” revealed Atmore.
The whole product development and production process is designed to be as efficient as possible, which is aimed at Fracino keeping costs as low as possible, managing resources and maintaining stock supply on a just in time basis. Currently the firm can manufacture between 450 and 500 machines per month, and thanks to an extra production line installed this spring, that represents a 25% increase on previous output.
“Business has increased in double digits consistently for the last 3-4 years, which was putting pressure on the existing production facilities,” said Atmore. “We were getting to a stage where we were working pretty much hand to mouth. But then a company we produced some sub-assembly work for converted us into a tier 1 category supplier and we became part of their OEM production process.
“This meant that the volumes from this customer increased substantially, necessitating this need to change our production facility, increase the parts storage area by 5,000ft2 and hire additional personnel to get parts from storage to the production line much more quickly. We have doubled the size of the spare parts department and we have the capacity to use the height in the existing factory structure, which will ultimately allow us to quadruple our spares stock.”
Recent investments made include a new £1.2m robot laser welder and a £750,000 robot lathe. “These give us the scope to maintain quality while we expand further as sales continue to grow,” commented Atmore.
This growth will be particularly focused on the export market, as Fracino is in the process of appointing a Chinese distributor, with India to shortly follow behind that. According to Atmore: “The uncertainty in Europe over Brexit and the potential unease of those relationships have driven the approach to markets further afield. These are countries Britain has good trading relationships with and that understand the quality that ‘made in Britain’ represents.”
Additionally, £250,000 has been ploughed into a new onsite showroom. “It’s significantly increased the number of machines we can have on display and allows us to show our new special finish machines as well. We have also incorporated a fully working coffee bar in there so that customers can see and use the machine in a working environment,” reported Atmore.
Fracino works with dealers across the country and Atmore believes that they benefit from competitively priced equipment that is good value. “Our prices increased 5% this year, but this is the first rise since 2012. We have been able to maintain it since then through diligently controlled management of costs, purchasing, procurement and investment in the production equipment which improves quality at the same time.”
He feels that the manufacturer supplies an all-round provision for dealers. “We are able to offer a complete service and support package throughout – we have our own service engineers and workshop facilities so that we can carry out installations and repairs.”
Distributors with after-sales support teams can also utilise Fracino’s in-house training, which allows engineers to learn how to install and service the coffee machines. “Dealers can rely on us for the whole service package; we are simply there as a full facility provider for them. They can pass the order to us and we do the whole of the rest of the process for them.”
In terms of Fracino’s most popular models, the budget end of the range has seen the most growth. “Operators were looking to cut costs of development and set up as much as possible,” said Atmore. “But of late we have seen an investment in more of the upmarket models in the range, as style and design presentation features more in the design and refurbishment programme of restaurants. Clearly the coffee machine is becoming a fundamental part of the design theme.”
The manufacturer’s special finish machines, utilising copper and brass panels, should cater for this demand. These models were on show at the company’s Host show stand in Milan, set to be its biggest to date. “LED lighting incorporated into the workstation areas is also becoming popular, so we showcased some new ideas on that,” Atmore added.
He pointed to the premium end of the market wanting to have complete control over the whole of the coffee production process. “The equipment needs to be able to keep up with that new-found knowledge,” he commented. “The research and development that we are doing, in conjunction with a network of professional baristas, will provide equipment that gives them that level of control.”
Looking ahead, he surmised: “We will continue to develop the equipment to be cost effective, improve reliability – which is already at a very high level because of the research and development that we have carried out over the last 30 years. But we don’t stand still; we are always developing and investing in improvements and in the latest manufacturing technology to improve the quality of equipment. We will never move backwards into cost cutting processes or materials used.”