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WHEN entrepreneur Barry Marks was devising a new kind of drinks vending system, he turned to Cranfield Electrical to assist with the wiring and harness requirements for his early MDF prototypes.
Eight years on, and after major research, development and investment, Barry's successful, ground-breaking beverage vending system business has floated on AIM.
And his In Cup Plus machines – still wired and now sub-assembled by Cranfield – can be found in offices and workplaces throughout the UK, including many blue-chip businesses.
His cleaner, greener drinks systems use a unique, innovative cartridge-based concept that requires virtually no cleaning and maintenance. They're a world away from the traditional vending machines still modelled on 1950s principles.
And thanks to the company's support of a Fairtrade products scheme with Save the Children, over 150 children now go to school in the villages where the coffee is produced.
“When you’re starting out, developing a product like this, some suppliers are reluctant to get involved because of the investment, in terms of time, to make what’s basically a one-off.
“I needed to find a company that really wanted to do it. Cranfield said ‘yes’ and were prepared to work with me over the long term, developing my initial, hand made prototypes into a finished product," recalled Barry, now CEO of In Cup Plus.
“It was a pretty complicated job. We had a big empty room and laid all the different cables on the floor to work through the design. Each one had to be stickered and numbered, then cut to length to make sure it all fitted inside the machine.
Those first wiring harnesses have since been modified and refined and many hundreds of sets have now been manufactured by Cranfield, which also sub-assembles electro-magnetic coils for the In Cup Plus vending system.
“Cranfield has the expertise and the necessary equipment to do a much better, faster job than we could. So it made sense to contract out the dispense coil assembly to them.
“We simply take delivery of the finished components which take just seconds to fit – no gluing, recrimping, nothing.
And that leaves Barry and his team at In Cup Plus with more time to devote to product development, sales … and looking after their growing customer base.
In Cup Plus CEO Barry Marks says sub-contracting coil assembly to Cranfield reduces manufacturing time.