A new spin on an old concept


Australian Turntable Company is in demand all over the world in its niche: designing, engineering, assembling and maintaining platforms that spin. Brent Balinski speaks to Managing Director Ben Chapman about the regional Victorian company’s story, and the imminent launch of its very first first business-to-consumer product.

It was the middle-aughts. Then as now, Iran’s military plans were a source of suspicion for the United States.

A team from a Bendigo-based manufacturing company, however, was in Tehran to enable the world’s largest revolving restaurant (pictured below.) Regardless of location, if it spins, then Australian Turntable Company is probably able to help out.

Their work isn’t always noticed, but at the time it earned the curiosity of some of the most powerful people in the world.

“We had to write a letter to [then US Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice and say, ‘Listen, this is not a missile launching pad… It’s got nothing to do with the military. It’s just a simple restaurant that spins around,” recalls ATC’s Managing Director Ben Chapman when asked about a favourite left-of-centre project.

“Why was an Australian manufacturer providing product to Iran? They were watching it very closely.”

Chapman is the third generation involved in the family-owned business, which manufactures specialised rotating platforms for all kinds of jobs. Revolving restaurants are a small but interesting part of their story, with installations in Las Vegas, Tanzania, Iraq and elsewhere. 

There are also trainyards, theatres and tunnels that have been made better, safer use of their space thanks to ATC’s ingenuity.

It all began, as many businesses do, with a very specific problem.

The rotating restaurant in Tehran’s Milad Tower (supplied)

Ben’s grandfather Gordon Chapman was “about 83, 84 at that time” and becoming less confident about reversing out of his steep driveway at Colac, Victoria.

The old man had an idea to make the task safer, which his son Ben (the other half of engineering business Gordon Chapman and Son) built.

The concept was given to Gordon’s son (and Ben’s father) Paul, who owned and ran the Colbinabbin Hotel near Bendigo at the time with wife Annette. 

After three years of research and development, the company was established in 1990, initially hiring out its solutions to motor shows.

Chapman says that though ATC no longer operates in that market, the first client base provided an excellent foundation for designing a product that was easy to install, uninstall and transport, as well as robust and modular.

After a while the team realised that whatever the customer, they were selling three main benefits to them: safety — by doing away with the need to reverse or do multi-point turns in confined spaces — as well as productivity, and a space saving.

Chapman estimates that sales today are about 35 per cent to customers with trucks, about 15 per cent custom jobs, and about half related to cars, with about 250 – 300 driveway units sold in Australia each year.

The latter has led to a new residential product, Spinsy, currently in its soft launch phase.

Instead of excavation and other complications for the owner, Spinsy sits on the surface of the driveway or garage floor, can be up and running in a day, and — “if you’ve got some skills with tools” — can be a DIY project.

“We’ve implemented a robot welder for that, because we think the volumes are going to be substantial and it lends itself to the robotic manufacturing,” Chapman explains. 

“That’s really… our first foray into a b-to-c- model, which we’re looking forward to.”

Spinsy was the product of about five years’ R&D, with challenges including making it slimline, reliable, able to carry three tonnes, accommodate differing degrees of flatness from concrete slabs, and handle dirt and debris.

Chapman estimates a launch “within two months” when we speak to him in early-April.

As for the company’s approach to innovation, he explains it as tightly linked to continuous improvement, and part of everybody’s role. 

“I think innovation is a necessary aspect to every business; it doesn’t matter what business you’re in… And it’s not even about growth; it doesn’t even have to be about growth, because growth’s not the most important thing in the world,” says Chapman. 

“But to stay relevant you need to be looking for ways to improve all the time. And that’s really what we bring into our business, is look for ways to improve… Everybody within the business needs to be looking for ways to innovate and improve.” 

In this episode of @AuManufacturing Conversations, Chapman tells us about recent expansion into the US and India, implementing a kanban system and other improvements in anticipation of demand for the new consumer offering, the sense of responsibility attached to running a respected, family-owned business, and more.

Episode guide

1:01 — started work at ATC as soon as he finished school. The business started when he was about 13 or 14.

2:15 – An introduction to the company and what it does.

3:25 – Once they understood what they did, it opened up more opportunities.

4:16 – Where their turntables might be seen.

5:28 – The origin story.

7:02 – Getting started in the Yellow Pages era.

8:10 – Early work as a hire business serving motor shows, and why that industry was a great starting place.

10:15 – Growing up within the family business, doing many different roles, and learning on the job.

12:29 – Succeeding as leader from his dad.

13:38 – Being aware of the respect the company has built up as a niche manufacturer.

14:45 – Family members working in the business.

15:48 – Favourite project ever? The world’s largest revolving restaurant, in Iran. It wasn’t without drama, though…

18:50 – Custom  vs off-the-shelf jobs

20:55 – The Spinsy product. How it was developed, the challenges to do with this, and why they decided to make their first B-to-C product.

24:40 – expanding into the US and India and why these markets were appealing.

25:50 – “The company that we want to be is one that’s global and it’s supplying the world’s best turntables across the globe.”

26:40 – On innovation and its importance.

28:25 – The challenge of being an internationally-oriented business, based in a regional city, requiring a skilled workforce.

Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers is an annual campaign by @AuManufacturing. It was been made possible in 2024 through the generous support of MYOBCSIRO, the NSW government’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility, and the Commonwealth Bank. Interested in sponsoring 2025’s 50 Most Innovative? Write [email protected]

Main picture: supplied




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