Established in 1991 with only two staff members, Bottle Printers now operates a thriving plastics decoration plant in Midrand and a glass decoration factory in Bramley View, Johannesburg. Owners, Bruce and Kathleen Altria, have slowly but surely grown their family-run business to create an impressive industry niche using popular decoration techniques such as pad printing, silkscreening, foiling, sleeving and glass frosting.
The company’s strength lies not only in its comprehensive equipment repertoire, but in its pool of production and printing expertise. ‘The road to success has been steady, with just the odd pot-hole along the way,’ Bruce comments. ‘If it wasn’t for the determination of everyone involved and strong camaraderie, the company wouldn’t be what it is today. Longevity really has come about as a result of great service, a consistent product and just a little blood, sweat and tears,’ he proclaims.
From the outset, the team focused on establishing the business as a quality pad-printing specialist, building up a register of prominent local FMCG customers, especially in the cosmetics sector. ‘Things really gathered momentum in 1996, when we moved to our Midrand premises, but still with the emphasis on plastic bottle decoration,’ remarks Bruce. ‘Carlos Mendes joined the business as factory manager in 1998 and, in collaboration with production manager, Mike Giovannoni, was instrumental in launching our in-house screen-printing operation. With their combined 42-years’ knowledge of the packaging industry, Carlos and Mike have helped to steer operations to allow us to grow and flourish,’ Bruce continues. ‘In 2006, with plastics decoration well established, we took the next step towards expansion and purchased the Bramley View site. Working on the same principles, our glass decoration division is now making strong inroads in the cosmetics, fragrances, personal care and beverage sectors.’
Precision and expertise
The Midrand head office and factory is an impressive multi-level site with a staff complement of 80, operating a range of printing technologies.
In the main plant, a bank of one- to six-colour pad-printers, silkscreen machines and foiling stations hum with constant activity. Every print technique at Bottle Printers requires a special skill and employees take pride in their roles. It’s this, plus their depth of experience, that’s reflected in the way they carry out their duties.
‘We provide a very special print experience and pride ourselves on offering a variety of premium solutions,’ explains Bruce. ‘The onus is on giving customers well-educated advice, coupled with exceptional personal service. A collaboration of ideas with the customer and the factory is the easiest way to achieve the best results,’ he confirms.
Bottle Printers’ pad-printing technology is capable of handling curved, concave, recessed, oval or round bottles in various sizes. Pad printing remains as popular today as it was 20 years ago. It provides excellent edge definition and high-resolution decoration for cosmetics packaging and for smaller surfaces such as lipstick containers. It also allows for wet-on-wet multicolour printing (without intermediate drying) on non-absorbent surfaces.
The automated silkscreen units can print larger surfaces such as promotional sports bottles, one-litre chemical and industrial-type containers, and small dropper bottles. Rotary foiling is also carried out on-site, accomplishing anything from edging to lettering.
‘At each work section, we have an appointed “setter” who prepares each separate job,’ Carlos Mendes explains. ‘Not only does a setter ensure that products and print are correctly aligned, he or she also monitors operator progress and oversees every run from start to finish. This attention to detail minimises waste and maintains a consistent quality finish,’ Carlos adds.
Combining quality and service
Flexibility is critical to Bottle Printers’ ongoing success and at the Bramley View site a broad mix of glass decoration techniques is offered, complementing the company’s plastics decoration services. ‘Some customers require decoration on different substrates, so having two closely-linked businesses works exceptionally well,’ comments Bruce.
Home to 45 dedicated staff, the glass printing business produces decoration on various bottle types for cosmetics, personal care and beverage brands, as well as on general glassware and aerosol cans. ‘We print anything from a two-millilitre vial up to a one-litre glass bottle using either hard-wearing, scuff-resistant high stove (ceramic) inks or organic inks, depending on requirements,’ explains Sean Schlebusch, factory manager. ‘This is all completed on our pad-printing machines and silkscreen presses. Curing takes place in two ovens, situated in the heart of our production area.’
Bottle sleeving is also executed at Bramley View as well as specialised acid-etching. In line with environmental regulations, this department includes a designated post-processing scrubbing section to neutralise acids.
Standard and customised screens, pads and tooling are crafted in-house for both sites. QC testing, carried out by five qualified personnel at Midrand and two at Bramley View, is part of the daily routine and any deviations from specification are quickly detected and rectified.
The company has established recycling stations at both sites to minimise waste, an initiative that’s paying environmental dividends.
In all aspects, it’s a team effort at Bottle Printers with no obvious hierarchy. ‘We take a performance-related approach and everyone is capable of doing a little bit of everything,’ comments Bruce. ‘At each plant, we train a minimum of two people in each section to perform the same job, so if we have unforeseen staff shortages we can still operate as normal. It works well for us and most employees have been with us for several years. In fact, Elizabeth Mvundlela and Susan Seloane, two original employees, are still here today!’ Bruce declares proudly.
With a balanced combination of high-end packaging and premium service levels, it’s not surprising that the team at Bottle Printers continues to expand its network of leading multinational customers. ‘We’ve always tried to “stick to our knitting” and focus on giving customers the very best, in terms of service and product,’ Bruce maintains. ‘We work with proven technology that’s stood the test of time and, despite competition from various labelling and decorating technologies, I believe we present to our customers a distinct bottle decoration experience,’ he concludes.
T +27 011 4661390