Meet the SponsorBen Lawrie, Operations Manager, Image on Glass.
Published: 21st October 2020
Tucked away on the outskirts of the small market town of Crieff sits a small industrial unit that, from the outside, you’d never know is home to a business that’s been helping Scottish Gin brands make their vision a reality. Combining technology, experience and craft, chances are if you’ve bought a few Scottish Gins in the last ten years, you’ll have seen the work of John Henderson and his team at Image on Glass. With recent investment in new equipment providing a number of new processes that were impossible just a few years ago, Image on Glass have been a key supply chain partner to many of the world’s favourite Scottish Gin brands for close to two decades. As part of their ongoing growth and development, Image on Glass has recently appointed Ben Lawrie as Operations Manager and so we caught up with Ben to learn more about what the future holds for Image on Glass.
What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Ben Lawrie and I’m the Operations Manager at Image on Glass. I joined the company last year after spending around 15 years in Utilities and Business Improvement.
What exactly does Image on Glass do?
As our name suggests we decorate glass – typically bottles and glasses. Our main customer base is the drinks industry but we also provide decoration for a number of cosmetic and beauty products too. We have a really diverse customer base, from large well-established brands through to new products entering the market for the first time.
Our traditional method of glass decoration has been done with waterslide transfers, applied to each bottle by hand and then fired in one of our kiln ovens at up to 600c. It sounds fairly simple, but when I first joined I was amazed at how much skill is needed to get the print in exactly the right place every time. Most of our printers have been doing this for more than a decade though, so they make it look pretty easy!
As well as this, we’ve recently installed some of the latest equipment in direct digital printing – the first of its kind in the UK. It uses UV cured organic inks to print directly from digital artwork to glass, as well as aluminium, ceramics and even plastics. Its really flexible and gives us a new range of options for customers in terms of effects and finishes, as well as being environmentally friendly.
We enjoy working with customers of all sizes, and one of our main values is we don’t set Minimum Order Quantities or add extra costs for lower volume orders. I think this is important because it can help new brands get off the ground and grow with a premium looking product from the start.
Can you give us a brief history of the business?
The business was founded in 1997 by John Henderson who had spent many years working in the ceramics industry. The business grew by primarily serving Scottish whisky brands, but the growth of gin over recent years has really diversified the customer base. From relatively humble beginnings with John’s first order for 5,000 bottles, the business has grown to a point where our production capacity is now well in excess of 2m units per year.
Despite our growth over the years, I don’t think we’ve lost our small family run business mentality and values. We’ve been based in our current premises in Crieff in Perthshire since 1998, making us the local supplier of glass decoration for much of the Scottish whisky and gin producers.
What does it mean to be a sponsor of International Scottish Gin Day?
As a Scottish business ourselves, it’s great to see a whole new industry thriving on our doorstep and to see a celebration of so much hard work by so many people that have collectively made this happen. We’ve been lucky enough to work and build relationships with so many Scottish gin brands, so sponsoring International Scottish Gin Day feels like a natural way for us continue supporting our customers and the industry as a whole.
What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve ever worked on?
It’s so hard to choose, but I think for me it’s always exciting to help bring a new brand to life. I’ll often be the first one to see someone’s vision for their brand actually printed on the glass and being able to share that with them and see their reaction is such a great feeling.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Given all that’s happened in the last 12 months, that question seems more difficult to answer than normal!
That said, I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made this year in standing up the direct digital printing side of the business and establishing a new team to run it, despite everything 2020 has thrown at us. Looking forward, my main priority is to finish getting this fully bedded into BAU operations and then widen our offer here though increased capacity, and potentially some additional technology.
How will you be celebrating International Scottish Gin Day on Saturday 24th October?
From time to time we get sent a full bottle of gin rather than the empty ones we usually work with, so I’m starting to build up a rather nice collection! Sounds like a great excuse to crack a couple open.