Production: One Print Facility Details its Recent Press Expansion

recent press expansion
Hi-Desert Publishing in Yucca Valley, Calif. recently installed the addition of a Ventura four-high tower and associated roll stand and upgrades.

Many years ago newspaper presses were just that—newspaper presses. There wasn’t a lot of commercial printing on our presses because you simply didn’t put the effort into growing commercial when things were doing so well with advertising revenue. It was a different world and many within our industry feel we were shortsighted and/or in denial. Then, declining ROP and classifieds left newspapers looking for other revenue streams, and little by little newspaper presses were filled with outside commercial web work. This shift brought with it a need for additional page and color capacity as customer demands grew and competition grew more intense.

In a time that many newspapers are cutting back and reducing both staff and operations, our print facility in California has developed new relationships, brought on new print customers, and expanded our operation requiring new hardware and additional staff.

We have grown to a point that our valued customers, who have grown right along with us, are expanding and requiring additional capacity from our facility. This, coupled with our continued growth, has led us to our most recent press expansion, the addition of a Ventura four-high tower and associated roll stand and upgrades.

The focus of this article will be on the process side of pre-planning, organization and execution of the installation, detailing the production side of the operation, but keeping in mind what creates the need (i.e. revenue growth, retaining customers, base growth potential, quality improvements, operational efficiencies and waste savings, etc.)



The first stage is organizing your thoughts and developing a checklist.

Put together a list of considerations that you might need to complete your project; I say considerations because you probably won’t need them all, but part of the organization is making sure you’ve considered everything and not being caught off guard when the installation begins.

Some of the things we considered were:

Pressroom/building modifications: Demolition and preparation of the existing area; often a press expansion requires additional floor space. Taking measurements and knocking out walls, rearranging fixtures and/or offices must be considered. When looking at this, you must consider if it’s a project you can handle in-house, or if you need to bring in outside help (as I did) to rework electric, plumbing, HVAC, etc. Getting with these vendors early on well before the actual moving of press equipment is essential. You don’t want to find out that you need to move a wall after the installation has begun.

Press pad poured and cured: If applicable, pouring cement in advance can be beneficial; giving it time to cure and stabilize before the final installation.

Power supplies, disconnects and preliminary press connections installed: Get together with your vendor, electrician, drive vendor and determine what is required. Arrange for all the work you can before the installation crew is on-site. It isn’t always possible to complete all electrical work prior to the installation and often requires units to be in position.

Plumbing, compressor and preliminary main to press installed: I recommend a review with your vendor as well as setting up a visit from your local plumber before the installation to review requirements and order materials.

Ink pumps in position and ready to plumb after install is complete: If you have ink lines plumbed into other units you can tap off of these lines. Scooping ink into the fountains will get old fast.

Light fixtures on-site to be positioned after the installation is complete: If you don’t have fixtures mounted in between units now, while the electrician is there is the time to get that done. We were fortunate to have fixtures mounted, but we took the opportunity to clean and relamp all fixtures providing a tremendous difference in brightness throughout the pressroom.

Pressroom access to the street and dock levels: It’s important to map this out in advance. Be sure that you have street and parking lot access clear to receive the tractor trailer carrying units on the day of delivery. Review the path to the pressroom and remove any blockage. We store waste bales right along the path and had to arrange pick-up for the day before. While this may seem like a small detail it can become a huge problem if not taken care of in advance.

Arrange a forklift rental capable of handling up to 15,000 pounds or more, depending on what units you are installing. Rent a propane lift with 72-inch forks for indoor use. A word of caution, check door heights and widths before you rent. A mistake can cost you valuable time and make you look pretty stupid, as it did me! The forklift I ordered was perfect, with one exception—the mast was five inches taller than our highest entrance door. It was one of those things I simply never considered.

Arrange rental of a small forklift (if you don’t have one already). A 5,000-pound forklift with standard forks (42 to 48 inches) will be required for moves in tight places throughout the installation.


Construction tools, materials and supplies

Outfit your crew with basic mechanical tools: wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, etc.

Electric jack hammer with chisel/point: You’ll need to rent this for breaking out (moving) old units. Depending on your project, consider the need this or not. For us, it ended up being another of those opportunities outside the scope of the regular installation. We had a buildup of old cement under our folder from the original press installation that restricted the size of the web we could run under the folder. We used the jack hammer during the installation to chip out the excess cement allowing a wider web path through the area.

Roto hammer with bits: Something else to consider renting. Our vendor brought their own which we were aware of before the install.

Saw, extension cords, hammer, screws, etc. for forms: Another one of those small things you might not think of if you didn’t write a list.

Wood or hard foam insulation for forms.

Silicone for forms: Another thing you may consider small. This tripped us up at a critical point of the install when the tubes we purchased were so old they were dry in the tubes and wouldn’t flow.

Concrete mixer, concrete vibrator, hoe, large wheel barrow, water hose and buckets.

Redi-mix cement: Order redi-mix with rocks no larger than three-eighth of an inch so that it will set right and provide adequate footings for the units. Get with your vendor to determine how much you’ll need. You can always return the excess, but it’s another time stopper if you come up short.


Start-up preparations

Determine what you have in stock verses what you might need. Order things early and store them in one specific area, earmarked for the project. Make a detailed list and work through it with your vendor and inside staff.

Some suggestions are: Blanket/3-ply compressible; packing (various thicknesses/paper and mylar); plates for testing—we prepared a grid plate with registration points; ink; blanket wash; fountain solution; sock material; blanket fix; spray adhesive; ink knives; splicer tape; grease and gun; and gear oil.

Preparation is key and can make or break the entire installation.


Financial tracking

Part of any major project is tracking capital expense and operational costs. Before you spend one dollar, develop a spreadsheet detailing dates, vendors, items/materials, costs, etc. Get together with your business office and determine what expenses can be applied to capital verses operational expense so that you can accurately track costs. See Figure One for our example.

Different companies, state guidelines and tax laws can become confusing; it’s best to rely on the experts in your business or corporate office for guidance and direction.

If you use purchase orders in your operation, be certain to slug all POs appropriately so that the business office is aware and can apply costs properly.


Scheduling in-house labor

Most press installations require in-house labor working alongside the professional vendor crew. While this is going to cost a bit of overtime, it’s a fantastic opportunity for your press crew to learn. Running a press is a lot different than installing a press and your crew can learn throughout the installation. My crews were eager to work side-by-side with the vendor crew and were like sponges absorbing information and learning from the pros throughout the entire process.

We had a limited time (four days) to complete the install. Every day down can mean lost revenue, so both the vendor and I were eager to complete the project as quickly as possible. I was careful not to work my folks to the point of burnout and scheduled short shifts in order to keep them fresh.

See Figure Two for a copy of our schedule for the install.


Coordinating the shutdown with customers

Depending on the length of your project, managing customer expectations can be challenging. Some installations require the entire press to be shut down (ours did), while others require only sections to be “clutched-out” allowing you to continue printing on available units. If you have any part of your press up and running, you can discuss with customers running multiple smaller sections. If you have to shut down the entire press, it becomes much more complicated.

We shut down from Thursday night through Tuesday morning. It was challenging working with customers to get copy in early, allowing us to run commercial work prior to the shutdown.

As always, communication is the key. We made sure our personnel understood what the shutdown would mean to them, how the additional hours of work would affect their home lives, and we sent a letter to all customers who might be affected by the shutdown. I personally spoke to any commercial customer who would be directly affected, explaining how the shutdown might impact their publication deadline and detailing the benefits to them that will come out of the project. Additional color positions, page availability, improved quality and registration went a long way to convince them that we were providing them with benefits as well.



With excellent pre-planning, a fantastic vendor to work with, great installation crew, eager and hard-working internal personnel, I was not surprised how smooth our project went. However, I was not foolish enough to believe we wouldn’t have an issue or two to work out in the end.

When the install is complete, sit down with the vendor and develop a detailed “hit list” outlining unresolved/outstanding issues, review results of tests ran on the equipment, and determine what the next stage is. How will these issues be addressed? When, and who, will be responsible for each?

Our conclusion: You can avoid 99 percent of all problems through proper planning, managing expectations, and communicating with your vendors, customers and staff clearly.

I’ve personally been through several press expansions and it’s never been easy, but it sure has been fun. I welcome anyone considering a press expansion to contact me for a much more detailed and complex review of our recent installation.

Jerry Simpkins is the general manager at Hi-Desert Publishing in Yucca Valley, Calif. Contact him on or at

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One thought on “Production: One Print Facility Details its Recent Press Expansion

  • January 20, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Nice to know that some newspaper printers have found a way to thrive in the new world order. I was one of the last employees at A.F.L, Web Printing, a New Jersey newspaper printer that died at the end of 2012. Not a pleasant experience.


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