Greenville’s Packaging Center Makes Room For Profit

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Greenville (S.C.) News is a busy place. In addition to press runs for its 92,731-circulation weekday and 127,218-circulation Sunday issues, the paper publishes the weekly Simpsonville Tribune-Times for distribution to 34,000 households in the market’s so-called “Golden Strip,” the monthlies Upstate Active Times for seniors and Upstate Parent, and other specialty publications. It also handles more than 90% of the preprints distributed in its market, amounting to some 250 million inserts annually.

But the main reason the Greenville News decided to build a new packaging center was not to add production capacity, Post-press Manager William C. Turner explained — it was for speed.

“We wanted to start later and finish earlier. We wanted to reduce our production window from five hours to three and a half,” Turner said during the recent Newspaper Association of America SuperConference.

In just six months, Turner said, the new center reduced the window to four hours. And by the second week in January, he told E&P, the paper was reaching its 31/2-hour goal every weeknight. A paper that once had an editorial deadline of 10:45 p.m. now clears the newsroom at 11:30 p.m. — and expects to extend that another 15 minutes. The daily, which Gannett Co. Inc. purchased in 1995, is also moving to the earlier 5:30 a.m. delivery time that, according to the chain’s research, has the best potential for increasing home-delivery circulation.

The packaging facility helped wring out inefficiencies in its post-press system, Turner said. For instance, the News now delivers a complete package to its carriers on weekdays, eliminating the partial section packages that deliverers completed at extra costs in time and compensation.

Inserts also move more swiftly at the packaging point. The center has three GMA SLS2000 inserters, one with 26 heads and two with 14 heads each. Quipp Inc. equipped most of the rest of the new packaging center. Its four gripper conveyors and six processing lines move product, with completes and other packages handled by a Quipp bundle-distribution system serviced by eight truck loaders and two cart loaders.

The packaging center, which opened in July, is only the third major construction project the 127-year-old paper has had since it moved to its current location in 1914. The building housing its editorial and business offices was opened in 1968. The News demolished its 14,000-square-feet mailroom to make room for the new packaging center, which sprawls 28,000 square feet. The facility increases the space for insert storage to 9,600 square feet from 2,600 square feet.

Even in a slowed market, the News has increased preprint volume while reducing its operational expenses, thanks in large part to the new packaging center, Turner said.

Greenville’s experience with increasing insert volume is not unusual, GMA’s director of sales, Hamed Seyedi, suggested at SuperConference. The number of freestanding inserts (FSIs) has been growing by an annual average of 3.7% the last few years, and even managed a 1.9% hike last year, he said. “Now, these numbers are not necessarily breathtaking,” Seyedi said, “but they show that, even in slow times, some products will hang in there or even grow. And FSI is one of these.”

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