By: Jim Rosenberg
on schedule for 2000 start-up
Five years after the Post’s newsroom moved to a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper,
its pressroom will move even farther uptown, to a new plant in the South Bronx
When new presses roll in the new century at the new plant of the New York Post, all three of Gotham’s citywide dailies will be printed on color offset presses in modern plants.
Its old, offset-converted Midtown presses shipped to the Philippines, The New York Times now prints in the city’s borough of Queens and in Edison, N.J. The Daily News prints in a Jersey City waterfront plant just across the Hudson River.
So when Post printing moves from South Street to the South Bronx ? from a 72-year-old building on the East River that once housed Hearst’s Journal-American to a brand-new structure on a former train, bus, and impounded-auto yard near the Harlem River ? it also will mark the end of daily newspaper printing in Manhattan.
Like the Times and the News, however, the Post will keep its editorial and business offices in Manhattan. In fact, they moved several years ago to the Midtown headquarters of News Corp.’s other North American businesses ? among them, Fox (news and entertainment) and News America (printing and publishing), as well as the New York bureaus of Rupert Murdoch’s news outlets in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Also like its local daily competitors, the Post “did receive some incentives,” says the paper’s vice president and general manager, Richard R. Hawke. “But we made it clear from the start that we consider ourselves a New York newspaper, and our intention was to remain in the city.”
Still, Hawke concedes that “had we received an order-of-magnitude-better offer from somewhere else, we would have had to consider it.
“But we made it clear upfront that this was not a bidding war. If we could be made reasonably whole relative to what had been given to our competition ? and we asked for no more than anything that was granted to them, we didn’t ask for anything special ? then we fully wanted to stay in the city.”
Though he did “not want to comment on the specifics of what we received,” Hawke allows that “they were in no way” superior to the tax relief and/or energy incentives offered to or received by the Times and News.
Long in the works and announced last fall, the project will put the latest printing and packaging equipment into a 437,000-square-foot plant on a 16-acre parcel situated at one of the busiest places on the planet. Near a point of land at the confluence of the East and Harlem rivers, the former rail yards sit within sight of passenger and freight rail lines and a maze of local roads and highways radiating to the northern suburbs and across several bridges to the city’s other boroughs and to suburbs in Long Island and New Jersey.
While calling South Street “a good location now for distribution” and having equal regard for the rail yards “? in terms of being able to go in all directions,” Hawke says he thinks little will change with respect to operating schedules or deadlines. “In terms of delivery,” he says, “I don’t think it’s going to make much difference. It’s as good as, maybe slightly better than, what we have now, but not appreciably.”
Hawke does note, however, that the new “centrally located” site should not be subject to the sort of bottlenecks he says the competing Daily News can occasionally experience trying to get papers across the water to its main markets in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. In fairness, funneling traffic over bridges that join three boroughs can often be as slow as squeezing traffic through the tunnels and bridges that link the city to New Jersey.
More optimistic, Post production director David O’Neill calls it “a really, really good location for distribution purposes.”
The same might be said for deliveries. A two-track freight-rail spur will wind under a passenger-train bridge and around the back of the new building to deliver the newsprint. The newsprint warehouse and the mailroom will occupy opposite sides of the pressroom.
The site is subleased from Harlem River Yard Ventures, a Galesi company that holds a long-term lease to the state-owned property. Commercial property broker Insignia/ESG, which negotiated the lease for News Corp., has “been involved with our corporation in multiple locations, both on leases and purchases, over many years,” says Hawke.
After removing underground storage tanks and some asbestos from old pipes, “we received a clean bill of health from the Environmental Protection Agency,” says Michael Luciano, senior manager in McClier Corp.’s New York office.
Though News Corp. did not disclose its total investment in the project, Chicago-based McClier was awarded a $60-million design-build contract. The site’s poor soil conditions require that the structure be supported on a pile foundation.
Late last month, the piles were in, the pile caps and two press pads were poured, and much of the steel already was up on the main center section ? the 300-foot-long, 73-foot-high press hall ? of the new facility. The entire plant will measure approximately 500 feet by 450 feet.
“Steel started up May 3, and half the pressroom is framed already,” Luciano said late last month. As work progressed on the steel skeleton around 90 feet of open space between vertical supports, he remarked, “there’ll be no columns in the pressroom itself.” Within that 90-foot space, workers framed out the central space devoted to the quiet rooms as ground on either side of the press hall was being prepared for the paper storage and packaging areas.
Work at the site began last November, when a Metropolitan Transit Authority bus depot was razed. It should be completed by November of next year. Between then and now, “we’ll be ready to receive presses January 1, 2000,” says Luciano.
Those presses will come from Goss Graphic Systems, Westmont, Ill. Earlier, as a division of Rockwell International, it sold the offset presses used by The New York Times and the Daily News. Decades before, as the Goss Printing Press Co. and as a subsidiary of Miehle-Goss-Dexter, it supplied all three papers’ letterpresses. The four Headliner Mark II presses that print the Post date from the 1960s.
The new presses are to be arranged in two lines of two presses each, with space provided for the addition of a third press to each line.
“It’s going to be the same work force that’s relocated to the new plant,” says O’Neill. Training is to begin “immediately prior to the start-up of the new plant.” Starting sooner, he explains, runs the risk of staffers forgetting what they’ve learned by the time the equipment is operable.
“There’ll be a time when we’re running two plants simultaneously,” says O’Neill. One old letterpress line will be decommissioned as each new offset press is brought into production ? but only when the press crew is comfortable operating the new equipment, O’Neill emphasizes.
Based on his experience, O’Neill says he anticipates a 31/2- to 4-month transition to full operation at the new plant.
General manager Hawke says the offset presses will print the Post faster and provide better reproduction. Their color capacity, he says, “is predominantly for advertising,” though it will be available to the newsroom “when appropriate.”
For receiving newsprint, there is “room for 12 rail cars inside the building,” says O’Neill. The building also has four truck docks for newsprint and two more for other materials. Clamp trucks will transport the paper rolls to a five-high storage area with a one-month capacity of 4,200 rolls. (The Post also will make use of off-site storage at a nearby commercial paper warehouse.)
From the storage area to the reelroom, newsprint roll handling will be accomplished by equipment and software supplied by FMC Corp., Chalfont, Pa., in a contract that includes products from other manufacturers.
From a ready ramp, individual rolls will be released onto four-wheel, chain-driven cart or dolly to a Machine Design Services Inc. strip-assist station, which lifts a roll from the cart, weighs it, and reads the size, manufacturer, and other information from its bar code. The operator then removes the kraft wrapper, indexes the roll on a stripping device using a pedal, removes the end caps, and tapes down the edge of the newsprint.
MDSI also makes the systems that will collect used wraps and caps, printed waste, and certain other building waste.
At the strip-assist station, a roll will be lowered onto a second cart and carried to a turntable to correct the wind, if necessary. At the Von Roll semiautomatic paster station, the same operator feeds the sheet into the paster maker, which makes a straight-across cut rather than the traditional V-shaped paster pattern. Because the Post will use core-tension, core-braked reels, explains O’Neill, there are no belts to which the paster tape may stick ? allowing the simpler straight-across taping.
A third cart transfers the roll from the pre-paste station to a pick-up station serving one of FMC’s automated laser-guided vehicles.
The plant will have two roll-preparation areas, each with a stripping station and a pasting station, as well as a nearby laydown area to stage the rolls for parallel presses 1 and 3 at one end of the hall and presses 2 and 4 at the opposite end.
A dozen FMC vehicles will transport the rolls from laydown areas to auto-loaders at the press reelstands. Requiring no in-floor wire guides, FMC’s SGV2000 system lasers can “detect targets that are placed within the building,” says O’Neill. By locating two or three targets, a vehicle can calculate its precise position.
The system consists of the “self-guided vehicles” with laser scanners, a wireless local-area network for instruction and diagnostics, and management software to control the system. Another program assists in reconfiguring pathways and targets. The robots have on-board controls, safety bumpers, and electronic personnel detectors. Staffers also can control a vehicle using a joystick on a hand-held device.
A system with FMC’s new laser began operation last December at News Corp.’s plant in Perth, Australia; two others were sold to Scandinavian publishers. A few older-generation laser-guided AGV systems are in newspapers, and FMC has wire-guided (in-floor) systems running at The Washington Post and The New York Times’ plant in College Point, Queens.
Roll loaders are bi-directional, allowing each to load one reel-tension-paster to its left and another to its right. With a roll in place, the loader instructs the RTP to engage its chucks. When the roll is chucked in the reelstand, the loader lowers the lift that had supported the roll and returns to its original position.
“They will still need people in the reelroom to monitor the process, but they won’t need as many,” says O’Neill.
FMC also will supply the software for a newsprint inventory system and, with one exception, for controls of all roll-handling functions. “We’re going to let Von Roll control that themselves with PLCs,” says John Monahan, Post project manager at FMC. Von Roll’s programmable logic controllers will communicate with the FMC system.
The controls are responsible for more than operating the various equipment and recording operating data. For instance, the carts, which shuttle barely the distance of two roll widths, possess “encoders for accurately centering rolls,” which is especially important at the pasting station, says Monahan.
The newsprint inventory system will draw on the controls software to keep current on roll use. Signals from a reelstand arm will inform the system when a roll is consumed or provide the diameter of an unspent roll about to be returned to storage.
A newsprint-tracking front end (sold also to the New York Daily News and Chicago Sun-Times) that downloads electronic manifests from paper vendors will show what is coming, what has arrived (from bar codes read at stripping stations), and where date-stamped rolls were placed (from operator input).
The newsprint inventory and tracking system can generate reports ? for example, detailing roll use and performance by mill. Though the FMC software also can track web breaks (as it will for the Sun-Times), for the Post it will merely send the pertinent data to the Honeywell press control system, according to Monahan.
US Ink, East Rutherford, N.J., designed the plant’s ink-handling system (for which a contract was still pending late last month). Stored in bulk, ink will be piped to the press, with a recirculation loop for black ink and a deadhead pressurized system for color inks.
Goss will build the Post’s 10-web presses using the basic Newsliner design. Dubbed “Postliners” to distinguish them from the original design sold to the city’s other daily tab, the presses also will be distinguished by their use of Goss’ digital injector inkers and couple-shaftless drives that power, control, and synchronize individual printing couples.
Controls will be supplied by Honeywell-Measurex, Cupertino, Calif. The
drives will be made by the Indramat division of the Rexroth Corp., Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Other than O’Neill’s assurance of ample color capacity, the Post would not yet disclose the size of the presses ? the number of couples or color towers.
Though parallel, the two press lines will be staggered slightly so that their folders are not directly opposite each other. With the presses’ operating sides facing each other, the quiet room will be walled off between the two lines.
Prepress and post-press plans
The fully paginated Post now transmits pages from Midtown Manhattan to film imagesetters on South Street. “We’re 100% direct-to-film now,” says Barry Mechanic, Post technology and development vice president. For pages that are sent to the South Bronx plant, over T1 or fiber optic lines, “we’re heavily leaning toward computer to plate [CTP],” says Mechanic.
O’Neill, who puts the likelihood of adopting CTP output at about 90%, says his paper is considering plate-imaging systems from Western Lithotech and K&F Printing Systems, which differ in their optics and plate-type requirements. “But we’re looking at other vendors, too,” he says. “We should be in a position to make a decision by about August.”
The combination of the Post’s full pagination (RIP-ready files), move to offset (it will have to buy new platemaking equipment anyway), and need for more imagers (the greater volume that color creates) positions the paper well for a move into direct output of plates. Those circumstances, combined with difficulty in justifying the cost of a later conversion to CTP if the paper still has serviceable film imagesetters and conventional platemakers, make a good case for platesetting.
“That’s why ? 90% is probably a pretty good number,” says Mechanic, “because there’s just too many things working that say ‘do it now, or we’re not going to do it for 10 or 15 years.'”
Still, he allows that “anything could happen. We still have to look at the economics of the plate cost.”
With its pages assembled electronically and output to an imager located at a remote print site, the Post also is shopping for output-management software ? a system that can provide a real-time report on the production status/location of any and all pages to everyone from editors to press operators.
“I’m looking to ? find something that will automate the whole process,” says Mechanic. In contrast to current practice ? staffers telephoning others to inquire about pages ? he says his “major goal is to get something that can control each step of the process and then report back.”
Though the paper uses Monotype output equipment now and understands its capabilities, says Mechanic, it is not necessarily limiting its search to that vendor’s offering. At the same time, he notes that should the Post elect to output directly to plates, page-output reporting need not be supplied by the platesetter manufacturer.
As it happens, Mechanic reports that, for its own output-management system, Monotype is developing “a piece that will actually drive the Western Litho computer-to-plate machine. So under that circumstance, Monotype can offer the complete system,” in contrast to simply taking feedback from RIPs and imagers.
Pending decisions on type of output and type of equipment notwithstanding, Mechanic says of the management software: “We could wait a while; we won’t. Essentially, a contract for us is imminent.” Pieces of the system related to a specific imager, however, will not come until that equipment is chosen, he says.
Pieces will be implemented as they become available, Mechanic continues, because the Post can use the software now, not just for its new plant. Output management will be especially useful during the transitional phase, when the Post produces pages on different equipment at two sites.
Though the Post has some interesting plans for its packaging operations, it had not concluded all its equipment negotiations. (E&P will return to the Post later this year for a look at how it will process printed copies.)
Tie lines to be supplied by Miami-based Quipp Systems will consist of 12 model 400 stackers (two live and one back-up for each press), 24 bundle turners, 24 NS50 strappers and Viper bottomwrappers.
Bundles will pass either directly to MDSI extensible boom loaders at the 16 truck-loading positions or into an elevated Scorpion tray sortation system manufactured by Charlotte, N.C.-based Mantissa Corp. The controlled-tipping tray system will be installed by Plant Integration Associates, Port Chester, N.Y., and controlled by software from Carnegie Mellon Research Institute, Pittsburgh (see E&P, May 22).
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