By: Jim Rosenberg
Looking for work after his Navy discharge in 1984, former missile systems specialist William King took a job in North Carolina as a press apprentice. Soon after starting, the Mt. Olive Tribune’s press broke down, and he fixed its Fincor drive. In 1989 he moved to the weekly Smithfield (N.C.) Herald. The Daniels family, owners of the Raleigh News & Observer, published both papers.
A year later, the McClatchy Co. bought the Daniels’ South Carolina newspapers, marking the start of the West Coast group’s transformation into the nation’s third-largest newspaper chain. It also spelled changes for King, who in the meantime had risen to production manager in Smithfield.
In 1995, McClatchy bought the N&O and its affiliated weeklies. Before the decade was over, King’s family was moving to California, where for three years he served as The Fresno Bee pressroom manager. It was “very productive,” he says, a “big move in my career.” Fresno was the group’s “farm team,” from which many would move up in McClatchy. According to King, his time there prepared him for a big project he would soon manage.
In 2002 King was asked to join The Island Packet in Hilton Head, S.C. He moved back east, and two years later that big project was approved. A new plant in nearby Bluffton would produce the Packet and its nearby sister paper, The Beaufort Gazette. In defining the scope, selecting equipment, and coordinating “a seamless transition from one platform and plant to the other,” says Publisher Sara Johnson Borton, King “owned the project.”
From his first problem press drive to the management of people and projects, King credits Navy training for his successes. He says troubleshooting skills he learned in the military apply not only to electrical or mechanical difficulties, but also to most other aspects of production management. “I would definitely hire someone with a military background in a heartbeat,” he adds, explaining that troubleshooting is taught so well, and in a manner that is widely applicable and especially valuable in a deadline-driven business. In fact, his most recent hire arrived with Marine Corps experience in electrical control systems on F/A-18 jets.
A look at the Packet and Gazette tells part of the story. Some numbers tell much of the rest: one minor injury under King’s ongoing safety training and reward programs; 4% less waste on a 1968 press and ahead of manufacturer’s projections on the new press; closing in on 20% lower costs for 2007; hour-later news deadlines and hour-earlier newspaper deliveries. And King’s 100% faith in his crew, adds Borton, accounts for no turnover during the move to a more distant and technically challenging plant.
Continued growth and learning opportunities count on “the positive side of the business” for King.
A chief frustration: “continued loss of control” of products to be inserted, where one bad insert can slow the entire process. Designed only to appeal to retailers, he says, an insert often shows no thought was given to “how this thing is going to be put into the newspaper.”
KBA’s first 1-by-4 Prisma press is the centerpiece of the roomier new plant, which also has a CTP workflow and new mailroom and distribution systems. Copies from both folders head to dual stack-down positions. Inserting is strictly offline, with double-out capability and mid-out conveyor. Sticky-note applicators are on off-press and inserter conveyors.
By fall, Muller Martini’s SAM system will upload business and advertising data to mailroom machines.
For those now coming into production management, says King, the biggest challenge will be figuring out “a better way to justify the expense” of new equipment. “The goal is to spec new press equipment with the capability of producing outside work to create new sources of revenue, while at the same time using these new tools to enhance our existing newspaper products,” he adds. “We can offer more options internally to our editorial and advertising departments with this new equipment.”