UPDATED: Transcontinental’s Triplewide from MAN Roland Will Print ‘SF Chron’

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By: Mark Fitzgerald and Jim Rosenberg

Montreal-based Transcontinental Printing announced on the Nexpo show floor Saturday afternoon that it is selecting MAN Roland to build the presses for its first U.S. outsourcing job — printing the San Francisco Chronicle, beginning in 2009 under a 15-year contract.

“We were looking for a total and complete package, someone who would help us in bringing in other suppliers with them,” Pierre Manseau, Transcontinental’s director of infrastructure and production technology for North American development and US operations, said in a news briefing at MAN Roland’s booth.

Transcontinental, which prints 75 of its own and others’ dailies and weeklies at its Canadian plants, including The Globe and Mail and, in Montreal, La Presse (as well as The New York Times for distribution in Canada and upstate New York), is buying three Colorman XXL presses for its first newspaper facility in the United States – the location of which it will not yet disclose.

In addition to being Transcontinental’s first supplier decision for its first U.S. job, the presses will be only the second 6 X 2 blanket-to-blanket newspaper presses in North America. The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va., will install a 6 X 2 version of Goss International’s new FPS press next year, with production to begin in 2009.

Each shaftless press will be configured with three eight-couple towers fed by four MAN Roland CD-15 XXL reelstands and operated from two Pecom control consoles. Each press will be capable of producing 36 broadsheet pages in full process color, or 48 broadsheet pages with 24 in full color.

In addition to Pecom controls, the couple-shaftless automated presses will feature Autoload 2.1reel loading, Websys automatic web lead-in system, Tecosys web-tension control, cut-off control, color-register and ink-density controls.

Plate changing will be accelerated thanks to PPL — MAN Roland’s power plate-loading system.

The printnet solution for production planning and tracking will be “an integral part of the project,” said Newspaper Sales Vice President Ron Sams.

Supplied by MAN Roland’s ppi Media US Inc., printnet was “one of the factors that helped seal the deal,” ppi CEO Markus Feldenkirchen remarked. Through cross-site and cross-department integration, among other features, printnet “networks and automates the newspaper manufacturing process from end to end,” Feldenkirchen added.

The system encompasses workflow integration, print services (including process analysis, training, financing, and maintenance), a printcom component for various consumables and measurement devices, and printconsult, which covers investment planning, plant design, process optimization and other aids.

The presses will also be ready for heatset production in the future, MAN Roland Inc. CEO Vince Lapinski, said.

Transcontinental’s Manseau said he chose the triple-wide Colorman, which prints six pages across, to “give the customer more color capacity” and color-placement flexibility while using the smallest pressroom footprint.

“We like the flexibility,” Manseau said. “We want the advertiser to tell us where they want color, rather than telling them, ‘This is where you can only have color.'”

Manseau said the company wanted MAN on board to help “guide” its picks for suppliers of other production equipment, such as packaging machines. He added he expects the other equipment to be announced soon.

“But we will make the deadline, everything is set for 2009,” Manseau said.

The presses are scheduled to be installed next year, according to MAN.

Transcontinental’s Manseau says innovation and reputation are the main reasons that his company chose MAN Roland: “We selected them for the quality of their project management, for their technology, and for their track record,” he said. “We also like MAN Roland’s open approach to working with other vendors’ systems in prepress and post-press. And their innovative idea of applying the 6-by-2 blanket-to-blanket configuration to newspaper presses was something we discussed in-depth with them.”

The press purchase is the first technological development to be announced about Transcontinental’s new business model with the San Francisco Chronicle.

It provides a complete one-source solution that delivers the ability to plan and track product from ad-order entry and the manufacturing process through distribution. And printnet can adapt to any editorial and ad systems a newspaper client may use. “It will enable us to use data from our customers directly, so they don’t have to change their procedures for us,” Manseau says.

Transcontinental will keep its options open In terms of the longer-term capabilities of its equipment. “The presses could have heatset capacity added, so we will be ready if the market goes in that direction,” Manseau says.

Manseau explained that a heatset-ready press — from rollers to reelstands — is configured in such a way as to allow installation of dryers without interrupting the production flow. It also must be able to run heatset’s higher-tack inks.

MAN Roland Inc. CEO Lapinski said his company’s printing systems would support Transcontinental’s goal of reducing staffing and increasing efficiency.

That aim is no surprise, coming from a company known also for quality commercial printing. It takes a lean and smart approach to pressroom operations, relying on “a plant that’s self-managed by the employees.” Those staffers are selected for their willingness to learn and participate in decision-making while being both operators and members of a management team.

In hiring and training, “it’s harder to get there,” but worth it, said Manseau. For the employees, “the more they learn, the more they get paid,” he said.

Manseau is optimistic that the approach will work in its first U.S. pressroom. “Yes, we think we can do it, and yes, we think it’s applicable to our U.S. strategy” – just as soon as he “finds the right individuals, willing to work in that environment.”

And yes, current Chronicle production personnel will be eligible to apply for those jobs, and no, it doesn’t matter that they’ve been printing on flexo presses for a number of years. What matters, said Manseau is their interest, passion for the work and related experience.

“If we provide them with the proper tools and … training, then they can do the job,” he said.

As for fully utilizing the news plant’s capacity, Manseau said that at this point, the main purpose is to service the Chronicle. “It is too early in the process,” he said, to talk about other customers, though he added that they will be considered later.

The same is true at the Metropolitan plant that Transcontinental built a few years ago to produce La Presse. Though its presses, too, are heatset-ready, said Manseau, its main objectives are printing La Presse’s products.

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