By: Jim Rosenberg Gannett's Rochester flagship papers are first in the United States to order MAN Roland's newest double-wide offset press sp.
TWO MONTHS AFTER the first Geoman began printing newspapers in Austria, the Gannett Co. became the first U.S. customer for the latest double-width offset press from MAN Roland Inc. MAN's first U.S. newspaper press sale in more than a year, the 70,000-page-per-hour, blanket-to-blanket Geoman press incorporates new mechanical and electronic technology. The Geoman will be Gannett's second MAN Roland press. Ordered for its Rochester, N.Y., morning Democrat and Chronicle and evening Times-Union, it follows the Mediaman installed across the state at the 45,000-circulation Poughkeepsie Journal. Since the Mediaman began printing two years ago, said one manager, the general feeling at Gannett is that it is the chain's best press. Pleased with Poughkeepsie, Gannett included MAN's Geoman in its "extensive negotiating and testing" of three vendors' presses for production of Rochester's total weekday circulation of 203,000 and more than 250,000 Sunday copies. The Rochester papers, now printed on 1940s-vintage Hoe Color Convertible presses, are scheduled to begin rolling off the new presses in a new, 148,000-square-foot remote production plant in August 1997. Rochester press production manager Terry Hamilton said the company will break ground next spring for the plant. Gannett contracted with local architectural/engineering firm SWBR. David Sprague, a veteran of other new Gannett sites, is project manager. Working with SWBR on layout, production flows and various plant requirements is planner, programmer and consultant Robert Ginsberg of the New York City-based engineering firm William Ginsberg Associates. "We brought him in as a consultant to us . . . bringing his expertise, which is fully 100% newspapers," said SWBR partner David Beinetti. Noting that Ginsberg ordinarily works directly for the customer, Beinetti said it was his firm's and Gannett's first work with the consulting engineer, with whom Gannett was, however, familiar. Rochester is slated to take delivery of the first Geoman units in May 1996. The newspaper company put the cost of the entire project at approximately $70 million, with the presses accounting for roughly half that figure. Hamilton called Geoman the best printing press of those his group looked at, both operationally and in terms of print quality, and said it "had some features that we liked" that at least one of the two other vendors did not offer. Hamilton and other managers made two trips to Germany last fall to visit MAN's plant and various user sites. Hamilton said he did not visit a Geoman site, but according to MAN, one of the two groups traveled to the initial installation in Bregenz, Austria. The 80-couple press will consist of 16 splicers feeding four mono units, eight 4/1 stacks (three print couples stacked over two couples) and four 4/4 towers, with three double-out folders separating the pressline into four four-footprint segments. Under each folder is room to add another reelstand. "It will be split into two straight presses or three collect presses," said Hamilton. While straight runs will come off two eight-footprint presses, collect runs will use three five-footprint presses. "We drop out a mono unit when we run collect," added Lis? Britt, production coordinator in charge of equipment for the new plant. Running straight, the configuration can produce up to 64 pages per press, with 32 pages in full color; in collect mode, up to 80 pages can be run, with 40 in full color. According to Britt, color capacity going into all folders will be the same on collect runs, as it will into two folders on straight runs. Rochester specified a book former, which Hamilton said is "an extremely long, 70 lower former" used in Europe to achieve a "much better first fold." The two upper boards are 60 standard-length formers. The triple formers will be located at the two folders nearest the ends of the press; a double former will be used at the central folder. The press's three double folders consist of 3:2 rotary and 2:3:3 jaw folders in the same frame. Britt said the jaw folders give a desirable tight fold or crease and will be used for the many advance-printed tabloid sections. Because they have no nip rollers squeezing the paper, she said, it is believed they will preserve print quality, especially inside color. Folding rollers under the 3:2 folder, she continued, "produce a lot of set-off, and the jaw folder doesn't have that problem." "As far as automation," said Hamilton, the Geoman "will be pretty much top of the line." The press, he said, will have "closed-loop tension control that gives you feedback of the web speed, pre-impression and post-impression." All automation is through MAN's PECOM networkable control consoles. Hamilton said the order represents commitments only for the press and the PECOM local area network. No final decisions have been made on ancillary equipment and systems. Because Rochester has been "running decent four-color letterpress," Britt said she expects an advantage not enjoyed by most other former letterpress sites. "We already have down what we need to do to make deadline," she said, noting others' color offset start-up difficulties in matters such as increased volumes in making and mounting plates.
When Gannett signed on March 31, MAN had booked 14 Geoman customers in the 18 months since it introduced the press. The 35 presses sold range from two pairs of Y-type (six-couple) units with pairs of splicers to multiple eight-couple towers with two splicers per tower. But until a large Brazilian order that preceded Rochester's, all Geoman orders came from newspapers in Central Europe and Southeast Asia. According to MAN, the press was designed for the "broad middle-circulation range." Geoman's promotion in North America was delayed the first year, but MAN newspaper sales director Vince Lapinski said it will receive a big push at Nexpo '94 in the belief the press is a good match with what is sought by certain prospects. "It certainly meets a lot of the U.S. requirements," he said. Citing the "sum of the innovations" in the full system available, not just the printing units, Lapinski said MAN "will have to do a very good job making sure that people don't just see it as another dedicated tower-type press." In MAN Roland's double-width product line, Geoman sits between the Uniman/Mediaman and Colorman presses. Uniman/Mediaman presses now run at 60,000 pph, while Colorman operates at 70,000 pph, but the latter, said Lapinski, is more of a custom-built, application-specific press ? "a little bit of overkill for a lot of American requirements." Calling Geoman closer "to what everyone else is trying to now sell in North America," Lapinski said it is a simpler, dedicated-lead, blanket-to-blanket, non-reversing design suitable for production worldwide. He likened it to a faster Mediaman that allows MAN to compete head on with others' presses in North America. Poughkeepsie, he said, installed a "full-blown Mediaman," which thereafter would be sold more like the Uniman, for those who need speed, but not a full 70,000 pph, and who can dispense with lots of color towers and a high level of sophistication. Mediaman grew out of the Uniman press, installed at more than 20 U.S. papers. For newspapers in the 40,000- to 70,000-circulation range said Lapinski, "Mediaman really becomes a nice niche product for us." Calling it "basically the same press," he said Uniman now goes by the Mediaman name in North America, whether it is small and simple (like the model marketed as the Uniman in Europe) or larger, with all the bells and whistles (like Europe's Mediaman, with larger reels and folder). MAN product literature shows a common-impression four-color satellite under development for the Geoman. Lapinski said it was at least under consideration, and that if the European market requires it, "in the long haul . . . they'll do it." In the meantime, he said, the Colorman M is probably "more suited" to operations that require presses configured with satellite color units. ?( Configuration of MAN Roland Geoman presses for Gannett's Rochester, N.Y., dailies) [Photo & Caption] ?( View of new three-race bearing developed by SFK and used by MAN Roland on bearerless presses) [Photo & Caption]