Inserting Overdrive at Dailies on Both Coasts

By: Jim Rosenberg Last fall, two post-press systems competitors saw customer sites on opposite coasts reach new levels of productivity just in time to handle typically higher-volume holiday-season inserting.

A month after going into full, regular production last October, the integrated Goss Magnapak at The Press-Enterprise, Belo's daily in Riverside, Calif., was turning in record-breaking performance for Sunday-edition inserting.

Three months later, when necessary, the crew is "consistently getting 8,000-plus an hour" on its new inserter, said Operations Vice President Steve Favero. "We're very happy with it."

With sustained effort, Favero added, 9,000 can be achieved. "You've got to motivate the employees, too, because that's pushing them real hard."

Last fall, Favero saw 39 inserts going into a one comic jacket while netting 8,200 per hour. "The next day, we ran 34 inserts at 9,000 per hour, and two days later we broke our record with 41 inserts into one jacket."

Riverside's 42-station Magnapak, with dual-delivery capability, uses integrated Ferag MultiDisc winder/unwinder buffering to achieve "a better, consistent delivery" without processing copies straight from the press. Inserted copies are stacked by Quipp Packman multifunction machines.

"We didn't give Heidelberg much time to get this machine built, delivered, and installed," Favero recalled, adding that without it, the holiday volumes would have been much harder to manage.

Goss acquired Heidelberg's business last year, and Favero said personnel from the companies stayed in Riverside for a long time.

Part of that was for the critical component of training, especially among technicians responsible for set-up and clearing jams. An operator for each run is responsible for ensuring smooth inserting.

Sophisticated electronics, including Omnizone supervisory controls, required that maintenance staffers get "very extensive" classroom and hands-on training. Though it paid off, Favero says pulling key people from their regular jobs for more in-depth training made things harder for a while.

Packaging personnel were involved very early in the process. Many were part of the selection process (short of vendor negotiations). Some were then assigned to the project, from unloading the equipment through the Magnapak's installation and start-up, according to Favero. "They have a tendency to take more ownership because they were part of the process," he said.

For temporary storage and buffering from the press, "the Ferag training was equal to Heidelberg's," Favero said. It included complete disassembly by Press-Enterprise staff of the brand-new, just-installed MultiDisc equipment. "That was impressive," Favero remarked.

"We are planning to expand," he said, into more pre-assembly and replacement of older machines for weekday editions, probably in about two years.

At roughly the same time at Tribune Co.'s daily in Connecticut's capital, The Hartford Courant mailroom achieved a three-week stretch of record productivity during the same heavy inserting season before and after Thanksgiving.

"We were going through 100% acceptance testing," recalled Packaging Manager Doug Burchards

Using its two dual-delivery 34:2 GMA SLS3000 Inserters and six GMA CombiStack bundling systems, the production team, led by Burchards and Julius Neto, production manager, packaging and transportation, continually surpassed GMA's 100% Production Matrix. The matrix charts most-efficient anticipated throughput for given combinations of number of inserts and page counts, with certain qualifiers.

When Hartford ran a nine-hour shift with a 31-insert, 605-page tabloid package, it achieved 123% of GMA's Production Matrix. It also netted 53,429 copies per hour with a five-insert package in dual-delivery mode, topping 141% of the matrix, and ran a 28-insert, 561-page tabloid package, exceeding 115% of the matrix.

Burchards explained that the figures rely on the piece count and page count per zone to come up with an average package size for a given day. The operation in Hartford produces both broadsheet and tabloid products, but for uniform comparison purposes, he added, a matrix usually converts everything to tabloid equivalent.

The first SLS3000 was installed at the end of January 2003; the second went in three months later. With a few bumps along the way, the machines have been producing for about a year and half. Both, however, were converted to dual-out operation -- the first SLS3000s running dual delivery, according to Burchards.

The machines already had gone through commercial-ready and conventional 80% acceptance testing. Burchards called the 100% testing "a bit unusual," but said "all the Tribune sites are going to go through 100% testing."

Operations surpassing 100% continued after the test period, during the Nov. 27 Saturday comic run, and are still being achieved, though there are dips into the 90% range, said Burchards. Praising his staff's "tenacity and hard work," Neto said that in "the past 18 months not only have we met all the productivity goals, we have exceeded them well past my expectations."

"To get to that level of proficiency, it takes the people," said Burchards, "We had total buy-in" during the test period, when throughput exceeded 100% every day.

When his shop converted to GMA equipment, Burchards and others trained for about two weeks at GMA's "Academy" in Bethlehem, Pa. -- which he called a solid start for the on-the-job learning that took his team over the top last fall.


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