Its Own Best Customer p.62

By: MARK FITZGERALD WHEN COPLEY Chicago Newspapers began constructing its $60 million Fox Valley Press production plant in 1991, the idea was that it would print two of Copley's four area dailies and take in a lot of commercial work.
That corporate plan appeared right on track when the plant landed a big contract to print free-standing inserts for Montgomery Ward's and Jewel, the major Chicago-area supermarket chain.
"But the commercial printing business is very price-driven, so that wasn't very successful," John M. Disera, Fox Valley's director of production, recalled in a recent interview at the Plainfield, Ill., plant.
As it turned out, that's probably a good thing: Fox Valley needed the press availabilities itself.
In the past year or so, Copley has become its own best printing customer, as it has centralized production of its other two dailies at the Fox Valley plant ? and added a dizzying variety of new products in an aggressive strategy to dominate its market in Chicago's far western suburbs (see story, p. 11).
These days, Fox Valley prints Copley's four dailies ? the Beacon-News, in Aurora; Herald-News, in Joliet; News-Sun, in Waukegan, and the Courier-News, in Elgin ? plus seven Sun weeklies, the Star community newspapers in McHenry County, a total market coverage product called Accent, a TV book, and the nation's first newspaper named after a Zip code: 60504/Fox Valley Villages.
At the same time, having cut back its FSI business ? though it continues to take on some jobs ? Fox Valley is also picking up new newspaper customers. This spring, the plant began printing the 40,000-copy, Monday-through-Friday Midwest edition of Investor's Business Daily and the weekly La Raza, Chicago's largest paid-circulation Spanish-language newspaper.
Because Fox Valley is unionized, it also picks up a tidy business in labor newsletters, which need a union bug.
It's not simply the array of products that complicates scheduling. Fox Valley is printing for markets that range from down the street to 72 miles away, in the case of Waukegan's News-Sun. In addition, in April, the Beacon-News and the Herald-News were converted to morning publication.
Not surprisingly, it's been a wrenching transition for a chain that less than four years ago was printing its papers on letterpress equipment at four different sites.
Production chief Disera, who seems congenitally incapable of an evasive answer, freely acknowledges it has not been an easy move.
"We jumped in with both feet," he said. "If I could have changed anything, I would have transitioned slower. Our biggest problem has been with deadlines, getting done ? and getting done on time."
At the same time, Fox Valley resisted the temptation to ease production crunches by stealing time from maintenance, Disera said.
"We needed more preventive maintenance," he said. "Now, as we add production, we know that we have to add maintenance as well."
Rough as it occasionally has been, however, the transition also demonstrated the prescience of Copley's upfront planning. For one thing, the chain invested extensively to train press crews for the move from letterpress to offset.
"We brought vendors in, we sent people off to training, and we gained efficiencies and improved quality dramatically from the start," Disera said.
And "jumping in with both feet" proved the right strategy when it came to picking technology. Copley, for instance, was a test site for the first keyless Goss Colorliner units.
They've worked as advertised, Disera said. "Training on the variables of the ink-water issue helped minimize any problems," he said. "And so did the electronic controls."
Fox Valley has eight units of Colorliner with 10 reelstands. The units, with a 64-page capacity, are normally run as two presses, though they are operated as one press for the Investor's Business Daily press run.
The presses get a workout. Fox Valley produced 340 million page impressions last year; by late May this year it already had reached 400 million.
At the same time, printed waste is moving in a good direction. At 3.44% in 1996, it was already comfortably below the Newspaper Association of America average of 3.86%. So far this year, printed newsprint waste is running at 3.22%.
Changing the paster from a V-shape to a straight-line pattern helped a bit, Disera said, as has the rigorous statistical analysis that helps discern patterns in web breaks.
Fox Valley is also rigorous about the environment.
"We've never generated a gallon of waste ink here," Disera said. All waste ink is captured and reclaimed for mixture with virgin ink at a 1:3 ratio.
In the mailroom, Fox Valley uses two lines of 14:1 GMA/SLS 1000 inserters, which are tied to six Hall and two Quipp counterstackers.
Pages from Copley's dailies come in on T-1 lines and are output through Harlequin software RIPs to Autologic devices. Pagination at Copley papers is expected to be completed by October, and Fox Valley production executives will be at Nexpo kicking the tires on computer-to-plate technology.
"My philosophy on technology is: you look for an upgrade path," Disera said. "Look at modular systems with room for growth. Because you've got to be careful ? technology can bite you."
?(Goss Colorliner press at Fox Valley Press, Plainfield, Ill.) [Photo & Caption]
?(Packaging area at Fox Valley Press, Plainfield, Ill.) [Photo & Caption]

?( E&P Web Site:
?(copyaright: Editor & Publisher June 21, 1997)


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here