Operations: The Columbian Invests in New Press for Commercial Printing and Improved Quality


Technicians and installers from imPRESSions Worldwide work on the first phase of installation for the Columbian during installation of a used Goss Community SSC single-wide press. (Photo provided)

Around this time last year, the Columbian in Vancouver, Wash. was in the thick of the first stage of a new press installation. This two-phase installation process spanned several months, and after the completion of the final phase in May 2019, the Columbian found themselves better prepared to expand their commercial printing line and provide improved quality and speed to their existing and new print customers.

Their investment was in a refurbished Goss Community SSC single-wide press supplied through imPRESSions Worldwide from its headquarters in Burlington, Wash. The press consists of four towers/16 units with four-webs into their Community SSC backed up with two-folders. imPRESSions cleaned, painted, inspected and repaired following their (CPIR) engineered approach to sourcing second-hand press equipment for resale to the industry. The process addressed several mechanical components within the units but is not considered “a rebuild.”

According to Tom Loesch, president of imPRESSions, “This process typically replaces ink fountain rollers and bearings, micros and new rubber rollers along with all the typical consumables and hardware. All other parts are replaced or repaired as required. The equipment is assembled to factory specs and then test run at full speed for eight hours to ensure the equipment is mechanically sound prior to leaving the factory. We fully stage each job in house to make sure all of the parts are included.”

(From left to right) imPRESSions Worldwide president Tom Loesch; Columbian press manager Rick Pettit; imPRESSions Worldwide vice president of sales Dave Gilmore; and Columbian production director Cris Matta stand outside the imPRESSions Worldwide facility in Burlington, Wash. (Photo provided)

Throughout the installation, the Columbian found ways to keep their production operation running at full speed and continued to service their outside print customers by keeping their existing single-wide press operational. The new Community press replaced an older Goss Community that was rarely used and sits in part on the same press pad.

imPRESSions installed the left-side of the replacement press in the first phase, getting two towers and one folder up and running. The second phase then involved removal of their old press and installation of the final two four-high towers, splicers and folder, completing the overall installation.

Loesch said, “The expanded capacity and improved quality allowed the Columbian to bring in some sizable new commercial accounts while still staying in operation constantly throughout the installation.”

As is key to the success of any install, both imPRESSions along with press operators and technicians from the Columbian worked together throughout the process.

Cris Matta, Columbian production director, said, “At the Columbian, we are committed to continually advancing our technology in order to ensure we can accommodate our customers’ emerging requirements. Given the changing world of print and digital media, this investment not only supports our ability to execute the recently announced print contract for two Puget Sound-area newspapers but also positions us to get back into commercial printing.”

Matta also explained the reasoning behind selection of imPRESSions as the provider. “We needed to select a partner best qualified to supply an engineered second-hand press. With in-plant engineering, manufacturing and support, imPRESSions demonstrated to us they were the best suited to support the next chapter of ink on paper at the Columbian.”

Full disclosure: I worked closely with imPRESSions before on an installation and upgrade to our single-wide community and installation of a new four-high tower in Yucca Valley, Calif. and found them to provide expert customer service and support. While working alongside their installation team, my production team learned many “tricks of the trade” and brought that on-the-job experience back to our organization well after their expert crew had left. I’ve found them to be an excellent source for used and refurbished press equipment at a fair price and they back it up with an experienced installation crew that puts the success of the install and the satisfaction of the customer first.

At the start of our project in California a few years ago, we had concerns on how we were going to continue serving our existing base of commercial customers and produce our core publications while stripping down half of our press line, losing the use of multiple units on press and running with one existing folder. The imPRESSions team sat down with us, listened to our concerns while studying the details of our current schedule and worked hand-in-hand with us to develop a program that worked for everyone. We were able to complete the entire project while avoiding any unexpected challenges throughout the installation. imPRESSions worked with us around our schedules and at any time day or night, fully utilizing all available open print windows to work seamlessly throughout the install.

With their roots deeply planted in the Goss Single-Wide product lineup, imPRESSions has recently expanded into the commercial print market selling commercial heatset presses and sheet-fed presses. They also offer new press sales from Goss Graphic Systems China and packaging presses from the Netherlands.

Electricians work with the Mike Stallings of imPRESSions Worldwide in the first phase of installation in Vancouver, Wash. (Photo provided)

Loesch said he was impressed with the Columbian’s lust for quality and delivering the best to their customers. “Because of their passion for print, customers like this drive imPRESSions Worldwide to be better by challenging us with high expectations. They are driven to succeed, and we want to be part of that success.”

The Columbian outlined that the versatility gained with the new press installation now allows them to bring additional commercial print work in house. They currently print seven days a week.

Rick Pettit, Columbian press manager, said in a recent press release, “imPRESSions Worldwide saved our bacon with this press. Our old double-wide press could not handle some of the existing and new formats that we needed.” He also noted that “Our primary printing projects are the Olympian and the News Tribune, which we took over printing this time last year.”

Many installations take time to work out the kinks, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, said Annette S. Pankey, imPRESSions sales and marketing strategist. According to a February report from the Columbian, their investment is doing everything they wanted it to do and that they are happy with their decision to add this single-wide print platform to their operation.

Celebrating this successful install, Loesch said, “We often say that we have the best customers… fact is we really do, and these guys are a great example of that. The Columbian is a fabulous newspaper that is family-owned for generations. They have experience and youth. They have double-wide and single-wide presses. They are driven to put ink on paper and have high expectations of themselves.”


 An Operations Challenge: The Uncertainty of Coronavirus

I’ll start by saying I feel your pain. We all have experienced the growing concern, worry and the financial uncertainty of the recent COVID-19 outbreak. I’m sure you all have read more than your share on how it will affect our lives going forward, I wanted to touch on the here and now and how this terrible challenge is affecting basic newspaper production worldwide.

I’m not political, so you’re not going to get views on shortages of surgical masks and gloves, stimulus packages, cancelled Olympics or which political party was caught unprepared for this crisis. Nor will you be subjected to a scientific play-by-play on the cause and effect of Coronavirus. I’ll leave all that to people throughout the world who are much smarter and better prepared. What I will briefly share with you is information on operations within our industry as a result of COVID-19.

In early February, I received a few calls from commercial clients asking what our plan was for continued printing if our press operations were to shut down due to coronavirus. Like many of us, I have developed plans for mechanical failure, structural damage, employee challenges, etc. but have never thought through the scenario of not having a production operations at all, or if we also lost all our back-up printing sites or if our staff was not able to continue working through a pandemic. For all of us, this is a new reality that has prompted everyone to explore new possibilities and become better prepared for potential catastrophic events in the future.

I’m sure by now your organization has developed the best plan you can come up with to address the health and safety of your crews, one that in turn ensures the ability to continue printing. It’s going to be a tough time for us all from here on out. But what about in three months? Six months? A year?

Until we move from where we are now, we will not know what the future may bring, so my personal master plan is to address what we know now and need to do to get through today; then let’s get together and plan ahead before the next challenge comes our way. Like many others, I was woefully unprepared for this challenge.

I recently listened in on a WAN-IFRA webinar on COVID-19 geared toward newspapers and printing. It was presented by an overseas newspaper and commercial printer, and it had some interesting information that be applied to us in the U.S.

Here are a few suggestions they proposed to keep the presses (and people) rolling, along with a few of my own thoughts:

  • Checking everyone’s temperature as the employee enters for work; random checks throughout the day if someone looks “off” and a final temperature as employees leave for the day.
  • On press: they are using full PPE when cleaning/working on a unit; practicing social distancing; cleaning the presses one person at a time to avoid working in close proximity with others.
  • Any employee who has previously (within the past month) gone out of the country is required to take a two-week quarantine before returning to work.
  • Any employee who appears to show known symptoms of COVID-19, such as constant coughing, trouble breathing, chest discomfort, feverish, etc. is required to go home immediately and not return until they can produce a doctor’s note showing a negative test.
  • Improving and maintaining sanitary conditions; i.e. frequently wiping down door handles with a micro-bacterial cleaning product, washing hands frequently for a minimum of 20 seconds, wiping down time clocks that require a fingerprint or code on a keypad, etc. Cleaning and disinfecting may be one of the most significant and useful things within our control.

Outside of production, there are several other issues they sighted in various departments of our operations.

  • They’ve shut down offices and require non-essential employees to work remotely.
  • Advertising revenue is down significantly.
  • Preprints are being cancelled left and right due to shortages of supply in stores or store closings.
  • Due to the lack of sporting events and general gatherings, pages are being cut back and other sections being rolled into the overall paper.
  • Many overseas papers have set aside at least four-pages daily for “virus coverage.”
  • Many papers have temporarily removed paywalls as a service to those in quarantine.
  • Some papers claim to have seen increases in print subscribers, possibly due to individuals not wanting to go out to racks/single copy.
  • Most employee travel (stories, events, etc.) have been put on hold.
  • Increased “layout flexibility” because of less pages (but not sure I’d consider that a good thing).

Throughout the discussion, there were several questions related to “alternative printing plans,” yet no one could expand on how, where, or if they even really had a solid plan.

Until we work our way through this challenge and see the light on the other side, I say we “keep calm and carry on.” We owe it to our readers, our fellow employees and ourselves.

Jerry SimpkinsJerry Simpkins has more than 30 years of experience in printing and operations in the newspaper industry. Contact him on LinkedIn.com or at simpkins@tds.net.


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