Journal Register achieves 5 years of increased productivity in PA with its GEOMAN from MAN Roland
Press release from the issuing company
Journal Register Company is currently celebrating the fifth anniversary of the launch of its GEOMAN in its Exton, Pennsylvania production facility, which went online in 2001. But the publisher won’t have to wait for its anniversary presents. Their MAN Roland GEOMAN has been giving the gifts of increased revenue, reduced production costs and world class quality each year since its start-up.
Sparking the improved productivity picture was a carefully planned integration of the operations of six Pennsylvania newspaper printing plants into one super facility in Exton, which carries the name Journal Register Offset.
Six Into One
“We shut down six of our pressrooms to consolidate their production into a new facility in Exton,” says Bill Higginson, Senior Vice President of Production at Journal Register Company. “That means our GEOMAN replaced a letterpress in Pottstown, an Urbanite press in West Chester, a Metro in Montgomery, a second Urbanite in Lansdale, a Harris 1650 in Norristown, and a Goss Community in Northeast Philadelphia.”
The economic impact of the consolidation has exceeded expectations, according to Higginson: “Our pro forma plan, which was approved by Journal Register management and its board, targeted saving $1.3 million from the consolidation on an annualized basis. In fact, we saved approximately $1.7 million the first year alone, then in the years following that figure was well over $2 million a year.”
Journal Register’s GEOMAN is configured in four eight-couple printing towers, two five-couple printing towers, one double-folding couple 2:5:5/2:3:3 jaw folder, one single-folding couple 2:3:3 jaw folder, and eight core-drive reels.
A GEOMAN for Michigan
Based on its five-year track record with that system, Journal Register is installing a GEOMAN to anchor its Michigan cluster, serving suburban Detroit. Scheduled for start-up during the second half of 2007, the new GEOMAN will be configured with three eight-couple towers and four reel stands, feeding a double folder identical to the one in use in Exton.
Meanwhile in the Exton plant, the production capabilities of the MAN Roland press are outstripping projections. Originally, the facility was scheduled to produce five dailies and 30 non-dallies, mostly weeklies. “But we have gotten so efficient with our GEOMAN that we now produce almost double the amount of non-dailies plus a steady stream of commercial work,” Higginson notes.
Ongoing commercial projects include full production of The Philadelphia Tribune — America’s oldest and the Greater Philadelphia region’s largest newspaper dedicated to serving the African-American community, with a circulation of 223,437. The assignment encompasses printing Tuesday, Friday and Sunday editions.
The Color of Money
In addition to attracting commercial work, the GEOMAN’s ability to print vivid color is presenting other opportunities as well. Journal Register recently launched two new youth products — Play New Haven and Play Philadelphia — which are printed on the MAN Roland press. Designed to get younger people into reading newspapers, the two tabloids print 4/4 on Alternative Offset, 35 pound, 80 bright stock. The resulting color and print quality is stunning, according to Higginson, who says GEOMAN’s color capabilities are contributing nicely to Journal Register’s bottom line.
“We grew color advertising revenue approximately 50% in the first year of production and increased it by approximately 40% in the second year,” he explains. “The color capabilities of GEOMAN give us the ability to say yes to advertisers who want the impact of color. And it’s not just display advertising. We’re adding color to in-column classified pages as well. It’s hard for an advertiser to say no to this kind of quality. It looks that good.”
The industry’s elite print quality competitions agree. Journal Register and their GEOMAN won four awards at the 2006 Print Quality Contest of America East last spring. The honors included best of show, a distinction that Journal Register won in three of the last four years running. The Daily Local News of West Chester won first place in the 25,000-50,000 circulation category. And The Reporter of Lansdale took first place in the under 25,000 circulation category and was also the best of show winner.
Later in the year, Journal Register Company’s Times Herald of Norristown became one of only 50 newspapers worldwide to be accepted into the 2006-2008 edition of the International Newspaper Color Quality Club, sponsored by IFRA an NAA. Meanwhile, the publisher’s Daily Local News of West Chester dominated the North American segment of the competition.
Higginson credits GEOMAN’s PECOM operating system and related time-saving advancements for enabling Journal Register Offset to handle such a wide range of work. “One of the real benefits of going with GEOMAN is the easy set up, thanks to innovations like automatic web up, tool-less lock-up and PECOM,” he says. “We routinely recall jobs from PECOM’s database library to speed up our changeovers. GEOMAN’s fast makereadies are the main reason why we can print 59 non-dailies and a significant mix of commercial work so efficiently.”
GEOMAN automation and the plant consolidation reduced pressroom staffing from 50 operators to 18. With the additional non-dailies and commercial work, the count has risen to 24. The crew typically runs GEOMAN as two presses, with three towers feeding a folder to constitute a standalone system.
Each of the presses can be manned by a team of four operators. But often a three and a half operator arrangement gets the job done, with one pressman splitting his time between the two presses on an on-demand basis.
When operated as a single press, GEOMAN gives Journal Register Offset high volume capabilities, with a top rated output of 70,000 iph. The press has been known to turn out approximately 400,000 copies of color supplements that are inserted into the majority of Journal Register newspapers in Pennsylvania.
Journal Register Offset achieves its commercial success without a sales push. “We don’t solicit commercial work,” Higginson says. “New customers come looking for us after they see the quality of our work. We take it where and when it fits. Our Journal Register publications and our regular commercial accounts are our top priorities.”
The Journal Register’s GEOMAN typically operates in 8- and 12-hour back-to-back shifts for days at a time, with pauses only to complete preventive maintenance. The schedule can be relentless, with the press and its folders running non-stop from 8 PM Monday until 2 PM Thursday every week, year-after-year.
The secret to such trouble-free performance? “We don’t overrun our maintenance windows,” Higginson declares. “Our reliability has been outstanding and we’ve experienced minimal downtime. MAN Roland is quick to respond to correct any issues we might have.”
Journal Register Offset and its GEOMAN press have also taken on the role of an investor relationship vehicle for the company. “We love to give tours and show off our GEOMAN,” Higginson comments. “Bankers, investors and analysts routinely visit, and those in the know are amazed at what this press will do.”
The production executive is confident that the forthcoming GEOMAN for the company’s Michigan cluster will also be a profitable crowd pleaser. “MAN Roland got our business the second time based on the performance of this first press,” he says. “We expect the same print quality, production efficiencies and level of success we had with our first GEOMAN will carry over to this new press. And we know that partnering with MAN Roland again will make that happen.”
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