The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle continues to innovate with MAN Roland
Press release from the issuing company
May 24, 2007 -- In June 1997, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle became one of the first North American newspapers to significantly increase its color pages and its print quality. Its transitional tool was a MAN Roland GEOMAN, configured as three separate presses, encompassing 16 printing towers, and spanning the length of a football field.
The GEOMAN was the mainstay of a new $65 million production facility called Canal Ponds. Ten years after, Canal Ponds and its GEOMAN are growing busier and becoming more productive with every passing year. But no one is stopping to officially celebrate the 10th anniversary of the facility’s commissioning. The production team at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle is too focused on planning its next innovation.
One success factor that the Rochester newspaper does observe is the vast number of quality print awards it has achieved since installing GEOMAN . “We have cookouts and throw parties to celebrate those,” says Bernie Szachara, Vice President / Operations. “And just like hockey and basketball teams fly banners when they win championships, we hang banners in our lobby showing all the awards we have won over last ten years.”
The Democrat and Chronicle may have to build a bigger lobby if things keep going the way they are. The newspaper was named to Ifra’s International Newspaper Color Quality Club for 2006 – 2008, ranking as one of the top newspapers in the world for print quality.
But that’s only the latest major. “We have been chosen as INCQC members five consecutive times,” Szachara says. “That tells you our GEOMAN has withstood the test of time. Clearly in ten years, newer presses have been installed across the country, but ours continues to rate very high in all measurables.”
A Gannett property, the Democrat and Chronicle has also made its parent corporation sit up and take notice of its production prowess. The newspaper has taken top honors in the company’s double-wide press quality competition six times, and has finished either first or second in that category ever since the launch of the new facility.
Other banners in the newspaper’s lobby commemorate best of show awards in the America East print quality competition, as well as top prizes in quality contests sponsored by PIA/GATF’s Web Offset Association.
The Color of Money
All that superior color print quality not only boosts morale at Canal Ponds, but notches up the newspaper’s bottom line as well. “The improved color capability is critical to our readers and advertisers,” notes Szachara. “The print quality helps us on the commercial revenue side as well. We have actually stolen some customers away from heatset facilities. They have moved to coldset because of the quality we produce. This press is definitely a differentiating factor.”
In today’s color-centric newspaper world, the Democrat and Chronicle’s ability to to produce 32 of its 64 pages in full color might not be big news. “But when you look back ten years ago, they were still surfing between technologies,” Szachara reports. “So going with that much color was a big assumption to make at the time. GEOMAN continues to make the investment worthwhile.”
The press has also come through as a commercial printing moneymaker, even though that was not in its original job description, according to Szachara. “When we were considering the GEOMAN, commercial printing was not even part of the picture. We were looking for a press strictly to service our daily newspaper. But in the past three years, we have ramped up our commercial work considerably. We went from nothing three years ago to close to a million dollars annually in commercial sales.”
The newspaper’s workflow also makes use of a unique screening element developed by Swiss company called SandyScreen. It replaces the traditional round dot in favor of a puzzle piece-shaped geometric form with distinct edges. That further enhances the print quality of the newspaper’s GEOMAN.
“I really think it’s a differentiator for us, particularly when you’re competing against heatset,” Szachara explains. “It’s very helpful for us to go in there and pitch what SandyScreen can do — improving the look of the photos and the look of the graphics.”
The move to SandyScreen four years ago is hardly the only upgrade Canal Ponds has experienced during its first decade. “We’ve installed a new workflow system, we’ve replaced our editorial system, and we went to CTP,” Szachara accounts. “We have upgraded the controls on our inserters, and we also did a significant upgrade to the GEOMAN’s PECOM press control system.”
A decade ago, the Rochester newspaper was test driving new technologies that are taken for granted today. “A lot of the features that we have on this press now can be classified as mature technology because our GEOMAN is ten years old,” says Szachara. “Advancements from then that are still critical today include ink presets, remote console control, and couple to couple registration. Also, we did pioneer the use of some new technologies with this press. We took a risk by going with jaw folders, which were new to Gannett at the time. So lot of things that are given now, which you wouldn’t do without, were big steps at the time we installed the GEOMAN.”
Promises That Perform
But Szachara was most impressed by MAN Roland’s ability to provide all the performance it had promised in the negotiation phases of the project: “There are things like reliability, and delivering the press speed you expect, because you base a lot of your productivity around those assumptions. All of that turned out to be very consistent with what we were told. MAN Roland has delivered on what they pledged for almost ten years now.”
Through the years, other Gannett papers became interested observers of how MAN Roland and GEOMAN kept their part of the bargain at Canal Ponds. ”It’s true of our entire industry that we rely on success stories,” Szachara says. “When someone does something that’s on the edge or is a little out there and it results in success, folks want to see if it’ll help them as well. That’s what Rochester did. It was a solid project that was successful, and I think out of it the folks became interested in what we did. Out of what they saw here, they made decisions on their own.”
Gannett properties that chose MAN Roland web presses in recent years include the leading newspapers in Springfield, Missouri; Honolulu, Hawaii; Nashville, Tennessee; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Lafayette, Indiana. What’s more, Gannett’s USA Today is printed on MAN Roland presses in many parts of the country.
Maintaining Their MAN Roland
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s GEOMAN prints like new because it’s maintained like new. “Maintenance is one the areas that we take a lot of pride in, so we spend a lot of time on it,” Szachara declares. “We get a lot of positive feedback from MAN Roland. The technicians who come in tell us how well our efforts have paid off. They have been very complimentary about how well we have taken care of our equipment over the past ten years.”
The newspaper has the expertise to perform virtually all maintenance operations on its own, Szachara reports. “We’re very self-sufficient. That doesn’t take away from MAN Roland’s ability to provide service. There are some key components that we have to have their help on. But we handle most maintenance and service ourselves.”
In other words, Rochester’s GEOMAN is well-positioned for another ten years of success. “The technology has come through for us, both from a productivity perspective and certainly from a quality perspective,” Szachara says. “The number of awards we have received through the years and the productivity we get from this press really speaks to that.”
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