MAN Roland's new Print Process Optimization Program premiers at The Baton Rouge Advocate
Press release from the issuing company
4/11/07 -- What’s the next best thing to a fully automated MAN Roland newspaper press? It’s a fully automated MAN Roland newspaper press that comes bundled with a comprehensive benchmarking and training program, which helps press crews make the most of their press’ high-performance features.
That’s the idea behind MAN Roland’s Print Process Optimization Program. The initiative is premiering at the Baton Rouge Advocate, which started up the brand new REGIOMAN press just four months ago.
Site Specific Solutions
Jason Elliott, who heads the Print Process Optimization Program for MAN Roland’s printservices, points to the uniqueness of each customer. “For the Advocate, we needed to develop a program that would help them through the significant change from letterpress to a state-of-the-art offset press,“ he says. “We didn’t just do all the training up front and leave. We wanted to provide the Advocate with a program that will continue to focus on their operational performance beyond their transition to the offset printing process.”
The Advocate’s Print Process Optimization schedule is broken up into four different visits over two years. That ensures that the newspaper’s press crews will become more proficient with the equipment as they become more familiar with it. The first session took place one month before production began. Subsequently, the Print Process Optimization team will go back every six months so they can optimize the Advocate’s operations at every phase in the lifecycle of its REGIOMAN.
Kirk Fisher, Director of Operations for the Advocate, is pleased with the progress he’s seen so far. “We’re still in the process of transitioning from letterpress to offset, and we’re getting better all the time,” Fisher says. “That’s one of the main advantages of the Print Process Optimization Program. It’s not just a one shot deal. You can extend it to match the requirements of your crew and of your pressroom. The Print Process Optimization Program is a wonderful value-added enhancement to MAN Roland’s project management capabilities.”
The program’s effectiveness is built on MAN Roland’s ability to provide custom solutions for each production operation it encounters. “We develop each program to be specific to the operational needs of the customer,” Elliott says. “So our Baton Rouge program is going to be different from what we do for other newspapers.”
The key to success is in the details. “We generally want to come in and audit all of their processes and then develop a proposal, based on a timeline that works best for the customer. So some might want a compressed program, say in a two-month timeframe and others, like Baton Rouge, might want it extended over a few years. The scheduling and the scope of the program are very flexible.”
Prepress And The Pressroom
The Print Process Optimization Program in Baton Rouge initially focused on getting the Advocate’s REGIOMAN to the optimum level of reproduction and making sure the paper hit the ground running in terms of print quality. It all began with a prepress audit.
“We went through and evaluated everything that had to do with input, starting with the paper’s photographers and their equipment,” says John Terrano, a printservices Print Process Engineer and a charter member of the Print Process Optimization team. “We also verified specifications for elements such as photos,” Terrano adds. “We made sure we had proper file sizes and the right resolution for enlargements. In short, we standardized whatever was needed to provide good photo reproduction on the printed page.”
“We examined toning and modified the characteristics so they would print to the specifications of the press. Monitors, scanners, proofers, you name it. We looked at everything that was involved with the input side of the workflow, all the way out to platemaking and onto the press.”
Fisher says all the scrutinizing in prepress was well worthwhile. “Workflow rule number one is: garbage in, garbage out. All of the benchmarking work in prepress was critical to producing the quality product we are achieving.”
Elliott points to the teamwork involved. “All of this was done in conjunction with the customer’s personnel,” he says. “All through the process we were training them on the procedures we were going through, and we were working with them in a very open manner, so they fully understood what the benchmarking entailed. The key was to leave them with hands-on experience and understanding and the ability to consistently maintain the high level of quality into the future.”
That is precisely what’s happening, according to Fisher. “We’re only four months into our transition from letterpress to offset, and we’re already producing an amazing product. The quality is just phenomenal. That’s due to the technology of the REGIOMAN, the quality of the training, and the effectiveness of the Print Process Optimization Program’s benchmarking. It’s all far superior than anything else I’ve seen in this industry.”
On Demand Training
Non-scheduled training is also part of the printservices package. “At one point, we had some issues with web tension, so we brought the optimization engineers back in,” Fisher recalls. “In a matter of four days, they were able to immediately diagnose the situation, train our guys, and give them the knowledge and the confidence they needed to correct any issues in real time. They now have the tools and the training to spot and correct potential trouble before it develops into problems.”
Elliott says it’s all part of the program: “A lot of what we do involves standardizing their processes so they get consistent results. And we’re doing this with them as an extension of their training. What makes it powerful from our point of view is that it takes us beyond the press into complete workflow analysis.”
One of the secondary purposes of the Print Process Optimization Program is to expand the areas in which newspapers can take advantage of the MAN Roland’s wide-ranging knowledge base. “From a workflow point-of-view,” Elliott says, “you want to optimize things right from the front end. That’s where our prepress expertise comes in, and that’s the only way to make sure you’re going to achieve maximum performance from your press. It’s an example of how MAN Roland can support its customers at all levels of their business.”
The optimization team’s next scheduled visit to Baton Rouge is on the horizon. “In the next couple of months, we’re going to have the optimization engineers back in, and they will advance our learning curve to the next level,” Fisher notes.
That will involve fine tuning press crew procedures and processes, according to John Kulak, a printservices Print Process Engineer for MAN Roland and charter member of the Print Process Optimization team. “Sometimes the customer will have changed a piece of equipment or software in their workflow that we need to address,” he says. “But basically, we are reducing the learning curve everyone goes through with a new press to a much shorter timeframe. Effectively, we get them up on their feet and put the right standards and controls in place so it’s easier for them to run more efficiently. Our second visit will reinforce those good habits.”
The next phase has a strong focus on optimizing the press itself, Elliott reports. “At the Advocate, this level concentrates on the performance of the REGIOMAN. Each time we go in we have a slightly different focus on what we’re going to improve. It’s a progression of improvement.”
Meanwhile, the Advocate’s readers and advertisers already like what they see. “We have had a 52 percent increase in color revenue since we started-up this press four months ago,“ Fisher observes. “Looking at our transition to REGIOMAN, our readers and our advertisers are absolutely enamored with the quality of the printed product.”
The Advocate is expanding the audience for its higher quality, more colorful printing by going after commercial accounts. “We’re looking at printing several newspapers in our area,” Fisher declares. “The sky’s the limit, when you have the right equipment. We’ve purchased a stitcher/trimmer to work with our new MAN Roland press. We can do heatset covers and print the contents on high bright newsprint on our REGIOMAN, and then marry them together offline.”
The Print Process Optimization Program will play a vital role in the Advocate’s commercial enterprises. “We’re really tuned into the commercial side of the business, and now we have the technology to make it work. That’s why we want to maximize the hours that we utilize the press. Plus, with commercial work, you don’t get a second chance, if your water curves are off, or if the press is out of registration. You only get one shot. So it’s essential that your press operators are fully up to speed. The Print Process Optimization Program does that for us.”
More to Come
Based on its continuing success at Baton Rouge, MAN Roland is looking to propagate its Print Process Optimization initiative. “We’re expanding the program to commercial printers and to existing installations as well,” Elliott says. “If you want to optimize your operational performance, this program should be on your radar.”
The result can be a significant return on investment, according to Elliott. “In this competitive environment, a program like this can really help our customers get their costs down and their quality up. And new customers, like Baton Rouge, can get up to speed very quickly by taking advantage of this best in class program.”
Fisher agrees: “Partnering with MAN Roland was the best decision the Advocate could have made. That’s not just in terms of the quality of the press. It’s also the Print Process Optimization Program, and it’s the people at MAN Roland who provide the service and training. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
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