MAN Roland and ppi Media: Plans for Networked Future of Printing Industry
Press release from the issuing company
May 24, 2002 -- Today's graphic arts industry still resembles a vista of independent islands in many cases: prepress, printing, finishing and shipment service providers generally work in isolation from each other. And administration and production very often do not "understand" each other's tasks, which leads to errors and lost time. But now, MAN Roland, together with the Hamburg software development company ppi Media, is offering integrated and networked solutions that cover the entire range of industry needs, from editorial services to the shipment of printed products.
It's time to overhaul this island reality. Customers on the "mainland" are no longer prepared to take their printed products to each island individually. Customers want a single-source partner to take care of all their needs, from prepress to shipment, and to ensure quick and reliable processing and high quality.
But this requires bridges, fast connections between the islands: in other words, a powerful, integrated network that efficiently handles all the tasks of a production job. MAN Roland and ppi Media have joined forces to implement such a network. After years of successful cooperation between the companies, effective January 1, 2002, MAN Roland acquired a majority interest in the leading company that develops software for automated newspaper production.
First large-scale project successful
The first joint large-scale project, which was to modernize the production structures of the Omaha World-Herald, illustrated just how ideally ppi Media complements MAN Roland's existing control systems. The newspaper, based in Omaha in the American Midwest, is one of the 50 largest dailies in the USA. It was founded in 1885 by Gilbert M. Hitchcock, and has been owned by employees since 1979. By the end of the '90s the company desperately needed new press systems: the press they were relying on, manufactured by a competitor, was simply obsolete. It wasn't technically possible to satisfy the demand for more color, and, at a speed of 45,000 copies per hour, increasing circulation was hardly possible.
The company decided to erect a new building complex called the Freedom Center. It would include CtP image setters, printing plant and mailroom, offices, and a garage. Across the street, the old building, still used for office space, was to become a warehouse.
GEOMAN presses most modernly networked
In less than three years, from the decision made in January 1999 to system commissioning in September 2001, all construction and installation work was completed. Today the company operates three GEOMAN presses made by MAN Roland. The remarkable thing about the company is not only its state-of-the-art printing system that produces 222,000 dailies during the week and 268,000 on Sundays, but also its networked control systems and network software that will serve the company well into the future.
And production with the new system started just in time: it had hardly commenced operations on September 1, 2001, when 10 days later the events of September 11 took place, the day the system successfully passed its test phase.
PPI and PECOM – the ideal match
Printing processes at the Omaha World-Herald are controlled by the MAN Roland development PECOM, the highly capable process automatization and data management system.
From the screen of the PECOM control console, printers can monitor, control, and document all press operations and printing processes. They can make all the necessary press presettings, such as ink settings, as well as plan all production processes. If necessary, they can even directly intervene in the printing process from the control console.
The system archives and evaluates all the printing process data. This way, printers know exactly where any problems or delays have occured and thus how to avoid them in subsequent production runs.
At the publishing end, the ppi software program PlanPag ensures streamlined work processes. This program manages copy planning tasks based on previous sample newspapers, and selects the right copy structure depending on the number of advertisements the paper includes and the required editorial space. The planning system monitors compliance with advertising customers' desires for ad positions and colors, and provides warning messages whenever certain parameters aren't maintained. Also, with PlanPag the Omaha World-Herald can accept and manage ads for future newspaper editions far in advance.
When copy planning is finished the program ProPag, also by ppi, mounts the pages. In a completely automatic process, ProPag assembles all the elements of a page - meaning advertisements, editorial sections, headers, etc. - to create a digital printing form.
Through the tunnel with AUROSYS
The two Omaha World-Herald buildings, located in the middle of the city, are separated by 13th Street. It was necessary to dig a tunnel beneath the street to transport consumables and other materials from one building to the other. These materials, which are primarily newsprint reels weighing tons, are automatically transported with the MAN Roland AUROSYS material handling system. The system consists of several different modules.
AUROstore is the system for automatic materials warehousing in multifunctional high-bay racks. Reels and other products like replacement parts and process solutions are stored there. AUROroll automatically retrieves from the racks any required materials and loads them onto conveyor wagons. The materials are then transported through the tunnel to the actual printing plant.
When the materials arrive at the pressroom and mailroom, AUROport automatically takes over transport by means of rail-guided conveyors with removable satellite units. The reels are then transported to the AUROcut semi-automatic unpacking station, and from there to the AUROprep pasting station. Laser-guided wagons then convey the reels to the AUROload loading and unloading system. Finally, the reels are either placed in the AUROrack ready-storage system or conveyed to the press for printing.
All the while the AUROlog system ensures that everything runs smoothly in the warehouse. This computer system monitors and controls material logistics and coordinates material flow, material supply, and material management tasks. AUROlog networks all the subsystems to automatically perform administration and distribution tasks in the mailroom and during reel changes.
GlobalTrack keeps things organized
The Omaha World-Herald relies on ppi Media's GlobalTrack system to keep an eye on the entire newspaper printing process, from individual advertisements to mailroom processes. This browser-based tracking system monitors compliance with deadlines and shows the production status of individual components with colored symbols.
As soon as a page passes through the raster image processor (RIP for short, where digital data from prepress is translated into a "language" that the CtP image setter understands), it is converted to a thumbnail image that represents a finished newspaper page. Press personnel simply click the image to enlarge it, allowing them to make any necessary changes to the page before its printing form is created. This dramatically reduces expensive waste.
The vision of PrintNet
The cooperation between MAN Roland and ppi Media has been so successful that both companies have developed a vision for the future. This vision is called PrintNet. Introduced at the Druckforum seminars that took place in Stuttgart at the beginning of February this year, it will completely network all the work processes in the graphic arts industry to make tasks even more efficient.
The starting position of both companies is ideal: MAN Roland is the world's leader in newspaper printing systems and ppi Media is the expert software specialist for newspaper publishing and printing companies. Together, they have everything it takes to achieve the following objectives. These are
1. to network administrative processes with those in production to create integrated CIM solutions (Computer Integrated Manufacturing).
2. to network printing companies, partner companies, customers, and suppliers by means of an Internet portal.
3. to allow the integration of production systems from other manufacturers into in-house workflows.
CIM can be thought of as an electronic routing card that automates the entire workflow, from order acceptance via a computer-aided product and production process description, all the way to the printing process and finishing. CIM eliminates redundant tasks, unnecessary inquiries, misunderstandings, and delays. Some work processes can even be completely eliminated.
Implementing this kind of automation in the printing industry, which has been a standard capability in the automobile, chemical, and engineering industries for years, has been difficult: the job data formats of business and production applications were too different to allow mutual use.
Islands are merging
Thanks to the development of the job definition format (JDF) under the leadership of the CIP4 (International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress; based in Switzerland ), and in which MAN Roland participates, it is now possible to satisfy one of the core requirements for implementing a cross-process workflow. Though the JDF is not completely defined, it is already being used in some areas - such as in ppi Media's GlobalTrack program at the Omaha World-Herald. And its use in additional areas continues to grow.
This is the milestone that finally allows the trouble-free exchange and processing of data, and in turn the rationalization of a variety of processes. In particular, printing companies with a varied job structure can profit from the kind of workflow streamlining that JDF allows because it prevents efforts from being drained from a company's core competence when administration and logistics tasks would normally consume a great deal of time and resources.
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