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Indianapolis Star Starts Production with First of Four Geoman Presses

Press release from the issuing company

Indianapolis - The Indianapolis Star has begun putting its new $72 million production facility here to work, producing advertising sections on the first of four MAN Roland Geoman presses that are scheduled to print both daily and Sunday editions of the paper by mid-July. The new press hall, which was built from the ground up to make the Gannett-owned property one of the most highly automated newspapers in the world, encompasses over 30,672 sq ft on two levels. It is at the heart of a 260,000 sq ft complex, called the Pulliam Production Center (PPC) after the publishing family who led the Star over the past five decades. Richard Rinehart, PPC Project Director, notes that the Geoman that was assembled first, designated as Press A, went into regular production at the end of January. Job one involves printing 400,000 copies of a four-page TMC advertising jacket on a weekly basis. "The press is measuring up to our expectations, as far as what we’ve done so far, but we haven’t pushed it to the limit yet," Rinehart says. "Think of it as an athlete in training. We’re running 400 meter warm-up laps now but when we get into full production it will be a marathon." The sequencing up to that marathon effort will involve production of all of the Star’s non-newspaper preprints on Press A by the end of this month. Then on May 1st, the next two Geoman systems, Press B and Press C, are scheduled to start ramping up. By May 13th, A, B and C are scheduled to be producing all daily and three Sunday advance sections of the Star in addition to numerous advertising sections. That will make them responsible for printing all of the paper’s feature material as well as its classifieds. The final Geoman, Press D will begin to roll on May 15th, and by July the entire paper will be produced on the new MAN Rolands. But the ramp-up won’t end with the production of the Star and all the advertising sections that help drive its profitability. Press D is equipped with a variable web width former that enables it to produce wide broadsheets, deep format tabloids, and quarter folds. "We’ll be able to do our TV book on it, as well as pure commercial work" Rinehart notes. It also appears that the performance of Press A has attracted new business for Press D — prior to the fourth press even turning a cylinder. Says Rinehart: "We have had several key advertisers ask us to bid on printing multimillion pieces of advertising work. The future of this business seems very promising." Producing those quantities on a routine basis shouldn’t be a problem for the Geoman presses. Features like shaftless drive technology, PECOM command and control, turbo dampening and an automatic paper infeed equips each press to produce 75,000 papers per hour. The Indianapolis Star’s Geoman presses utilize a 50-inch web width to produce a 12.5-inch page. Their cutoff is 21.5 inches. They reside on a tabletop 400 feet long and 27.5 feet wide, and stretch out longer than a football field — 375.5 feet. They weigh in at 2,100 tons. One of the reasons that the multi-press installation is proceeding so well is that the Star installed a bridge crane, similar to the ones in steel mills. It provides a skyhook that can lift and quickly transport heavy press components anywhere in the pressroom. Once the installation is complete, the crane will be used as a maintenance tool, assigned to maneuver cylinder repairs and lift other heavy elements. Another contributor to the smooth launch is the advanced training MAN Roland is providing to the Star’s press crews. "Last summer most of our maintenance people and a few press supervisors went to MAN Roland’s headquarters in Augsburg, Germany for intensive component training," Rinehart recalls. "Additionally all of our press operators who will be working at the PPC went through a week of classroom and a week of simulator training. That works for pressmen just like a flight simulator does for pilots. We want them to learn on and get feed back from the computer rather than on a multi-million dollar press." Hands-on training began in October at the Pulliam Production Center and it won’t end until every member of every press crew knows his or her role in the operation of the four Geoman presses. "The training MAN Roland provides is one of the company’s strong points," says Rinehart. The project director also praised the installation technicians who are installing the press, noting that a crew of over 25 specialists were flown in last summer from Germany and are still on the job. "They’re polite; they’re professional; and they do what you request," he says. "That makes for a trouble-free installation." The smoothness of the MAN Roland ramp-up means the Indianapolis Star is on target with its three primary objectives for implementing its new presses, its advanced roll handling system and its new automated mailroom. Goal one is to increase the amount of color opportunities the paper could offer its advertisers and bring to its readers. The Geoman presses more than double the daily total from 12 color pages to 28. The paper’s second objective is to ensure that it can remain in a straight mode to speed production and provide more pagination options every day. "This allows us to have the latest editorial deadlines, while providing the earliest press off-time, which benefits our circulation department and readers," Rinehardt points out. The final goal is to reduce labor expenses. Once all of the automated advances are in place, from roll handling to press room to mail room, the Star will have reduced its payroll by the equivalent of 88 full time employees. While reducing labor costs, the new production center will also help to expand community awareness for the Star, among its readers and its advertisers. The construction and outfitting of the center is being documented by a photo-filled progress page in the Star’s Sunday edition once a month. As the press installation winds down, the Star is strategically locating nine DVD-driven presentation stations throughout the facility. They will convey the PPC story to visiting groups, with video clips and computer graphics "This way, if a Boy Scout troop or an advertiser’s marketing department comes in when we’re not running, the video screens will show them what goes on in each area of the plant," notes Rinehart. A community room, capable of hosting groups as large as 144 people, also will be a permanent part of the center, providing a venue for neighborhood meetings and social events. And once the center is completed, the Star will conduct a series of open house events, so that the people can meet the presses. "We want to let the Indianapolis community know that we’re investing $72 million here because we value our readers and advertisers, and that our new production center will provide them with a better printed, more colorful newspaper," Rinehart says.

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