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Major mailroom upgrade for News Corp

Tuesday, 12 May 2015
By Print21

Betting on the sustainable future of newspapers, the country’s largest group is investing millions of dollars on the latest inserting and collating technology from Ferag.

News Corp is launching a multi-million dollar mailroom upgrade of its newspaper printing sites in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In a move signed off on in March but only made public now, News Corp confirmed the deal with Ferag, facilitated by the local WRH Global Australia, to replace aging equipment that is becoming more expensive to maintain is a process expected to take several years.

"This is a significant upgrade," Geoff Booth, News Limited.

“We have a problem with obsolescence,” said Geoff Booth, News Corp’s national production and logistics director. “Much of our existing mailroom equipment is more than 20 years old. Electrical parts are becoming difficult to source. We’ll use the old lines we take out for critical spares.

“It’s a big call to invest in newspaper kit but we’ve been through a vigorous investigation and this plan has been two years in the making.  This is a significant upgrade and we’re looking for more efficiency in the process.

“The first stage will be to upgrade two out of four production lines in both Sydney and Brisbane and then two out of six lines at our Melbourne facility. What makes it difficult is that we have to keep operating while we implement this upgrade, which will begin in Sydney in September before moving to Brisbane and Melbourne,” he said.

The investment in mailroom technology, the largest in sector for some years, is driven by the need to maintain the capacity to meet deadlines. Although the new lines are faster and have the latest technology there is little change to the system of producing newspapers over the past 20 years. The addition of a buffering system between the press and the mailroom department will deliver more reliability. It involves decoupling the press from the publishing department using a DiscPool multi-disc winding system.

A new inserting system will utilize the self-repair FlyStream collator with three JetFeeders and three Unwinders per line. A RollSert inserting drum capable of handling 36,000cph will operate with three packaging lines, including new MultiStack devices.

The first line will come on stream in September this year, with the whole project scheduled for final commissioning in July 2017.

According to Daniel Faesser, managing director, WRH Global Australia, the agreement is very significant for the Swiss-based Ferag. “It’s a bold move on the part of News Corp to invest in print. It is a massive project that will be of great benefit to the company,” he said.

The addition of the multi-disk buffering system is a first for News Corp in Australia, although Fairfax has run similar systems in its plants. The updated inserting technology means that only complete products, i.e. newspapers with all supplkents and inserts present, will be released for delivery.

The investment comes as the newspaper circulation declines of the past three years show signs of flattening out. “We’re not seeing the falls of recent years and certainly nothing like what’s been happening in the UK and the USA,’ said Booth. “Australia is different.”

Despite the firming circulation figures there are no plans within News Corp Australia to upgrade presses at this stage. Melbourne is the oldest of the manroland presses, again being over 20 years old. It has limited colour flexibility and would likely be the first candidate for replacement.

“We will need to think about that at some stage but that’s all we’re doing at the moment,” said Booth.

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