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Casebook 2011: San Francisco Chronicle adds automation

Printing press redefines paper-handling operations with automation and intuitive software.
By Josh Bond, Associate Editor
January 31, 2011

In the newspaper business, the two biggest costs are people and paper. In an effort to cut costs of raw materials, designers of a new print and production facility for the San Francisco Chronicle used automated solutions to lower the cost of printing, assembling and distributing newspapers to subscribers and newsstands.

By exploring the idea of outsourcing, the newspaper developed a value-added model unique to the printing industry. Central to the system’s success is the application of automation (HK Systems, now Dematic, http://www.dematic.com) in all aspects of the operation.

The efficiencies begin at the loading dock, where a clamp truck lifts each roll just once from the truck to inbound conveyors. Rolls travel on a conveyor to a turntable to facilitate the scanning of bar codes, which integrated software can differentiate by supplier. A 60-foot-tall automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) stores approximately 4,480 rolls and pallets with the majority of the double-deep rack positions designed to store either. By streamlining paper handling, the system has increased efficiency while significantly reducing damage to rolls and overall product loss.

The newspaper’s press software sends daily demand statistics to the conveyor’s integrated software, which cues up the needed rolls from inventory. As operators at strip stations remove the protective kraft paper, inspect and prepare the rolls for the printing process, the control system tracks the amount of paper waste generated at each station.

Once the rolls are prepared, they are moved to either a buffer storage rack or directly to the press. When a roll is needed, an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) places the roll directly on to the reel stand that automatically feeds the press.

A built-in weighing system can also identify pallets of advertisements and verify the exact count. The data collected on newsprint and advertising during receiving is critical for use in downstream production operations.

In addition to minimum levels of buffer at each machine, the system ensures that the correct advertisement is delivered to the correct machine, which is especially important since different ads can often look the same. By guaranteeing the right ad goes to the right region of the San Francisco Bay area, the system translates to better customer relations.

About the Author

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Josh Bond
Associate Editor

Josh Bond is an associate editor to Modern. Josh was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and contributing editor, has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce.


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