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Denver production project nearing finish line
DNA’s upgrade covers all the right bases as Post goes on-edition.

By Chuck Moozakis

With only a few last-minute software integration projects left to go, the Denver Newspaper Agency last month essentially wrapped up its multimillion-dollar upgrade to its production infrastructure.

“The plant is evolving,” said Paul Gledhill, former vice president of operations at the agency, which publishes The Denver Post and (Denver) Rocky Mountain News (daily combined, 450,616; Saturday, 490,471; Sunday, 600,229) under a joint operating agreement. Gledhill, who along with former senior vice president of operations Frank Dixon oversaw the 2-year project, retired last month after 17 years at the agency. Dixon retired in October.


DNA spent more than $100 million for the upgrade at the Edward W. Estlow Printing Plant in north Denver, which included five new presses, new postpress and computer-to-plate equipment, a slew of new production software and an automated storage and retrieval system.

Photos: Newspapers & Technology
One of two 39:1 Magnapaks from Goss International Corp. are readied for production. Former Denver Newspaper Agency vice president of operations Paul Gledhill helped spearhead the two-year project.


Move to single site

In the process, DNA mothballed a plant formerly used to print The Post and moved all its production to a single site.

DNA based its production around five GeoMAN 4-by-2 presses from MAN Roland Inc., replacing 10 machines in the process. The GeoMANs, with a 21-inch cutoff and variable web width, doubled DNA’s color capacity. Their improved print quality, meantime, gave DNA the freedom to shrink the tabloid News some 20 percent, to a size of 13.5 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide without losing registration (see “New Rocky aimed at wooing readers, cutting expenses,” Newspapers & Technology, March 2007).

DNA’s upgrade of its postproduction was equally critical, Gledhill said. The publisher’s former postpress foundation was ill-suited to handle growing preprint demands. And obsolete technology made maintenance difficult.

Katie McManus, DNA’s director of packaging with Brent Griebling,
director of transportation, in front of one of agency’s new Schur
Packaging Systems palletizers.


Bolstered postpress

DNA subsequently bolstered postpress with inserting equipment from Goss International Corp., palletizing systems from Schur Packaging Systems Inc., gripper conveyor from Ferag, label applicators from Accraply Inc. and software from Burt Technologies Inc. and Enternet. It also tapped HK Systems to build a 3,400-position, 80-foot-tall ASRS to manage preprints.

Goss supplied two 39:1 Magnapaks and one NP642 inserter. It also reconfigured four existing NP632s and meshed all of the equipment with Burt supervisory software.

Schur, meantime, delivered 11 Winrob II palletizing systems, configured as five double cells that include 10 palletizers and five PSW stretch wrappers plus one single cell containing one palletizer and one wrapper.


Big improvement

The palletizers represented some of the biggest improvements in postproduction operations, said Katie McManus, DNA’s director of packaging.

“It’s been a huge change,” she said. “This gives use better tracking of bundles and also lets us support finer zoning.” The system also automates many former manual processes and provides DNA with a wealth of performance and tracking data it never had before, she said.

McManus said the agency is getting similar benefits from the ASRS. Information about insert pallets is transmitted via the system to Burt software, which allows DNA operators to track the progress of preprints as they travel from production floor to delivery truck.

“The DNA deployment is representative of Burt and is a great example of mixed inserter controls from Goss and Enternet working together on the same page,” said Jim Burt, president of the company that bears his name.

Ultimately, McManus said, DNA wants to program the ASRS’ MTC management software so the system knows when it’s time to replenish an insert during a production run, ensuring continuous operation. “That’s the next level,” she said.

On the prepress side, Kodak supplied five Trendsetter News 200 thermal computer-to-plate setters, feeding into Nela plate benders. The systems can generate up to 1,200 plates per hour, in four different plate sizes.

DNA phased in the equipment in stages. The inserters, palletizers and ASRS, for example, went into production in late 2006 while three of the presses and two of the CTP systems went on-edition in January, producing the News, portions of The Post and some commercial accounts.


Transition in September

The publisher operated both plants through early September, when it shuttered The Post facility and transferred all production to the Estlow site.

The transition — from two print sites and older technology to a single facility cloaked with automation and new equipment — “took long hours of discussion integrating two workforces into a single site” Gledhill said. “It’s been slow but sure, considering the radical change.”

The journey hit a brief roadblock in late October, when deliveries of both the News and Post were delayed for several days by glitches associated with producing editions inflated by extra pages and advertising related to the Colorado Rockies’ World Series appearance.

Gledhill said the delays were primarily due to managing the physical size of the papers, which necessitated collect runs. “It was a challenging time,” he said.

“Modern day printing technology is wonderful, but it requires operator discipline,” he said.

Now that the Estlow plant is up and running, DNA will likely turn its attention to attracting additional commercial accounts. To that end, the agency in October began printing the 31,000-subscriber Daily Camera in nearby Boulder, Colo., joining the production of Denver’s alternative weekly, Westword, which has a print run in excess of 100,000.

It also produces the regional edition of The New York Times at a separate facility anchored by a Goss International Corp. Mercury press.

“We’ll be looking at competing for commercial work as it becomes available,” Gledhill said.

Gledhill calls it ‘30’

In 1959, when Paul Gledhill got his first newspaper job as a paper handler at the Los Angeles Times, the paper was produced on hulking letterpresses at its downtown Spring Street headquarters and a room-sized computer was needed to handle hyphenation and justification of copy slated for the Times’ classified pages.

Former Denver Newspaper Agency
vice president of operations Paul Gledhill
helped spearhead the two-year project.

Last month, as he walked out of the Denver Newspaper Agency’s Edward W. Estlow production plant for the last time, retiring after 48 years in the industry, Gledhill, the agency’s vice president of operations, looked back at a livelihood well spent.

“I enjoyed creating a new product every day,” he said about his newspaper career.

Gledhill didn’t remain long as a paper handler. He became a press operator in the early 1960s and got his first management job in 1973, when he was promoted to pressroom foreman.

By the time he left the Times, in 1990, to join the (Denver) Rocky Mountain News, Gledhill had become the Los Angeles paper’s vice president of operations. Along the way, he oversaw the Times’ greatest production expansion in history as the paper built or reconstructed facilities downtown, in the San Fernando Valley and in Orange County.

“It all revolved around the people and being able to communicate,” he said about the success of those multimillion-dollar projects.

Those experiences helped Gledhill and former DNA senior vice president of operations Frank Dixon spearhead the agency’s production upgrade.

“The key to any project is defining the limitations,” he said, citing distribution of The Denver Post and News as an example. “When I started here, delivery was still by paperboys and papers were processed manually and distributed in step-vans. Today, we have an adult delivery force and the papers are loaded directly into semi-trucks that back right into the plant.”

Gledhill said he remains optimistic about the future of newspapers.

“We’ve been through tough times before,” he said. “But newspapers have a tremendous ability to collect information and news. They just have to find ways to move that information profitably.”

Gledhill, 66, moved to San Diego with his wife, Mary Phil, where they will be close to their family. One son, Jeff, followed in his newspaper footsteps and currently serves as vice president of operations at The Fresno (Calif.) Bee.