A mix of technical insights, networking and philosophy helped make the second South East Asia Newspaper Group (SEANG) conference in Bangkok this month an interesting and informative event. And importantly, the combination of more user delegates and vendor sponsors will help secure its ongoing success.
Newspapers from six countries - Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia - were represented at the three-day event, along with vendor specialists from the region, Europe and the USA. Initiated by a steering committee including K.S. Ng (manroland Malaysia) and Stephan Peters (Pegras/ContiTech) the group has elected Anthony Cheng as its president for 2009/2010, and plans its third conference next year.
Technical programme highlights were a detailed description of Fairfax Media's operation in Chullora, Australia, from plant manager Paul Peters (see 'Secrets of Fairfax's press innovations'
) along with some pearls of wisdom from Cheng who is executive vice president for newspaper production at Singapore Press Holdings. But the gathering also delivered ample opportunities to share experience and network, over golf, a barbeque at Peters' home, and a dinner cruise on Bangkok's 'Royal River'.
Technical topics addressed best-of-class production and cost reduction, along with a special focus on UV newspaper printing technology. James Haisman - managing director of QI Press Controls Australasia - introduced his opposite number in Kuala Lumpur, Donny Lim, and discussed how automated controls could make quality more consistent and reduce labour and waste costs. The theme was continued by David Mitchell of control systems rival QuadTech.
For the Beil Berth group, Mike Ackerman explained the evolution of systems to accurately punch and bend plates to include facilities for quality management and now, robotic loading of cassettes and transport to a press's automated loading systems.
Stefan Füllgraf had travelled from the German headquarters of printing blanket manufacturer ContiTech to present an explanation of the metal-back blankets used especially to reduce vibration in new high-speed 4x1 and 6x2 newspaper press formats.
Delegates who perhaps hadn't thought that the choice of fount chemistry would be a big factor in waste reduction learned something new from Schwegmann's Willi Krudwig. "Although it is normally used in very small quantities, the fount is very important both to the press and the printed product," he says, pointing to a range of issues including corrosion and environmental impact.
Taking the theme of 'cost reduction in hard times' - "this year, but hopefully not next year" - K.S. Ng of manroland Malaysia looked at issues associated with press upgrades and maintenance. Integrated maintenance software not only helps plan maintenance, but can avoid waste through over-servicing, and the system can be also used for prepress and postpress equipment and vehicles. Ng also discussed a new service aimed at assessing how the potential of personnel could be realised through personal development.
From German press manufacturer KBA, sales manager Andreas Friedreich focussed on the benefits of new 'compact' press designs including the company's Commander CT and waterless Cortina. At around four metres high, these can be installed in a normal industrial building and can create operating savings "conservatively" estimated at from seven to 10-12 per cent.
Kodak's C.K. Gan discussed ways in which digital printing technologies - including variable data - could be used to increase reader attention and response. "The real power of print is the ability to personalise," he says. "You can provide less information, but what you provide is more relevant, and draws better results." Kodak has continuous-inkjet print systems which work both on-press and in a mailroom environment, while its standalone inkjet web presses are being taken up by users such as Maltese newspaper distributor Miller Malta and Rotomail in Milan to print short runs of a variety of titles.
UV printing focus
A briefing from three vendors followed up keen interest in UV newspaper printing, on which SEANG has already held a seminar. manroland South East Asia managing director Job van Hasselt told of the press maker's cooperation with Eltex, involving an installation at Herold Druck in Vienna.
"A typical press installation is extremely compact, with no requirements for chill rolls or a large dryer," he says. "UV can be added later and is environmentally-friendly with no afterburners or solvents."
Erich Midlik of US-headquartered UV newspaper printing specialist Prime Systems detailed a number of projects in which single-width users had enhanced and extended their offerings through the process. Products included supplements, covers and hybrid newspapers.
At the 'Colorado Mountain News', the publisher had opted to replace a conventional heatset dryer with UV for environmental and regulatory reasons. These issues were expanded by Jerome Godin of specialist ink maker Arrets, with the qualification that, while UV ink was two-and-a-half or three times as expensive as conventional ink, its 'higher strength' meant consumption was typically less.
Upgrades and philosophy
Joking about being "Anthony Cheng's warm-up act", Steve Kirk of press controls specialist ABB touched briefly on the upgrade his company has recently completed for Singapore Press Holdings in an address about press automation and retrofits.
Unreliability and lack of available spare parts can often be a driver for control upgrades, he says, but a real benefit can be to achieve levels of automation which were not available when the press was installed. Today the focus moves to product-orientated control from press-orientated operation with its scope for error.
He outlined upgrades including a Wifag press reconfiguration for Südoschweitz the maker "would never have contemplated", integration of two (1982 and 1992) manroland Colorman presses without interrupting production, and the project to upgrade SPH's Goss Colorliners. "Before I met Anthony, I had brown hair," he joked.
Finally, Cheng himself (pictured) shared the wisdom with which guides the massive SPH production operation: The 'Ying and Yang' of a philosophy which balanced man, machine and materials.
He urged delegates to resist the temptation to buy cheap materials when money is tight. "Buy value, but look for ways to reduce consumption," he says. "Calibrate, then consumption will go down."
And of the Colorliner upgrade, he says he argued for it because - with the plant not running at full capacity - "now was the best time".
He urged publishers to retain, retrain and redeploy people rather than retrenching them in hard times. "Printing used to be an art, but it is a science now," he says. "A different set of skills and discipline is needed to adapt for the new technology."
• See SEANG picture slideshow.