Walliser Bote pulls inkjet experiment to outsource print

Pioneering digital newspaper production at Mengis Druck is in doubt following a decision to outsource printing of the flagship Walliser Bote from January.

Readers of the Swiss newspaper have been told that hopes of other work for the press "have not been fulfilled" while production of the newspaper takes up press time that might be attractive to customers.

Instead of continuing inhouse digital production of the six-day daily - a postal-folded tabloid and Berliner-sized broadsheet with circulation between 22,000-32,000 copies of approximately 24 pages - publisher Mengis Group will take advantage of overcapacity on neighbouring offset newspaper presses. Although negotiations would appear to be still taking place, readers have been told that the change is fixed for January, and that "everything will remain the same".

The digital start-up in June last year was promoted as a "world first" - the first time a digital press had been used for the whole production of a daily newspaper. Equipment is a combination of HP's 183 metres/minute T400 inkjet web - for which there were hopes of higher speeds - manroland's FoldLine inline finishing system, and Müller Martini inserting.

Directors justified the investment on the grounds that the old web-offset press had to be replaced, and digital printing would open options for personalisation and a variety of other work, including some that Mengis was currently producing sheetfed. The downside was that production of the newspaper would take twice as long as previously.

In a message to readers this week, they say that outsourcing was considered three

years ago, but tight deadlines and high prices "weighed against the option" with digital printing seen as a "sustainable investment in the future".

That initial situation "has changed massively," they say. Moving production of the newspaper will free up time on the inkjet line, but other plans for the future are not clear.

Peter Coleman

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