Nation Media Group’s new printing press was commissioned by His Highness The Aga Khan. The new press promised to take not only Nation Media Group (NMG) to uncharted seas but to push the publishing industry to new frontiers.
Occupying 3,600 square metres at the Nation Printing Plant, a few hundred metres off the busy Mombasa Road, is the complex that houses the shiny brand-new printing press. Inside the building, one is confronted by the breathtaking hugeness of it all — five printing towers lining the floor and occupying about 800 square metres.
Standing before the observers is the Colorman e:line (4-1 series) printing press manufactured by Manroland Web Systems in Germany. With the ability to churn out up to 86,000 copies per hour, the Colorman e:line is the fastest newspaper press in its class, offering best print quality and best-in-class automation.
“We call it future-proof,” says Director of Newspaper Systems at Manroland, Wolfgang Hiesinger. He means that for the first time, a newspaper printing press will offer options for gradual upgrades and retrofits that ensure a positive outlook for any business model.
The new press features five eight-couple printing towers and is capable of printing up to 86,000 copies per hour, a significant leap from the 60,000 copies the previous printer produced.
Gideon Aswani, head of production at NMG, observes that the larger number of copies that can be printed is actually the least of the advantages that come with his new 470-tonne baby. “Production time has been slashed by a whopping 65 per cent. This means we can now do in two and a half hours what we used to do in at least six hours. Wastage has also been cut down significantly, saving the company Sh8 million annually,” he says. This means we can now do in two and a half hours what we used to do in at least six hours. Wastage has also been cut down significantly, saving the company Sh8 million annually,” he says.
The size of paper being fed into the new press has also been reduced marginally, by 25 millimetres, which may seem insignificant until one realises this translates into savings of more than Sh35 million annually. In 2012, select teams from the Editorial, Circulation, Advertising, Finance and Production departments at NMG sat down to discuss the future of newspaper publishing at the company.
From various market analyses, the team was convinced that the future of the newspaper in Africa was bright and broad and grossly under-tapped.
“Before we even decided what type of machine to acquire, or even that we needed a new machine, we had to come up with a comprehensive list of all the things the company needed to take the next giant leap into the future,” recounts Aswani.
These needs were then translated into machine specifications and distributed to four manufacturers. “Manroland gave us the most competitive offer and two years down the line, we have not been disappointed,” he says.
The new press will also give NMG a unique advertising edge with increased capabilities in terms of possible advertisement formats. The previous press, which capably served the company for 19 years, could only produce 48 pages of
The previous press, which capably served the company for 19 years, could only produce 48 pages of colour copy in a straight run. But the Colorman e:line nearly doubles this, at 80 full-colour pages.
The press can also create special advert page designs with super-panorama spreads, memo sticks, memo flags and numerous other formats that will now be exclusively available locally through NMG. Increased automation and heightened safety measures also ensure that the machine can be run with minimal danger to operators and other staff at the plant.
“We have ensured that we have spacious and clearly marked movement spaces around the press. We also have special amenities for our staff such as bathrooms designed to accommodate the handicapped,” explains Aswani. In step with the global fight against global warming, the new printing plant is doing its share to reduce the carbon footprint by utilising clean energy whenever and wherever possible.