Manorama to add four more press lines by end-2017

Modernizing 11 newspaper plants in Kerala in four phases

Mitsubishi Diamond Spirit SA at Manorama’s Kottayam plant. Photo IPP

With the circulation figures expected to reach the 2.5 million mark, Kerala’s leading newspaper Malayala Manorama will soon embark on its fourth phase of expansion. In what may be seen as a five-year long project, the first phase saw the installation of five Manugraph Smartline 4 x 1 presses. In the second phase, five second-hand TKS 4 x 2 presses were reconfigured and brought into production as three press lines. In the third and the most ambitious phase that was recently completed, five doublewidth Mitsubishi Diamond Spirit SA presses were installed.

In the fourth phase of its five-year long modernization project, Manorama is likely to install two new and two second-hand newspaper press lines. “We hope the fourth phase should be over by end-2017. But a lot would depend on how fast we can get the second-hand presses, if they are not available we may have to consider new ones,” says George Jacob, executive director, Malayala Manorama. 

Capacity enhancement  

The Thiruvananthapuram plant will most likely get two presses as it is the only one of the company’s 11 plants that has not had its press lines modernized in previous phases. The plant currently has a Manugraph Uniset 2 x 2 press (two broadsheets pages wide and two around) and a Manugraph Frontline 2 x 1 highspeed shaftless press that together produce close to 300,000 copies daily. “These presses have started giving trouble now. Earlier we had planned for new investment at the Thiruvananthapuram plant only in 2018. But it seems we will have to do it earlier,” says Jacob.

In the next phase, one press is expected to be installed at Kozhikode, which along with the plants at Kannur and Malappuram produces the daily for northern Kerala. Each of these plants currently operates a double-width press and produces a near maximum capacity of 180,000 copies given Manorama’s print window every night. “If any breakdown happens to any of the presses, there is no back up. So one of the presses out of the four to be added, will go to the Kozhikode facility as it is central among the three. This press can provide back-up to the other two units. Since it will be more like a back-up press, it would most likely be a second-hand press and not a new one,” Jacob adds.

The Kochi unit will also get a press in the fourth phase as that plant is also approaching full capacity at 360,000 copies. The Kochi plant currently operates the two secondhand TKS 4 x 2 press lines. Apart from additions of new presses, there could also be more color towers and more automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). All plants from phases two and three have AGVs for reel handling. Each of the five Mitsubishi Diamond Spirit 4 x 1 presses have three AGVs for bringing the reels to the press and taking back the used reel cores. “We may add AGVs to phase one plants as well. Our focus is on quality, while reducing wastage and improving on timely delivery,” says Jacob. Believe it or not, these AGVs are manufactured in India by an Indian company.

Five Muller Martini mailroom lines 

Along with the new Mitsubishi Diamond Spirit SA 4 x 1 presses, Malayala Manorama has installed five identical direct mailroom lines from Müller Martini – two at Kottayam and one each at Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kozhikode. These latest generation NewsGrip conveyor chains, each with a receiving and delivery station, have a new control system and feature new guide sections for evacuating copies from the press folder and for stacking and bundling. Each line includes two NewsStack compensating stackers, Solema belts, a Sitma bundle film wrapper with cross strapping, manual application of pre-printed top sheets and a control system for bundle production.

Going green 

Jacob believes the fourth phase of expansion will most likely be the final one from the point of view of printing capabilities. “I believe in ten years newspaper print volumes will start to plateau. So after this phase we may not have to invest further on the press side. Most of our efforts will be focussed on the internet and other diversification projects.”

Manorama is steadily increasing its investments in environmentally friendly technologies. Several of the newer printing plants and editorial buildings are designed as green buildings and solar plants already generate about 300 KVA of electricity. For some time the company has been working on building a 10 megawatt wind-based power plant in Pallakad.

The land has been bought and negotiations are on with equipment suppliers and operations are set to begin from April next year. Apart from supplying power to the printing facilities, surplus power could possibly be sold back to the grid although that would depend on government decisions, Jacob says.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

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