Reach plc., UK’s biggest newspaper publisher, is also a leading player in the magazines and online media business. Apart from more than 240 local and regional newspapers, Reach also publishes the national Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Express, Sunday Express and Daily Star as well as sundry other newspapers and magazines with a nationwide circulation.
Its subsidiary Reach Printing Services Ltd., one of the premier print providers in the United Kingdom, is responsible for producing the newspaper print editions. In addition to the Reach Group’s own titles, Reach Printing Services also contract-prints a variety of newspapers and magazines on behalf of other publishers. The two largest sites are located in Oldham (nearly 71,000 square meters of floor space) and Watford, though the company also has facilities in Birmingham, Cardonald (Scotland), Luton and Teesside.
Out of these six sites, the printing center in Oldham, which employs 148 people, outputs the highest page volume. Between six and seven million newspapers and magazines leave the premises every week. Reach Group products account for around 55% of the site’s total print volume; the remainder are external contracts like The Guardian, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and The i plus many other titles. Production takes place on seven days a week at night and four days a week in the daytime.
The print shop in Oldham works with a WIFAG evolution 371 web press line, which was commissioned in 2006 and originally comprised four sections but was expanded by an additional section in 2008 and again in 2009. The line has 19 four-high towers overall as well as six jaw folders and 19 reel stands. It has been operated and controlled from the outset using press control and control console technology from EAE Engineering Automation Electronics and is equipped with eight EAE Baltic Star control consoles. For many years now, the relationship between Reach Printing Services and EAE has been marked by a constructive partnership. The print provider first signed a Service Level Agreement with EAE back in 2011 and has since enjoyed 24/7 hotline support along with a series of other benefits and privileges.
Rejuvenation therapy for the EAE systems’ IT base
The need to modernize the computer systems of the control consoles and the section controls in order to maintain production reliability was recognized some time ago. Compared to the heavy mechanical components of newspaper web presses, computer hardware and PCs tend to have a relatively short lifecycle. Malfunctions and breakdowns typically occur more frequently towards the end of the service life, with direct implications for press availability.
“We have started experiencing equipment failures and the risk of impairments to our production was rising steadily,” reports Alan Marsden, IT Systems Manager at Reach Printing Systems (Oldham) Ltd. “In our experience, spare parts for our computers were getting harder and harder to come by. On top of that, support for the operating systems we use has been withdrawn.”
After careful deliberation of the options, the Reach managers responsible decided in favour of a complete retrofit of all PCs belonging to the EAE systems on the WIFAG web press. They did this with the aim of increasing system reliability and availability and extending the life of the equipment as a whole. “We expect a retrofit specialist to provide us with a turnkey solution at a reasonable cost and to implement it without disrupting or interrupting our production workflows any more than absolutely necessary,” Marsden explains. EAE was an obvious choice here in view of their extensive experience and successes in the retrofit business.
PC hardware replacements will improve production reliability
The order for EAE involves replacing the existing PCs in the EAE system environment with eight new control console PCs, twelve section control PCs, six PCs for the EAE Info reporting and logging system, two EAE Info Remote Workstations and one EAE Service PC. Four replacement units of the various PC models round off the hardware package. On the software side, the printer will be supplied with an update to the latest version of the EAE Info System plus the newest versions of both the operating systems, namely RMOS (an OS for industrial environments) and Windows.
The retrofit work in Oldham is due to be carried out by EAE’s experts at the end of September 2018. To ensure optimum conditions for rapid and efficient implementation on the customer’s site, the new computer systems will be configured at the EAE headquarters in Ahrensburg (Germany); both the operating systems and the EAE application software will be installed and tested there prior to departing for Oldham.