Nikkan Pro Sports boosts newspaper production with Tecnau Newsready

Faster and more streamlined production process

NewsReadt application Tecnau newspaper
NewsReadt application Tecnau newspaper

Nikkan Pro Sports Newspaper launched the first sport newspaper in Japan in 1947. Since then, the company has focused on publishing and selling track cycling newspapers and later on by also providing the same information to the web. The group has grown over the years and it counted 64 employees in 2014 with the main headquarters located in Tokyo. The Nikkan mission is to provide information to readers in the shortest time possible to keep them updated on the latest news. The company has always been publishing-specific forecast newspapers for bicycle races, which soon gained immense popularity among the fans.

With races being held every day of the year, our company publishes prediction newspapers non-stop 24/7 and delivers them to the race-track. In recent years, we made use of corner stores and the internet to expand this circulation, but readers still prefer printed publications. With increased demand, we faced a real time-to-market challenge,” explained Takeuchi, chief executive officer, at Nikkan Pro Sports.

The company publishes two types of newspapers, one delivered daily to the readers and the other once a week. The daily newspaper started out originally being called Keirin Shinbun, which means track cycling newspaper, but it had its name changed soon after. The red lettering used for the title made a huge impression on the fans, who called the newspaper Akakei from the very beginning (“aka” means red in Japanese). For this reason, the name was officially changed. Among other track cycling prediction newspapers, the advantage of the Akakei is its easy accessibility (it can be purchased over the internet and in the ubiquitous convenience stores).

The weekly newspaper, called Pro Sports, is a 16-page folded booklet published on Wednesdays. It mainly consists of predictions about races taking place one week to 10 days from publication. Included inside are also visitor attendance counts, profits per race and statistics of top cyclists based on a “leg strength index”, which is a specific Nikkan Pro Sports calculation method.

At Nikkan, newspapers must be published and delivered within a limited time frame. For this compelling reason, the company decided to speed up and streamline the production process by minimizing paper handling and operations.

To achieve this goal, Nikkan installed a digital finishing Tecnau NewReady solution inline to a Screen TruePress Jet520HD Series High-Definition Inkjet Web Press inside the factory in Tokyo. “This efficient solution produces finished applications in a single process from white paper rolls to printed multi-page folded booklets,” says Thomas Olofsson, area manager for Asia Pacific and Nordic Europe at Tecnau. “Compared to the offset printer previously used, the customer is now able to print all the pages in full color and has been able to reduce production time and labor,” he adds.

Tecnau NewsReady cuts and accumulates the printed web into sheets that are folded once or twice before being ready for delivery. Depending on the application requested, the solution can be configured in seconds to create single folded sheets (twice or z-folded) or multiple sheets folded once. The NewsReady solution at Nikkan Pro Sports also allows 1-up or 2-up stacks, with or without offset, to be sent to a 90° conveyor for other commercial print or book-block production purposes.

It all started when our staff saw the Truepress JET520HD at an exhibition; by September of the same year we decided on the purchase. We chose this model because our corporate red color was beautifully printed on paper. Previously our daily newspaper was only partially in color, but now the full-color publication is very well appreciated by our followers. They also find the photos inside the weekly newspaper to be more vivid and better printed than before. Full color printing has boosted the overall value, including the advertising value, of our publications,” says Tsukioka, senior vice president at Nikkan Pro Sports.

The 55 gsm lightweight paper used in newspaper production is always a real challenge for any printer,” adds Tsukioka. “Jams easily occur with consequent stoppages wasting time and paper. However, the Truepress NIR dryer technology reduces the cockling often associated with traditional inkjet and improves print quality and graphics. This special feature applied to our lightweight full color printed stocks achieves great results. After the printer, the web is neat, and the sheets cut on the Tecnau NewsReady system are accurate and extremely flat. This is a big advantage for the following stages of production where sheets are precisely accumulated and folded for a high-quality result.

In the end, you might wonder why we have chosen to adopt the latest digital printing systems for a market like track cycling which shows signs of decline” added Takeuchi. “But the answer is simple: we are still confident that our business has an extremely high profitability. And by adopting the latest technologies available, we have increased the value of our newspapers to provide the best possible product to our readers. We are also looking ahead for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which will be featuring track cycling competitions, where we would like to contribute in one way or another.”

The complete Tecnau NewsReady and Screen TruePress series solution was installed in the shortest time possible with the aid of Boewe Systec Japan, who also provides the customer a continuous service contract for assistance and maintenance to keep production consistent and stable.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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