The manufacturing plant of the Delhi-headquartered HT Media Group — which brings out the English daily Hindustan Times and Hindi newspaper Hindustan, in Greater Noida’s Udyog Bhavan is a sprawling 22-acre facility, powered to a large extent by solar energy.
Apart from the huge presses that have the capacity to print up to 85,000 copies per hour, the nerve center of the operations is its control room. Enclosed within glass walls and armed with an array of monitors, buttons and complicated systems, the control panel gives a complete overview of the news printing processes.
The center typically serves as the central hub for managing and monitoring and controlling various aspects of the press operations and equipment in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the newspaper printing process.
Neeraj Agarwal, the manufacturing head of Hindustan Times, India, talked at length about the day-to-day processes at the plant as well as the sustainability factor.
The plant has a formidable printing and publishing capacity with a wide range of presses and machines such as two TKS presses with a capacity of 40 ppm, three Colorman presses, two of which print at 34 ppm, and one with 32 ppm, a Heidelberg 705 cover feeder, a wide-format Komori, Ctp machines and machines for binding, pining, and coating.
“Our work begins with a review of the previous day’s accomplishments and hindrances while time-mapping our activities under a specified reporting system to enhance production efficiency. The reporting system heavily inclines towards our delivery, quality, and safety along with machine efficiency and any major downtimes that could occur due to editorial delays in case of breaking news,” Agarwal said.
Agarwal has been with HT’s manufacturing unit for six years and is involved in several projects pertaining to efficiency, cost improvement, safety, and quality of the newsprint. “We have categorized our cost structure into segments such as ink, paper, and power, referring to it as total cost productivity (TCP). We review our production efficiency every day and hold TCP meetings every week ensuring the smooth flow of manufacturing. Time is the essence. Our printing starts at 9 pm after the editorials have been verified, the design team has provided their inputs, and the quality control team inspected the page setting,” he said.
The sales teams monitor the distribution chains and subscription reports and inform the press how many copies need to be printed for every edition. “Those copies after another round of quality control are packed and sent to the depots to be distributed. In addition to the depots, we have certain agencies that are involved with us in the distribution chain. Every night, more than 160 vehicles deliver the copies to the respective depot or agency within Delhi-NCR. We print our editions based on locations, generally dividing them into two categories such as up-country and city editions.” The up-country editions are generally sent to far-off places and the city editions are in and around the printing hubs.
The newspaper giant uses inks from DIC and Sakata and mostly imports the newsprint. Due to the fluctuating prices of newsprint, HT Media also scouts markets within Delhi-NCR, sourcing what aligns best in terms of quality and cost. “Khanna Paper mill is a suitable provider in terms of their proximity to our plant. The quality of the paper is also A-grade,” claims Agarwal.
The prices of imported newsprint had risen sharply last year mainly because of the supply chain disruption because of Covid, shutdowns in China, the Russia-Ukraine war, and other factors. Prices went up from US $450 per ton about three years ago to US $1,000 per ton last year – cutting into newspaper profitability. Prices have, however, started stabilizing of late.
Solar power, waste management
As climate change and sustainability become crucial aspects of every industry, printing presses are also recognizing the need to adopt environmentally responsible strategies.
Be it waste management or power management, the HT Media printing unit is getting highly sustainable in various aspects, the officials explained. “Waste for us is different than any other industry. The metal plugs, the edge covers, and the packaging of the paper rolls are waste products for us. We try to minimize our waste but it’s never going to be zero – neither for us nor any other plants,” Agarwal says. He says waste generation is always inversely proportional to the size of the edition.
Since paper is easily recyclable, HT Media outsources its waste paper for recycling. “We are not directly involved in recycling the paper but we purchase the recycled paper,” adds Neeraj.
The manufacturing plant is largely fueled by solar energy, which helps minimize the power consumption cost. Indian Printer and Publisher had earlier reported how HT has a solar system of 800 kilowatts to help power its machines, bring down per-page cost, and bring down emission levels. HT Media’s annual report also talks about rooftop solar panels installed at the Greater Noida and Mohali plants.
Despite the decline of the printing industry, Agarwal remains optimistic about its future. He says printing will never be out of demand. “Though information is available via different mediums, readers still have faith in what they read in a newspaper. It doesn’t matter where intel caught wind, readers will always rely on newspapers to validate the information.”