Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contents - ▶ News & Tech Staff Re­port

The Buf­falo (New York) News made an in­vest­ment in mailroom ef­fi­cien­cies in an ef­fort to cre­ate sus­tain­able change and re­duce op­er­at­ing costs as the pa­per ad­justs to di­min­ish­ing read­ers and in­sert cus­tomers.

“But its not all doom and gloom” Bryan Carr, vice pres­i­dent of pro­duc­tion for The Buf­falo News, told News & Tech. “There are op­por­tu­ni­ties for us; in fact, in Septem­ber we be­gan to dou­ble down on com­mu­nity news­pa­pers and penny savers that are bring­ing ad­di­tional cus­tomers and rev­enue to us from places we hadn’t been will­ing to look at be­fore.”

Since 2009, when the com­pany signed a multi-year con­tract to be a print part­ner for the New York Times, it has been busy adding other re­gional pub­lish­ers to the cus­tomer pool and rev­enue base, Carr said.

“We’ve also been build­ing out our ca­pa­bil­i­ties as a very com­pe­tent com­mer­cial printer in or­der to com­pete with oth­ers in our mar­ket,” ac­cord­ing to Carr.

Carr and The Buf­falo News con­tracted with BURT Tech­nolo­gies and The Net­work to im­prove its pack­ag­ing process from pre­print or­der en­try to pro­duc­ing com­plete pack­ages.

Ini­tially, The News in­vested in op­er­a­tor train­ing. The 25-year-old in­sert­ers are still in great shape, Carr said, but op­er­a­tors haven’t had any ad­di­tional train­ing in ma­chine set up since the equip­ment was in­stalled.

“Bad habits form, the folks who re­ceived the train­ing have re­tired and the knowl­edge trans­fer hasn’t been well main­tained,” Carr ex­plained to N&T. “Be­fore we in­vest in new equip­ment, it was im­por­tant for us to get out of old habits and learn how to per­form change overs quicker and de­velop our op­er­a­tors to ad­dress the chal­lenges of shorter ma­chine runs and thin­ner, more di­verse in­serts our clients send us.”

Carr said that The Net­work was a highly qual­i­fied team that of­fered op­er­a­tor train­ing, con­sult­ing and used equip­ment for mailroom op­er­a­tions.

“A cou­ple of the BH Me­dia Group pa­pers had con­tracted with The Net­work and en­dorsed their ca­pa­bil­i­ties and the re­sults they had de­liv­ered,” said Carr.

Sev­eral rounds of train­ing cov­er­ing day and night shifts en­sure that ev­ery­one has the set-up and trou­bleshoot­ing skills to be suc­cess­ful. The news­pa­per is look­ing for quicker change-overs and faster run­ning speeds — cru­cial im­prove­ments as zon­ing gets more and more fine, down to the car­rier level.

“Mak­ing these in­vest­ments in peo­ple and sys­tems brings a much higher level of fo­cus on what our core ob­jec­tives are in the mailroom,” said Carr. “We’ve iden­ti­fied sev­eral other ar­eas in the mailroom that are prospects for cre­at­ing base­lines and key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors with plans for con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment. Progress along these lines al­lows our man­agers to be cre­ative in man­ag­ing and add some level of dis­ci­pline to our best prac­tices and pro­ce­dures.”

Fur­ther, The News placed an or­der with BURT Tech­nolo­gies for pack­age plan­ning and in­ven­tory man­age­ment soft­ware that will re­place the pa­per’s home­grown, older pre­print or­der en­try/in­ven­tory sys­tem. The move will elim­i­nate du­pli­cate or­der pro­cess­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing and cir­cu­la­tion, sav­ing la­bor and re­duc­ing er­rors.

“We’re just get­ting BURT in­stalled and train­ing starts in March,” Carr ex­plained. “But I

an­tic­i­pate a much higher level of in­te­gra­tion be­tween or­der en­try, pack­age plan­ning, ma­chine con­trols and ac­cess to our News­Cy­cle cir­cu­la­tion sys­tem.”

The tech­nol­ogy will elim­i­nate du­pli­ca­tion of work, make shorter plan times, of­fer less make goods due to ty­pos and er­rors from man­ual pro­cesses and im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween re­ceiv­ing and or­der en­try, Carr said.

These up­grades in train­ing and tech­nol­ogy keep The News on pace with the rest of the in­dus­try by be­ing more ef­fi­cient with sched­ul­ing and ma­chine cy­cles. The pa­per will have the abil­ity to of­fer in­sert­ing ser­vices to other pub­lish­ers who would rather in­vest their pay­roll dol­lars on con­tent to bring cir­cu­la­tion, Carr ex­plained.

“In the short run, in­serts will con­tinue to dis­ap­pear and the re­main­ing work will con­tinue to change dra­mat­i­cally in their page counts and pa­per spec­i­fi­ca­tions,” Carr said. “Our core of work, roughly 2/3 of our pay­roll in the mailroom is for in­sert­ing.”

While the changes have their speed bumps, over­all Carr thinks it’s im­por­tant for The News to stay close to tech­nol­ogy providers and to in­vest in cap­i­tal that drives out op­er­at­ing costs.

“That in­vest­ment cre­ates chal­lenges for the em­ployee who must learn new pro­cesses or learns that the new pro­cesses may lead to fewer co­work­ers,” Carr said. “We must all adapt to the new re­al­ity of less print.”

Bryan Carr, vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions at The Buf­falo News shakes hands with Keith Hock­en­berry af­ter sign­ing the BURT agree­ment.

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