BUFFALO NEWS PRIORITIZES MAILROOM
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.