Rolling change in the media industry has been driving a need for intelligent alliances, and at this year’s Ifra Expo in Vienna KBA was a good example
Closing the automation gap: at IfraExpo 2009, KBA and its alliance partner Beil unveiled a module-based automated logistics system, KBA PlateTrans, for conveying the new plates from prepress to the Cortina and Commander CT and the used plates back.
At KBA’s press conference on the first day of the show Beil Registersysteme managing director Stefan Kreitczik gave a briefing on the modular PlateTrans logistics system, which in many cases can also be retrofitted. Available in a choice of automation levels, the KBA PlateTrans system for plate feed and removal closes a previously existing gap between prepress and press, relieves the operating crew of manual tasks during edition changes and boosts productivity and cost efficiency in high-volume newspaper production by increasing plate throughput. With KBA PlateTrans the misallocation of plates, which commonly occurs in practice, is virtually eliminated.
Automatic plate changing on a newspaper press was first demonstrated at Drupa 2000 with a KBA Cortina. For the 26 compact Cortina and Commander CT presses sold since then KBA has received orders for over 1,000 PlateTronic systems (3)
KBA and Beil have found a prospective Cortina user willing to test PlateTrans in a shopfloor environment. To date KBA has booked orders for 26 Cortina (waterless) and Commander CT (wet offset) press lines, or more than 1,000 printing couples with PlateTronic automatic plate changing. Fifteen press lines incorporating 472 automatic plate changers are already in daily operation. A big 6/2 Cortina installation came on stream in the summer at Le Figaro in Paris. At the Südkurier in Constance, Germany, a 6/2 Cortina press line featuring a new energy-saving temperature control system is now pumping out the first freesheets and supplements, and the flagship title will follow in early March next year accompanied by a change of format. In a few weeks the Daily News in New York will fire up a big 6/2 Commander CT press line.
Since being launched in March this year Haberturk has moved up into the premier league among Turkish newspapers with a daily circulation of around 300,000 copies, largely thanks to its magazine-like quality and design. It is printed on five new 4/1 Commander hybrid presses.
KBA marketing director Klaus Schmidt emphasised that alongside these compact press types KBA has been busy driving advances in conventional newspaper press technology and optimising processes to meet emerging demands, eg for hybrid and semi-commercial production. Schmidt displayed copies of the new Turkish title, Haberturk (daily circulation: 300,000 copies), which since March this year has been printed in hybrid production on five 4/1 Commander presses at four separate locations. The layout and quality of the sample copies were impressive: the combination of coldset and heatset, different types of stock, high-quality adverts and colourful, web-oriented design gave a foretaste of the “daily news magazines” of tomorrow, which target younger sections of the population. Similar hybrid products are printed on a ten-tower Continent with two thermal air dryers that went live a few months ago at United Printing & Publishing (UPP) in Abu Dhabi. In addition conventional 4/1 KBA Prisma presses have been installed at DNA in India, and German newspaper publishers have placed orders for conventional tower and satellite versions of KBA’s Colora and Commander presses. Said Schmidt: “KBA is not just about compact presses – we offer a complete range.”
“The crisis has also hit the newspaper market.” This was how Christoph Müller, KBA executive vice-president for web press sales, described the sudden slump in investment by newspaper publishers as the credit crunch started to bite. This year global investment (excluding Japan) in new newspaper presses will total just €400 million ($588m), compared to €520m ($765m) last year, which was itself poor, and €1.5bn ($2.2bn) in 2005, which was a good year.
While there are signs that the global economy has bottomed out, Müller sees no end in sight for the supply industry in 2010 and 2011 because there are so few contracts up for tender. Although the USA experienced the most dramatic collapse in sales, investment in Europe, Asia and even high-growth markets such as China and India has been substantially lower for two years. Big contracts like the one Transcontinental in Canada signed in the spring for four Commander CT press lines are a rarity on the global market.
KBA deputy president Claus Bolza-Schünemann pointed out that KBA’s financial status has remained exceptionally stable even though the volume of business has declined. Said Bolza-Schünemann: “This is not the only point on which KBA differs from its two big German rivals and certain foreign competitors. We are seeking entrepreneurial solutions to the consequences of the economic crisis.
In this we are aided by the fact that we have no net debts, an above-average capital-to-assets ratio, a good level of liquidity and a positive operating cash flow, not to mention our broad market presence. Also, our shareholder base is not dominated by investors unfamiliar with the sector. KBA has been a listed company for 24 years, but conducts business like many other medium-size enterprises that do not call for government aid when the going gets tough.”