Old is ‘new’ again as News rejuvenates Adelaide with 2002 press

Dec 28, 2022 at 11:50 am by admin

A multi-million-dollar upgrade has rejuvenated News Corp’s original colour newspaper print site in Adelaide, South Australia.

The commissioning is timely, as News moves into bumper pre-Christmas issues.

The revitalised facility – which prints The Advertiser and South Australian editions of The Australian on weekdays, as well as some contract work for rival Nine – has been commissioned and shown to stakeholders.

Among these have been local newsagents, who were warned of settling-in problems, similar to those which dogged News’ Truganina, Melbourne greenfield site last year, in which presses were re-used from Brisbane and Sydney. “As with any new machinery, the introduction of this equipment may have some impact on normal operations throughout the commissioning period,” the company said in a statement.

News did not respond to requests for an update on the project, which has been waiting more on management time than funds, but GXpress understands that the delay has provided an opportunity to revisit plans in the light of current requirements.

A single-width KBA Comet from News’ $43 million 2004 upgrade at the Gold Coast Bulletin – reported to have been recommended by News director Lachlan Murdoch only a couple of years before – had been crated and earmarked for Adelaide after the Molendinar print site was shut in 2014 and production moved to an upgraded Murarrie (which has also since been closed).

Instead, national production director Marcus Hooke eyeballed the hybrid manroland press at Fairfax Media’s North Richmond print site – largely redundant after News took over Fairfax’s Sydney production and broadcaster Nine acquired Fairfax – and offered to take it for Adelaide.

In a recent statement, News Corp Australia pointed to the 30-year age of the Newsman presses installed in Adelaide as the first of Rupert Murdoch’s four Australian colour newspaper sites, and part of the same $1 billion order as those which replaced the strike-breaking letterpress lines at Wapping in the UK.

“Ageing equipment can contribute to the frequency of equipment failure, which in turn can result in delays in getting product to market,” the company said.

In fact, it’s replacing a 30-year-old press with a 20-year-old one: It’s a second reincarnation for the pressline, first installed at Fairfax Media’s showcase Tullamarine print site in Melbourne in 2002, and then relocated to expand capacity at the company’s North Richmond print centre, west of Sydney. Other presses from the 18-reelstand double-width manroland Ageman (Geoman) line – installed at a six-hectare greenfield site adjoining the Tullamarine freeway as part of a $220 million project – went into Petone in New Zealand before the Kiwi subsidiary was sold off, and the balance scrapped.

The Age press was built into an existing single-width line at North Richmond, which included stacked UV and conventional dryers, and with delivery to single-width Uniman folders. At Mile End, double-width units with folder and three pasters have been installed in space created from the removal of the old “Press C”.

Some Ferag mailroom equipment is also enjoying a second life in a new cleared area at Adelaide, with new components installed and some of the original installation retained – at least for the moment – and Ferag Australia as a major contractor. Again, some new mailroom equipment had been installed shortly before News’ Brisbane and Melbourne sites were closed.

News says the new Adelaide press and publishing equipment refurbishment will “help future-proof our South Australian operations, minimising the risk associated with mechanical and electrical breakdowns”.

Obsolescence specifically related to the Reliance electrical control equipment on the four Newsman presses ordered in 1986 and progressively installed over a period to the mid-1990s – has been an ongoing problem for News, with each decommissioned press stripped for hard-to-get parts.

In Brisbane, News had installed modern manroland PECOM and QI Press Controls systems on the Newsman press there, but this too was shut down when production was moved to a smaller print site in Yandina on the Sunshine Coast.

Because of their significance in driving demand for colour advertising, the first of the four Newsman-equipped colour print sites was launched with international fanfare, UK trade journalist Pincus Jaspert flying in to preside over a preview of the Mile End, Adelaide site.

That building remains the location for News’ renovations, and production has been switched progressively from the old to the new. The displaced equipment will now most likely be scrapped.

It’s no mean tribute to the Augsberg engineering – viewed as “delicate” by sceptics when it first started appearing in the Australian market around the 1990s – that the presses are still going strong and that the Tullamarine pressline is up for a third challenge.

Meanwhile, print is not yet dead, and the new kit has better equipped News to cope with demand for editorial-style “native” content. Last weekend’s metros were packed with preprint and advertising supplements, including trimmed-and-stitched 40pp Body+Soul and 32pp back-to-back Binge/Stellar books on top of the main section and 80-plus tabloid pages of supplements, all on newsprint.

Marcus Hooke did not respond to a request from GXpress for comment.

Peter Coleman

Pictures: Google and Facebook/Gavin Thrum, with thanks

Sections: Print business


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