By Michael Brittingham
While the coffee is perking on Sunday morning, one ritual repeated in homes across the country involves digging through 20 or more ad sections that arrive when the paper hits the doorstep.
In the Dallas metro area, the ritual is different. Every family member gets immediate gratification because all of the Sunday paper ad inserts arrive in a convenient plastic bag. Whoever is interested in shopping can go straight to the ads; for the news fanatics, favorite sections can be easily separated.
This is made possible for Morning News readers thanks to an operation recently brought on line at the paper’s new post press and distribution facility in South Dallas. The Morning News is one of the larger newspapers in the country. It is currently one of four papers that deliver the Sunday supplements (known in the newspaper trade as free-standing inserts— FSIs) bundled in plastic bags.
While readers appreciate this neat package, the benefits of this new production and distribution facility significantly impact advertisers, as well. In a typical newspaper operation, FSIs arrive at substations scattered throughout the circulation area. It is the job of the newspaper carriers to stuff these sections into the Sunday paper before they start their routes. One weakness in the process is that carriers leave sections out of papers in their rush to get out to the streets.
| Bundles of FSIs are accumulated on this fleet of manual carts for shipment to the neighborhood stations. There, inserts will be stuffed into the paper. |
This new bundle process shortens the time to stuff the papers and ensures that the right FSI gets to the proper home—a major concern for advertisers. The 132,000-square foot operation has the latest in packaging and material handling equipment, together with a state-of-the-art system for identifying and tracking, enabling customized delivery of these advertising sections. Dock equipment supplied by Serco and TKO Dock Doors helps ensure these ad bundles get out the door with no disruptions to ever-tightening schedules.
It’s no secret that print newspapers are in competition with online content for advertisers. The Dallas Morning News is aggressively increasing its services to attract more business. According to Doug Barlow, assistant director of collating operations at the South Dallas facility, “with this new facility, we can customize the distribution and content of our Sunday inserts to meet the marketing programs of our advertisers, plus add a growing number of services.”
This operation, which is expandable on a 50-acre site, was extensively researched by the Morning News production management team. They visited plants around the country that included Quad Graphics, RR Donnelly and a number of newspapers.
“What impressed us and helped us ultimately decide on the Serco and TKO equipment was that our representative took us to see working loading docks at a local manufacturer to get hands-on experience, rather than coming by with a truck to demonstrate a single piece of equipment,” says Barlow.
The Morning News also had positive experiences with similar equipment at its Plano, Texas, facility. With the increased pace of the process in the new location, reliability was an even greater concern.
How It Works
The dock setup matches the system approach throughout the operation. When trucks arrive at the facility with pre-printed FSIs from a variety of printers, by pushing a button on the wall-mounted master control panel, a dock worker commands the PitBull vehicle restraint to grab the trailer’s rear impact guard.
Rather than separate control boxes for each piece of dock equipment, the customized master control panel combines those controls into a single panel. It coordinates the operation of the restraint, dock leveler, motorized dock door and even the dock l
| Screens positioned along the collators keep employees informed as to which inserts are being run, progress of the collating and overall status. |
ight—preventing activation of any piece of equipment outside a pre-programmed sequence. Until the trailer is secured, the powered door will not open, and the leveler cannot be deployed. When it is time to activate the hydraulic leveler, the user has independent, push-button control of the deck and lip extension to position the leveler into the trailer bed.
Once the truck is ready to leave, the master control panel will not allow the restraint to release the trailer until the dock leveler has fully stored and the door is down.
The Morning News installed loading dock equipment at the North plant a few years ago. “We wanted to be sure our lift truck operators and truck loaders were safe. I don’t know the exact stats,” says Barlow, “but we do know that every year, lift truck drivers are killed when trucks pull away from docks while a lift truck is inside the trailer.
The master control panels give us a high level of safety, and it is proven, reliable equipment.”
Though this is a spacious facility, the seven doors at the receiving dock and the eight on the shipping dock are tightly lined up against the wall. “We like having it all controlled by one box at each dock,” says Barlow, “plus the set up is neat, compact and doesn’t have a lot of wiring conduit.”
Once the printed sections arrive at the dock, the pallets are loaded onto a Westfalia Technologies Inc. automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). For this highvolume operation, Westfalia used a total of 4,400 pallet positions in the 75-foot-high storage area.
Shipping the News
When signaled, the Westfalia Savanna.NET warehouse management system directs the AS/RS to retrieve the pallets from storage and place them on the out-feed conveyor. Using truck-mounted RFID receivers, the system directs lift truck operators to pick up the pallets and deliver them to the proper collator.
The FSIs are loaded onto 76- hopper FSI Prim Hall Packaging System collators, which extend 400 feet and are located in adjacent bays. This gives the distribution center the capacity to serve up to 76 different sections in a single bundle—one of the largest collating systems in the country.
| Special doors on the shipping dock, and levelers with 10-foot-long platforms ensure the FSIs make it on the trucks with no interruption to the schedule. |
The FSI packaging platform enables the newspaper to produce micro-zoned packaging, pinpointed within a neighborhood. It can handle inserts as thin as 0.002 inch, with delivery 100% verifiable. The post press system also has print-on-demand feeders capable of personalizing ad content as well as applying two-color printing on the bag itself with special messages and contests.
As bundles come off the collating line, they are loaded onto carts, each having a specific destination. At this point, bundles are manually stuffed into the newspapers because automation is not cost effective at this substation level.
To ensure the assembled bundles reach assigned locations, each cart has an RFID tag. To enter the trailer, the carts must pass beneath an RFID tag reader. If the wrong cart is about to enter a truck, an alarm sounds and lights flash.
Out the Door
“We have this process so closely planned that we cannot afford any door downtime,” says Barlow. Dock door damage is common in distribution centers. The TKO impact door eliminates these disruptions to the company’s schedule. Unlike standard dock doors, the panels on TKO doors ride along a V-Groove track. When the door is hit, the panel does not resist the force of the blow; rather, the guide slides out of the track. In just seconds, the panel can be reset into the guides, and traffic flow into the trailer resumes. Plus, the doorway remains sealed to prevent energy loss when the door is closed.
Powering door operation provides a better interface into the dock door system managed by the master control panel. An optical sensor provides the system with door position information.
Fully loaded carts weigh about 1,000 pounds. The hydraulic levelers on the shipping docks are 10 feet long with a 16-inch lip. The extra length provides a more level interface from the warehouse floor to the trailer and less exertion for the dock workers. Each trailer holds a maximum of 42 carts.
As busy as this operation is, the company is set up to take on more business. The post press facility is built on a 50-acre site and could provide land for another post press building and a separate printing plant.
As for the current building, Barlow projects the collators could be fitted for another 24 hopper positions, a third line could be added and they could take on direct mailing services for catalogs up to one inch thick and distribution for other newspapers.
For More Information…
This article was provided by Michael Brittingham of 4Front Engineered Solutions. For more information on the equipment used in this installation, please visit
4Front Engineered Solutions
Westfalia Technologies Inc.
Prim Hall Inc.