The spectacular printing centre at Verlagsgruppe Rhein-Main in Rüsselsheim was put into operation exactly a decade ago. VRM Druck is now switching over to high-performance Ferag technology in the mailroom. Although print runs for daily newspapers have dropped by one-third since 2010, the volume of inserts has increased significantly during this time. With the Ferag EasySert inserting drums, VRM Druck believes it now has the best possible technology at its disposal for meeting this challenge.
The printing centre in Rüsselsheim has operated under the VRM Druck name since September 2017 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of VRM. The centre was established as a joint venture between the former Verlagsgruppe Rhein-Main (now VRM) and the former Medienhaus Südhessen, now Echo Medien and a subsidiary of VRM. Since 2010, the majority of the daily newspapers in the VRM portfolio, including the Allgemeine Zeitung (Mainz), the Wiesbadener Kurier and the Darmstädter Echo, have been produced at VRM Druck. On a total of four production lines, up to 180,000 newspaper copies of 48 pages can be produced per hour. The production technology at the printing plant in Rüsselsheim is also used by external customers for their printed products.
Up to 24 inserts in a single pass
VRM Druck made the decision to invest in a replacement of the mailroom technology installed back in 2010 as it has become “increasingly in need of repair” and is also only able to insert a maximum of 14 inserts in a single pass, which is often no longer sufficient.
Over the course of the coming one and a half years, the existing five inserting and bundling lines from a competitor will be replaced by three Ferag lines featuring hoppers for 14, 20 and 24 inserts. In future, this means the shortest line will be as long as the longest one currently in operation. As Martin Kümmerling, spokesman for the management at VPM Druck, reports, there is a clear “trend towards more inserts that we have to meet”. The Ferag lines are also designed and positioned in such a way that all three can still be expanded.
Martin Kümmerling: “We process a lot more inserts today compared to ten years ago. The technology thus has to be able to insert weights of 800 to 1000 grams and transport the inserts safely to the first strapping point without the bundle falling apart.” This is no problem for the Ferag systems.
The fact that just three Ferag lines will replace the five existing inserting lines (of which four were always in operation) is down on one hand to the decline in print runs for daily newspapers – around 210,000 copies are printed on weekdays in Rüsselsheim and around 230,000 copies from Friday night to Saturday morning. On the other hand, it is also assumed that the Ferag technology will lead to faster processing.
Nonetheless, the management at VRM Druck ultimately decided on EasySert inserting drums in combination with FlyStream precollecting lines. The EasySert is designed for 30,000 collections per hour, which is less than that offered by the RSD and MSD drums (36,000 and 45,000 collections per hour, respectively). However, at VRM Druck these drums are suitable for both overnight production of daily newspapers and day shifts, where advertising freesheets are primarily printed.
EasySert is the perfect fit
Martin Kümmerling: “In any case, EasySert/FlyStream has a purely offline configuration. As our overnight print run is divided up into 17 local editions, we have fairly short printing slots between which we have to swap the plates and change the volumes. Our printing presses in production are faster than the mailroom. However, as all simulations have demonstrated, we can change over the versions faster in the mailroom and thus catch up with the printing press. This means that the slowest Ferag drum is sufficient for our needs, not to mention cheaper.”
However, according to Martin Kümmerling the EasySert is designed first and foremost to also cope with extensive insert bundles. “The maximum speed is critical when printing daily newspapers,” comments the VRM Druck manager. “However, these usually have no more than four inserts, which doesnt slow down the system.” During the day, however, VRM Druck has to be able to insert up to 24 inserts in the weekly newspapers – in small batches down to 3000 copies. According to Kümmerling, this is where EasySert comes into its own. His company then chose this system as “the largest generated value can thus be achieved using EasySert in the mailroom, meaning it is superior to the other drums from our point of view”.
Over a million copies of such weekly newspapers – with correspondingly high insert volumes – are currently processed in the VRM printing centre. The more inserts added in a single pass, the greater the chance that a difficult-to-process insert will slow down the complete procedure. As a result, an inserting drum with a higher possible speed would not be of any use.
On its four printing press segments, VRM Druck has five folders with one used as back-up. However, the remaining ones are either linked to the three planned Ferag mailroom lines or lead to a winding station for the intermediate storage of preprints, for example. In any case, VRM Druck only uses three printing presses in overnight production.
Long commissioning phases planned
The switchover to Ferag at VRM Druck is planned to last one and a half years. Delivery of the first parts by the Swiss manufacturer will commence in November 2020, with the project planned for completion in the first quarter of 2022. One of the five lines in Rüsselsheim has already been dismantled, with four hoppers removed from the fourth line to create sufficient space for the first Ferag line, which will initially be installed in slightly shortened form. Following this, the remaining lines will be replaced at intervals of around four months.
“Our goal is to always keep four lines ready for production. This means we work in stages and leads to a protracted project,” explains Martin Kümmerling. However, past experiences were also considered when drawing up the commissioning schedule. A lot of extra time has been planned for each line for training on operation and maintenance, with a comprehensive training package ordered. VRM Druck wants to start on the first Ferag line with fixed teams, meaning the entire mailroom staff will not be retrained on the Ferag system immediately. The following lines will also be operated by fixed teams with the corresponding training, leading to mixed production involving both systems that will last over a year.
Printing plant manager Kümmerling sees only one problem: the discs on the existing system cannot be unwound on the Ferag systems, nor the other way round. “If we want to be able to insert using both technologies, then we have to insert the main products on the compensating stacker on pallets and by hand. Only then is it possible to juggle around with the volumes involved. To be on the safe side, this is what we will do at the beginning.”
Additional compensating stacker
The new Ferag technology in Rüsselsheim is equipped with inline inkjet printing directly in the chain and will be used each night for around 3000 copies. Two of the new Ferag lines feed three compensating stackers each, the longest line is equipped with four Ferag MultiStack units as a bundle is created every two seconds when handling 24 inserts: “If there is a fault on the compensating stacker or the bundling downstream, this would result in an overrun.” However, the overall configuration is designed so that this fourth compensating stacker can also be supplied directly on the chain from the folders in order to set down preprints on pallets, for example.
The final step of the project will see the commissioning of two layer palletizers from Segbert, which will be positioned at the end of the two longest mailroom lines and create complete, fully wrapped and thus stable pallets. This is because a fairly significant part of the VRM portfolio is transported by large trucks and thus requires corresponding securing of the cargo, which is currently still being made via semi-manual wrapping.