Wednesday, 22nd October 2014

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Running like a baby

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The plate exposure unit The plate exposure unit

There was a great flurry of movements accompanied by a hissing sound. Nuts and bolts did their work, wheels turned, metal on metal. And the monster devoured everything in its path. Thankfully it was only the newsprint that took the brunt of the Goss Community printing press at the Rivira Media Corporation Press, Maligawatta. Six years in business and the press still runs like a baby, according to her caretakers.

A visiting American engineer from the company that manufactured the machine had, once, upon seeing her, commented that she still ‘looks like a baby’, in spite of her six years. “It’s all in the maintenance,” says Press Manager Tony Peiris. Tony’s main responsibility is taking care of the crew that is so vital to the function of the press, not to mention maintaining print quality. According to Tony, teamwork has been the secret to their success.

The Rivira Media Corporation recently won three awards, two of which were due the superior print quality of its papers. The Nation won the Award of Excellence, while Rivira won the Merit Award in broadsheet category at the Collate 2012 Awards, organised by Sri Lanka Association of Printers.
“This is not the first award we have received,” said Production Manager, Rasantha Chandratileka. Chandratileka who has been in the production business since 1980, has been with the Rivira Media Corporation since its inception in 2006. They have won the Collate Award of Excellence for The Bottom Line in 2008, Award of Distinction for The Nation in the same year and the Award of Distinction for The Nation in 2006.

The award criterions were 80 per cent for print quality and 20 per cent for design, concept and innovation. In judging the quality, the judge panel focused on colour reproduction, registration, and overall print quality, explained Chandratileka. “But our print quality has been the best ever since it started,” he said. “The superior quality is due to the fact that we use the best of ink and paper,” explained Tony. But the credit must go to all the hard working people at the Press Department, reiterates Chandratileka. In spite of mechanical problems that persisted for several years, the workers have been able to pull it together and keep the press running. Nineteen people work in the Press Department, three in Plate-making and 28 in Dispatch.
“The production process starts at the CTP - Computer to Plate Department,” Chandratileka explained the production process. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the long and tedious process that makes a newspaper, layout is the last step of the process in the editorial department. After that, the strenuously gathered stories are at the mercy of the CTP. As Chandratileka further explained the plates were then sent to the heart of the production process, the Press Department. From there the printed newspapers are sent to Dispatch, which distributes them all over the country.
It was difficult to fathom that this is where all that toil, doing interviews, writing, editing, layout, finally end up, at the CTP. All those digital files they are supposed to convert into printing plates at the CTP may seem too much for Dharshana Munasinghe, Kanchana Pradeep and Thushara Medagama to handle. But they have no complaints.

It is a symbiotic relationship between the plate exposure unit and the plate processor. It takes five to 10 minutes for a plate to be ‘exposed’ in the Kodak Creo plate exposure unit. A colour page consists of four files or colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – which combine to make the finished print. The plate processor Kodak Polychrome consists of a developer bath, washer and drier. The process takes a remarkably short time in spite of its complexity.

The plates are then sent to the Press Department. The US-made, China-assembled Goss Community printing press is comprised of two colour towers and two black units. The management hopes to add four more colour towers in the futures. It is capable of handling up to a staggering 35,000 copies per hour and can churn out 16-paged sections in one run. “It may not be a big machine, but it’s a good one,” says Chandratileka.

Although the printing starts from Monday the busiest day of the press is Friday, when they have to fight against time to print and dispatch two newspapers, Sunday Rivira and the Saturday Rivira. In spite of the ghastly nature of the beast, the Goss Community press has not been responsible for any occupational hazards or accidents in all its six years. It seems a stroke of luck that no unwary fingers strayed to those nooks and crannies of the machines that simply invited the uninitiated to poke and pull. But as Tony said all necessary safety information was pasted on strategic positions so a new employee may not miss it.

Nihal Mallikarachchi, an employee with the most experience, whose in-charge of one double shift, which starts from 8.00 am and ends at 6.00 am the following day, says that working double shifts has never been a problem. “That’s the way with newspapers,” says Mallikarachchi with a shrug. Sameera Madushanka was at the control room, shut out from the near-deafening, unrelenting whine of the press. He explained to us lay people patiently, the functions of the control room – adjusting registration and controlling water level.

“The printed newspapers The Nation, Rivira Sunday and Daily and Rivirisi are then sent to the Dispatch Department, where they are labelled and sent all over the island, across 26 routes, under three editions – three star, two star and one star,” says Dispatch Manager, P A Nandasena. And that is how the finished product, the news papers, a labour of love, finds its way in Anuradhapura or Puttalam.            
(Pics by Rukshan Abeywansha)

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 15:17
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