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Customer Case  | Singapore Press Holdings, SINGAPORE  | 15 March 2012

Singapore Press Holdings

High Quality and Peak Efficiency

With the integration of specific Arkitex modules, Singapore Press Holdings achieved a single, effective, high-production workflow solution. Sublima and IntelliTune also gave Singapore’s newspaper giant the consistency and quality needed to excel in today’s market.

Fourteen Daily Newspapers, and Counting

Over the years, Singapore Press Holdings have accepted many new projects and business partnerships. The one thing the company has never accepted, and never will accept, is the possibility that something could get in the way of providing the highest quality and the most complete client satisfaction.

"The word 'no' and the phrase 'it cannot be done' have no place at SPH. We are innovative and will go all out to ensure peak efficiency," says Ronnie Poon, vice president for prepress at the leading newspaper printer in this small Southeast Asian island nation (population 4.4 million) at the tip of the Malay Peninsula.

With 3500 employees at three separate locations, and 14 daily newspapers as part of its workload, SPH are a high-visibility organisation not just within the nation itself, but also the world, particularly since its corporate activities extend to Internet services (news and e-commerce), radio and television station ownership, outdoor media displays and mobile communications.

On the Record

Such national prominence makes SPH's dedication to graphic arts and print quality virtually a matter of public record, for the results of their own high standards in newspaper production alone are viewed on a daily basis by more than 2.8 million people. That's just over 85 percent of Singapore's entire adult population. "All newspapers face pressures to keep operational costs down. Workflow automation allows that, in addition to lessening the number of errors and improving our timing so that we can easily reach all deadlines," Poon says. "That way we ensure that the latest news is always readily available to the public."

SPH's newspapers include several in Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil-all four of Singapore's official languages. Their modern Print Centre, built in 1997, is located in Jurong Port in the western part of the nation. There, in addition to the most advanced prepress workflow, they have the capability to print 80 broadsheet pages in straight mode with 32 broadsheet pages in full colour and 20 spot-colour broadsheet pages at a maximum speed of 80,000 copies per hour-in all, more than 1.2 million pages every day.

Much of the company's success is traced to its two flagship newspapers, The Straits Times, an English language daily that has been in publication since the mid-1800s, and Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese language daily started in 1983 and now considered the paper of record for Singapore's Chinese-speaking community.

SPH publishers, editors and journalists are persistent in their desire to upgrade and redesign their newspapers, and the methods used to produce them, whenever necessary to meet the continuously changing and sophisticated needs of their readers. A recent notable change occurred in 2002, when the English and Chinese newsrooms were combined under one roof at the News Centre in Toa Pavoh North. According to a company statement, "This unprecedented move drives the integration of content creation and delivery for multiple media platforms and promises round-the-clock continuous news delivery across these platforms."

Meeting Expectations

Moves like this, and others that SPH undertakes from time to time, require unprecedented efforts to stay ahead of the technological curve. Helping to meet that requirement is a full suite of Agfa products and software, including an Arkitex workflow solution, IntelliTune image enhancement software and Sublima advanced screening technology.

SPH's conversion to Arkitex workflow was first announced in 2004 as the company's solution to automate production of its daily newspapers, using the Agfa technology it already had on line. Today, Arkitex gives SPH the editorial-to-press integration and automation it truly needs in its demanding Print Centre. According to Poon, the learning curve for his staff was fairly easy, and increased cost- and time-efficiencies were some of the immediate benefits. In its initial two-month test period, Arkitex was configured to the Print Centre's specific prepress needs and ran completely according to SPH's expectations. The system's scalable design allowed Poon and his team to further control costs by choosing only those Arkitex modules they needed. Those selected included Arkitex Director, which links all equipment and manages, tracks and controls production processes at the Centre; Arkitex Producer, which organises, prioritises and routes newspaper pages to multiple imagesetters; Arkitex AutoInk, to facilitate ink settings; Arkitex Pair, which imposes pages; Arkitex AutoPlan for importing publication plans; and Arkitex Courier, a page transmission solution. With all of these modules, SPH achieved a single, effective, high-production integrated solution.

With IntelliTune, prepress operators at the company have the consistency they require without the need for them to depend upon several subjective judgments of colour.

The Agfa system analyses tone, colour and spatial characters of each image and automatically applies the necessary corrections for the best reproduction on press. With so many newspapers printed at SPH, an automated function like IntelliTune is enormously practical. The company uses it for more than a thousand published photos each day in its 14 daily newspapers.

"In terms of quality and productivity, our goal is to achieve the highest dot quality possible," Poon says. "Sublima has higher dot quality with no loss in prepress productivity and no substantial changes in the way in which we operate. There is also better ink-to-water ratio and quicker make-ready time for printing." Agfa's most advanced screening option, Sublima uses cross-modulated (XM technology) to dramatically improve print quality with no extra effort on press. As a result, there is no noticeable change in the reproduction quality for either editorial pictures or advertisements when compared to using conventional screening. Editors and advertisers alike attest to this, and the low number of print complaints provides further proof. All of SPH's English-language products are produced with Sublima, accounting for almost three-quarters of its daily 1.2 million copies.

"In terms of operations, engineering and IT support, it is much easier to embrace a single solution from a single vendor, especially when it is backed up with expertise and customer support," Poon says.

Using its printing capacity to provide up to 100 percent colour pages for any newspaper edition, SPH also has the responsibility for regional editions of several global newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Asahi Simbun, Nikkei Simbun and the International Herald Tribune.

Beyond Print

The company eagerly uses its success to be the best corporate citizen it can be, supporting a wide range of local causes from education and the arts to wildlife conservation and sports. In 2005 SPH launched what it calls the Gift of Music, a series of annual outdoor concerts (mostly free) designed to bring music to more of the people of Singapore. For its contributions to the community, SPH was named the Top Corporate Giver by Singapore's National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre in 2005, and has also been given a Patron of the Arts award by the National Arts Council for the last thirteen years.

Meanwhile, for its commitment to prepress and print quality and service, SPH is duly recognised by the thousands of writers and editors who work on its many newspapers-and, of course, by the millions of citizens who read them every day. The company is also internationally recognised by many industry groups and organisations, as indicated by the many awards it has won at design and print shows around the world. In addition, SPH made four submissions to the Ifra Color Club, and all four were accepted.

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