Virtual, remote connectivity has been proven to be a lifesaver for many companies and their employees as well as people all over the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. While not being a new concept, it became painstakingly clear how important it is to be digitally connected despite being physically apart.
This same concept applies to ProImage’s NewsWayX workflow products where virtual, cloud-based HTML5 technology is at the center of its core capabilities. This feature is one of the main reasons the Tribune Publishing Company decided in late summer last year to install the NewsWayX Workflow System across its six print sites: Chicago (Illinois) Tribune, Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, Baltimore (Maryland) Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Virginian-Pilot and the New York Daily News.
Each of these Tribune sites has its own local workflow that includes servers, RIPs, edition planning and output management to individual, local CTP devices. But instead of upgrading the legacy workflow systems at each of those six print sites, Tribune Publishing decided to centralize production workflow at one cloud-based hub. This hub is integrated with Tribune’s own, pre-existing cloud where each print site can log into ProImage’s central system and manage its own production workflow — independent from each other. This central system — NewsWayX — uses HTML5 and is web browser-based, enabling users to monitor production status from different print sites and from any location. HTML5 supports the building of more diverse and powerful websites and applications — and, in this case, allows newspaper production operators to access their NewsWayX workflow from anywhere. Staff can log in from different computers at work, in the production area, and even from their laptops at home to monitor and work on production flow.
With NewsWayX, edition planning is centralized so a layout file is imported and an edition plan is automatically created for each of the print sites. Centralized RIPs process PDF files and create soft proofs of pages and plates. Custom impositions are created for each site along with unique furniture, text and barcodes that are burned onto the plate image. Ink presets are routed to the sites that require them. All print sites also can take advantage of ProImage’s ECO ink optimization software that the Tribune already had for some of the print sites. However, by centralizing, all sites can now benefit from the improved image quality and reduced CMYK ink consumption that ECO provides.
Highly flexible to meet each site’s needs
Jhon Marte, director of the technology department at Tribune Publishing, oversees the entire NewsWayX project from the IT-side. Tribune Publishing and its six print sites all had accumulated different workflow systems and different versions over the years. They were dealing with more than 70 servers across those six print sites — a difficult and time-consuming maintenance task. The goal was to implement a single, standardized application across the sites and reduce the number of servers. A centralized, cloud-based system for ad managers, rips and OnColor ECO was needed that would allow a reduced footprint and use a web browser so the system could monitor production from origination to print sites, regardless of the location. In addition, all sites needed to run on one unified Windows Version — in this case, Windows 2016.
Once these project goals were established, Tribune Publishing determined that ProImage and its cloud-based, HTML5-based NewsWayX Production Workflow System was the right partner. Marte said: “We compared the product with those of other competitors and we found ProImage being very flexible, very user-friendly in the UI and it is a well-known product in the market. This and our previous working relationship helped us make this a fairly straightforward decision.”
As Marte explains, the primary NewsWayX workflow system is located in the cloud where all print sites are connected. In addition, there is another hub on the premises of the Chicago data center with a duplicate set of licenses. This hub functions as a disaster recovery hub in case the primary hub fails or is not accessible. Files are copied to their DR (disaster recovery) system throughout the day, each day, so it could become the primary hub with little to no loss of data, if needed.
Marte said the implementation of the system was a smooth process. Since Tribune Publishing with its multiple print sites is such a complex set-up, customization of ProImage’s system was needed. Specific tables and particular integration with the press control systems were needed, which ProImage’s software team custom developed for them.
Each print site was moved over individually by migrating all of the products to the new system. Once that was done successfully, they moved on to the next print site. The overall time frame set for the implementation was about a year. The time frame set by the Tribune team ensured that each site was moved over correctly, without negatively affecting the user or production. Marte said ProImage and NewsWayX have proven to be very flexible in allowing them to customize their systems for each site’s specific needs.
In regards to support, Tribune and ProImage are participating in weekly conference calls to discuss progress, pending issues, open items and action items that are completed. This way, everybody is on the same page and things can be accomplished efficiently. Marte said: “It’s been very positive. From a technical perspective, the guys are knowledgeable of what they do, they are very dedicated and work with us on testing, and solving any issue that might come up.”
Since NewsWayX is a true web client interface, it was easy to follow and the learning curve was pretty shallow, Marte said. He said the new system has been well received within the company.
Joel Meyer, production director with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, said they casually looked at the system for four years. But when the time came and with a lot of additional commercial work in the pipeline, they pulled the trigger within 90 days. The implementation phase for the first site took about 60 days. During the implementation, frequent conference calls and a good working relationship with the ProImage team helped to get the system implemented without having to have any physical ProImage support onsite. Meyer said he now sees an improvement in quality due to improved registration on the press.
Ease of use and flexibility for print production
Other benefits cited by the production staff include a brand new dashboard and Press Tree views that increase efficiency and time savings. Kurt Moody, production manager of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, said: “We can build our own custom dashboard and can see with a glance where our different jobs are, track the jobs from one process to the next and RIP the publication for plate output. What I really like, is we can have multiple tabs (for multiple jobs) open within NewsWayX and lay them out across our screen and have all the information right in front of us without having to scroll through different views and tabs — we basically can build our own custom dashboard!”
In addition, Moody likes the flexibility he has with the cloud-based system: “I can log out on one computer and move to a different computer that’s closer to the imagers or even on my laptop. I can log in to NewsWayX and it opens up exactly the way I left it. I don’t have to rebuild or re-open up anything again. In addition, there are tabs I keep open all the time — so wherever and whenever I log back into NewsWayX my work is there.”
Ray Chand, senior systems analyst added: “The system is extremely flexible. The additional features, enhanced planning wizard, ability to easily modify or configure workflows make it a very efficient system and the end user feedback has been fantastic.”
Another feature that facilitates the work of the production department is the "Normalization" feature. When a file goes into pre-existing templates, it will scale — enlarge or reduce — to what the operator tells it to for that template. It cuts down on the overhead of templates and allows them to work with a very small quantity of templates which, in return, reduces the time it takes to set up a new job. With all the different accounts and jobs — six major newspapers, plus many other newspapers and commercial accounts — they can reduce the templates to two for each publication. With a different system, they would have to work with 16 or more templates per account. Moody said: “It is actually very easy for the user and minimizes chances of making a mistake and images not setting on the plate correctly.”
When asked about the learning curve, Moody said: “It was a very quick learning curve. We actually did remote training where Chicago gave us online access and just showed us around for 10 minutes. Since the system is very intuitive, we were all set right away. I have to say this is one of the cleanest output systems I have been working with — a very solid application.”