V-TAB is the largest newspaper printer in Scandinavia, with nine production plants and an annual turnover of around €240m. Printing 35 regional and national newspapers such as Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet, as well as direct mail (up to 3m per week) and over 180 magazine titles, V-TAB was formed in 2005 following the merger of three of the largest printing companies in the Nordic region.

“After the merger, this first thing we needed to address was the group’s increased production requirements,” notes Fredrik Bogårdh, V-TAB’s Director of Centralised Prepress. As a group, V-TAB produces more than 70,000 pages per month. During peak periods, demand can rise up to 6,000 pages per day.

“We had to have a centralised system in order to be more effcient, reduce the manual handling of files and give our clients greater data access during production,” continues Fredrik Bogårdh. “Our aim was to have better client communications and increase our level of customer service, all via a web-based communications tool.”
V-TAB installed two mirrored MISTRAL-based systems, configured to feed data to all print sites, deployed by DALIM SOFTWARE distributor and systems integrator Network Innovation AB (www.ni.se), “V-TAB’s requirements were clear”, comments Network Innovation’s Magnus Lundgren. “Apart from the production capability, they needed a flexible and expandable system, with an interface available in the client’s native language. The system had to be JDF-enabled and offer powerful preflighting and validation features. In addition, the system had to interoperate with the InfraLogic back-end system that would be controlling the seventeen CTP systems across the plants.”

Today, the central prepress department processes files which are then sent to seven print sites – with an eighth site due to come on line by the summer of 2008.
The final production workflow maximises productivity, handles versioning and colour management and includes innovative JDF-based system instructions. Fredrik Bogårdh describes the workflow. “Clients upload files through an easy-to-use, customised web-browser interface. After the file has been uploaded, preflighted and normalised, the preflight reports can be viewed, online or locally, in the client’s own language.

Upon file validation, the MISTRAL system sends the file to a JDF-enabled Harlequin ScriptWorks RIP, along with JDF metadata describing the RIP parameters. The screened 1-bit TIFF files are then sent to the InfraLogic system which, again based upon the metadata delivered from MISTRAL, routes the file to the correct printing plant. All the heavy-lifting, in terms of RIPping and screening, has been done at the premedia facility, resulting in the CTP engines outputting the files very quickly – essential in a newspaper production environment.”

But doesn’t sending all those screened TIFF files take a long time? “Not at all!” notes Fredrik Bogårdh. ”Here in Sweden we enjoy a state-of-the-art internet infrastructure together with inexpensive, LAN-speed internet bandwidth. Even large files can be sent in seconds. With such a highly-developed internet backbone, it’s more cost-efficient to centralise the process rather than invest in multiple RIPs at multiple sites.”

The results from the system speak for themselves. “The MISTRAL system has improved V-TAB’s production monitoring, increased our business value and reduced our overall cost-per-page by more than 35 percent,” notes Fredrik Bogårdh. “We have been able to increase production without having to add more staff; and while the system is highly automated, we still have the flexibility to accommodate specific customer requirements, workflows and contracts.”

V-TAB’s clients have also been enthusiastic. “They love it”, says Bogardh. “The ease-of-use, native language support and easy job tracking features had made their lives a lot easier.”

Clearly, this innovative, customer-focused newspaper printer is now making headlines of its own!

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