Paarl Media Group: The real cost of printing

It seems for years that people have made the suggestion that the days of print are numbered and digital is the way forward. We hope that within the pages of The SA-Mag you will see reason enough that belies this idea. Within the South African printing sector Paarl Media Group gives good credence to the theory that print is very far from done, albeit that success has come at a price in more than one way.

Paarl03For well over a century (the company was originally started in 1905) Paarl Media has built up a long-standing and loyal customer base which has helped it to evolve into the most comprehensive commercial printing operation in South Africa today. Technological help and astute acquisitions have played an important role in establishing such a lofty standing.

However, the road to business success has not always been smooth and the tragic events of April 2009 saw fire not only destroy Paarl Print’s Dal Josafat facility, but claim the lives of 13 workers. Rebuilding was a long and painful process and the company quickly announced that Paarl Print would be re-established in Paarl, albeit at a different site.

Supporting the families of those who lost their lives or were injured, was given priority in the immediate aftermath, while the company sought short-term alternatives to keep the business running.

At the time, Stephen van der Walt said the following: “We want to ensure that we rebuild a business that is viable in terms of the current economic circumstances and client demand. The plant will therefore be optimised to ensure maximum efficiency and output.”

It was announced that the new Paarl Print facility would initially be set up at Paarl Web in Paarl (one of the other plants in the Paarl Media Group) until permanent premises in Paarl were confirmed.

A series of subsequent investments and acquisitions (most notably that of [email protected] in early 2011), not only consolidated Paarl Media, but helped to broaden its customer base and job opportunities.

[email protected] was South Africa’s leading direct-to-home advertising distributor, targeting defined audiences with maximum precision. Their national footprint included over 34 outlets throughout Southern Africa, giving Paarl Media Group a golden opportunity to enhance its existing distribution services – in particular to retailers.

The company has over the years developed an impressive track record for delivering items on time and to a high level of quality, whether that has been in the line of printing, binding or distribution.

Of course 100 years ago printing was a very different beast to today’s high-tech, computer-based industry. Paarl Media, an indirect subsidiary of Media 24, which is ultimately controlled by Naspers Ltd [JSE:NPN], has kept up with the times and today serves customers from ten facilities across the country, equipped with state of the art technology.

With time of the essence, Paarl Media has strategic locations in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Paarl, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, which offer identical printing options to customers and ensure distribution is always completed on a local basis.

Indeed the company offers a wide range of modern printing solutions to numerous industries, including: publication gravure, heatset web offset, sheetfed, specialised book, coldset and UV flexographic self-adhesive labels printing, as well as speciality finishing, bindery, distribution and value add services.

The business has been split into a number of divisions that are able to focus more intensively on customer needs:

Paarl02Paarl Media Cape came to fruition with the amalgamation of Paarl Gravure and Paarl Web, creating a business which can provide clients with both heatset web-offset and publication gravure printing for the production of high to medium volume commercial work, magazines and catalogues under one roof. The one plant has an extended capability to deliver more than 125,000 tons annually to ensure that clients enjoy the most efficient production for all their individual requirements.

Johannesburg-based Paarl Media Gauteng (PMG) is a specialist division for quality commercial web offset printing of high to medium volume, quality commercial work and magazines. The Johannesburg business is 16 per cent owned by loveLife’s Kurisani Investments. The site has broad capabilities and is able to provide short runs of 10,000 up to long runs of about three million copies. The facility operates an 80-page manroland Lithoman which, in tandem with other modern equipment, gives PMG added flexibility and the site is able to offer a wide range of formats, allowing for innovative designs of commercial material and magazines on nearly any substrate.

One of the recent additions to the Paarl Media group is Paarl Media KZN. The new web offset printing plant, based in Durban, was established in 2010, in recognition of the influence of KwaZulu Natal as an economic centre in South Africa, as Stephen van der Walt, CEO of Paarl Media Group elicited at the time:

Geographic positioning is becoming increasingly important for differentiation and lower transportation costs. Our KZN operation will extend Paarl Media’s national footprint so that clients will be able to have their work printed in different locations on identical platforms, enabling the delivery of cost conscious products in the fastest time across the country.”

The plant was been built with efficiency in mind and investment in modern automated equipment meant that the Durban plant delivered world firsts, as Aaron Ganesh, General Manager of Paarl Media KZN, explained at the time:

In the pre-press area, the latest Prinergy Connect PDF Workflow and Kodak InSite soft proofing approval systems allow clients to send material electronically and sign off their final printers’ proof via a securitised website from anywhere, giving them control and ownership of their material. Paarl Media was, in fact, the first organisation worldwide to have over 500 users of this efficient technology.

Furthermore, the Luscher Xpose! Platesetters with plate handling system and unique violet laser technology ensure fast reproduction of plates to get material as quickly as possible to press,” he added.

Printing is done by two 16-page manroland Rotoman presses, which offer quick make ready and speeds of up to 65 000 full colour copies per hour. They are equipped with innovative QuadTech register and ink control systems to guarantee consistent, accurate ISO certified colour throughout the press runs. This September the division attained SABS ISO 9001:2008 accreditation, reflecting its Quality Management Systems (QMS).

Of equal importance is the environmental impact of printing. As part of the group’s commitment to limiting its impact on the natural resources, Megtec’s Dual-Dry® TNV Regenerative Thermal Oxidiser (RTO) technology has been installed on the web presses to eliminate emissions in line with stringent international standards. Energy is recovered from the oxidisation process to be re-utilised in the drying section, thereby vastly reducing gas energy consumption. Furthermore, a Hocker paper waste and dust extraction offers reliable, energy efficient operation for the collection of all paper waste for recycling.

Paarl Media’s business has been built around “making printing personal,”” Ganesh affirmed. Paarl Media Paarl is also 16 per cent owned by loveLife’s Kurisani Investments and located in Paarl. The business specialises in the printing of books, school books, smaller print runs of high quality specialist magazines, promotional and direct marketing material, as well as financial reports. Primary printing technology includes advanced multicolour sheetfed presses and specialised commercial web offset presses. The bindery offers state of the art equipment, including PUR capability. Paarl Media Paarl has a variety of clientele, ranging from book publishers, niche market magazine publishers and advertising agencies through to retailers across the country. (1,126 words)

The creation of Paarl Coldset in 2008 was as a result of further acquisitions, when Paarl Media Group purchased Print24 and Paarl Post (Pty) Ltd. For a combined total of R1.35 billion.

Paarl01Print24 encompassed the newspaper printing facilities of Media24 Limited and the acquisition included the takeover of modern newspaper printing plants in Johannesburg (City Deep), Cape Town (Paarden Island), Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Potchefstroom.

The acquisition of Paarl Post from Media24 and The Retief Family Trusts included the newspaper printing facilities in Paarl but excludes the newspaper publishing housed in Paarl Post Media (Pty) Ltd.

The acquisitions further helped to broaden the range of services that Paarl Media Group could offer, including high volume publication gravure at Paarl Gravure, web offset at Paarl Web and Paarl Web Gauteng, high end sheetfed at Paarl Print, books at Paarl Print and coldset for both newspaper or commercial requirements at the various Paarl Coldset plants.

Based in Paarl, the Paarl Labels business has developed a reputation for building strong one-on-one relationships with its clients, mainly based in Gauteng, although it has delivered for customers across South Africa.

The organisation is dedicated to innovation and improving its environmental impact and in October 2010, the launch of a new wine label called ‘Treefree’, saw Paarl Labels produce a paper containing no wood fibre, being made instead from the 100 per cent renewable bagasse, otherwise known as sugar cane fibre.

Such innovation is not only in keeping with the current ever-changing governance of the environment, but also helps to propel Paarl Media forwards. Further acquisition took place in 2012 with the purchase of the Natal Witness (in conjunction with Media 24), increasing the Group’s newspaper ownership and meaning that Media 24 now owns 80 per cent of influential Africa Web.

It has at times been a rocky road, but Paarl Media Group has fought back and is primed to play a continuing major role in South Africa’s media and print futures.