Impressive, outstanding, efficient and cutting-edge were the adjectives which bounced around from one guest to another tonight when the Prime Minister officially inaugurated Progress Press’ new state-of-the-art premises in Mriehel.
Spread over 10,000 square metres the building was extensively modified and developed to be able to host avant-garde printing technology. With an investment of 30 million euro in building and technology, Progress Press is now firmly placed at the forefront of the printing industry internationally. The architectural design was left in the hands of Paul Camilleri Architects, while a consortium headed by Blokrete Limited was responsible for the construction works.
Managing Director Adrian Hillman stated, “This project is a great achievement for Allied Group of Companies and continues a vision of excellence which was sought from our very beginnings. Our new premises will allow us to be more competitive yet, turning out work of high quality, and more importantly work which has never yet been produced locally. Indeed, this is an achievement for Malta as a country and puts us firmly on the printing map, competing against the best industry leaders beyond our shores.”
The Prime Minister presided over the opening ceremony at which the Board of Directors, Archbishop Paul Cremona, the Leader of the Opposition, shareholders, employees, clients and suppliers were present. Following the unveiling of a plaque to mark the occasion, the Prime Minister and Mrs Gonzi were accompanied on a tour around the premises by Mr Hillman and Mr Vincent Buhagiar, Chairman of Progress Press.
They visited the pre-press department where layouts and plates are prepared at the initial stages of the printing procedure. They then moved on to the web printing area, which is the location of much of the novelty on site.
Web printing on coated paper is a new production line which will enable Progress Press to enter the high volume market, particularly that of door-to-door material. As with any new process, training and testing was necessary for Progress Press to familiarize itself with a totally different procedure. The hard work has borne fruit with the company now directly servicing much of the market for clients who wish to reach Maltese households at large, as with direct mailing leaflets and brochures. Furthermore, Progress Press’s comfortable capacity for medium to large runs places the company in a prime position to bid for international business on high volumes in a competitive market.
Chief Operations Officer Noel Galea detailed the capabilities of Progress Press’s new set-up in Mrieħel. “The new web-printing and mailroom installation is capable of handling jobs that have so far been available only overseas,” Mr Galea explained. “The Global Web Systems G-145 Printline is made up of eight printing towers, two of which are equipped with UV ink curing. The equipment is capable of printing 64 newspaper-sized pages simultaneously, at a rate of 40,000 an hour. As the machine can also print on glossy and matt paper, it can print publications such as the popular door-to-door magazines. Due to the large print runs involved – 160,000 copies per edition – it is not feasible to print the latter on conventional sheetfed equipment. This enables Progress Press to print a wider variety of products with increased pagination, at faster rates and shorter delivery times for customers.”
Mr Galea added that the new machine also provides for automatic registration of colours and has improved colour balance controls that lead to good quality copies faster, cutting down on set-up time and waste. An integral part of the project is the new FERAG mailroom, which streamlines the folding, stitching and trimming of products, to final stacking and bundle-strapping. This opens up further opportunities for large runs of publications, shortening the distance between the press and its clients.
Sales manager Alex Falzon specified that the press is capable of performing quarter and double-parallel folding in addition to the standard tabloid half-fold. “This configuration is new and unique to the island and provides Progress Press with the competitive advantage of printing semi-commercial products like magazines and brochures at fast rates and favourable margins,” he said.
The Prime Minister also proceeded to tour the large newsprint stores as well as the basement floor which houses sheet-fed machinery, which equipment was previously in operation in the premises in Valletta. Typical products printed here include magazines, books, and brochures.
Progress Press’ international client portfolio includes the United Nations, the Open University, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, major international non-governmental organisations and publishers. Mr Hillman pointed out that, most importantly, the company’s long-term vision includes an increasing capacity for flexibility in all roles, particularly as the evolution of printing methods and the competitive market will necessitate new processes.
“Some people will question the future of printing,” he said. “Clearly there is a global threat to some areas of printing. But businesses have to be agile enough to shift products in different markets and there is nothing to stop us from identifying new areas. There is a lot of emotion surrounding newspapers and their shrinking circulation, which is true of larger parts of the western world. But there has been massive growth in other parts of the world. It is a medium that has ‘plateaued’ and newspaper publishers are thinking of varied permutations to address different markets. Some parts of the world do not have internet access. People forget that, and newspapers are still better suited to those markets.”
He continued to explain that much effort had also been made to ensure that the site and production methodology used was as environmentally forward-looking as possible. “Progress Press is very aware of the fact that the planet we inhabit requires ever more care and vigilance in the way its resources are used and in what is put back into the environment,” he explained. “As a result, much attention has been given to any possible measure we could adopt to reduce our impact on the environment, thereby assuring that efficiency and quality go hand-in-hand with environmental sustainability and accountability.”
In concrete terms, when constructing the new premises in Mriehel, special attention was given to ensure that the building adopted within it sustainable practices, including but not limited to the conservation of fuel and power through the use of an energy efficient plant and equipment; presence detectors in specific areas in order to ensure that lights are not left on when the spaces are unoccupied; special refrigerant for the ACs which has highly reduced global warming and ozone depleting potentials; fabric ductwork on the shopfloor which offers improved air distribution patterns. Furthermore, in the colder months, free cooling will be obtained through the introduction of external fresh air in areas of high heat load which will be controlled by the Building Management System, and rainfall will be collected and stored as a source of second class water for WC flushing and / or irrigation.
Sales Manager, Alex Falzon, also explained that as of January 2009, Progress Press is proud to have attained FSC® certification, in line with the company's policy to minimise the impact of operations on the environment, with particular focus to worldwide forests. “FSC is a third party certification scheme intended to show commitment to follow strict procedures in relation to chain of custody of paper and other forest related products,” Mr Falzon explained. “FSC chain of custody ensures material traceability from well managed forests to the paper used in the final end product, with the ultimate aim of reducing and hopefully eliminating the illegal logging of trees.”