Dock Equipment Is Good News for The Dallas Morning News

Released: September 7th, 2012

While the coffee is perking on Sunday morning one of the rituals repeated in homes across the country involves digging through the 20 to 40 or more ad sections that arrive when the paper hits the doorstep.

In the Dallas metro area the ritual is different. If Dad gets?to The Dallas Morning News first, he can pull out the?Gap section, Macy’s sales and all of the other ad sections?for his teenage daughter and then quickly find out what’s happening with the Cowboys. Everyone gets their immediate gratification because all of the Sunday paper ad inserts arrive in a convenient plastic bag.

This is made possible for Morning News readers thanks to an operation recently brought on-line at the paper’s new post press and distribution facility in South Dallas. The Morning News is one of the largest newspapers in the country, and?is currently only one of four papers that deliver the Sunday supplements (known in the newspaper trade as free-standing inserts – FSI’s) bundled in plastic bags.

While the readers appreciate this neat package, the benefits of this new production and distribution facility significantly impact advertisers as well. In a typical newspaper operation the FSI’s arrive at the substations scattered throughout the circulation area. It is the job of the newspaper carriers to stuff these sections into the Sunday paper before they hit their routes. One of the weaknesses of the process is often the carriers can leave sections out of a paper in their rush to get out into the streets.

This new bundle process shortens the time to stuff the papers and ensures that the right FSI gets to the proper home – a major concern for advertisers. The 132,000 sq. ft. operation has the latest in packaging and material handling equipment, tied together with a state-of-the-art system for identifying and tracking to customize delivery of these advertising sections. Dock equipment supplied by Serco® and TKO® Dock Doors helps ensure these ad bundles get out the door with no disruptions to ever tightening schedules.

It is no secret that print newspapers are in competition with on-line content for advertisers, and The Dallas Morning News is aggressively increasing their services to attract?more of this business. According to Doug Barlow, Assistant Director of Collating Operations at the South Dallas facility, “with this new facility we can customize the distribution and content of our Sunday inserts to meet the marketing programs of our advertisers, plus add a growing number of services.”

This operation, which is expandable on a 50-acre site, was extensively researched by The Morning News production management team. They visited plants around the country that included Quad Graphics, RR Donnelly and a number of other newspapers.

“What impressed us and helped us ultimately decide on the Serco and TKO equipment was that our representative from Southern Dock Products, Tim Wray, took us to see working loading docks at a local manufacturer to get hands on experience, rather than coming by with a truck to demonstrate a single piece of equipment,” recalled Barlow. “We decided not to scrimp on the dock equipment as a result.” [Southern Dock Products is the local Serco and TKO distributor.]

The Morning News also had positive experiences with Serco equipment at their Plano, Texas facility, and with the increased pace of the process in the new location reliability was an even greater concern.

The dock set-up matches the system approach throughout the operation. When trucks arrive at the facility with pre-printed FSI’s from a variety of printers, a dockworker commands the PitBull® vehicle restraint to grab the trailer’s rear impact guard by pushing a button on the wall-mounted Master Control Panel.

Rather than separate control boxes for each piece of dock equipment, the Master Control Panel combines those controls into a single panel and coordinates the operation of the restraint, dock leveler, the motorized dock door and even the dock light – preventing activation of any piece of equipment outside a pre-programmed sequence. Barlow and Wray worked together closely to customize the Master Control Panels to the Morning News’ application so the dock equipment can function in the required sequence.

Until the trailer is secured the powered TKO door will not open and the leveler cannot be deployed. When it is time to activate the Serco Hydraulic Leveler the user

has independent push-button control of the deck and lip extension to position the leveler into the trailer bed. Once the truck is ready to leave the Master Control Panel will not allow the restraint to release the trailer until the dock leveler has fully stored and the door is down.

The Dallas Morning News first installed loading dock equipment at the North Plant facility a few years ago. “We wanted to be sure our forklift operators and truck loaders were safe. I don’t know the exact stats,” asserts Barlow, “but we do know that every year, forklift drivers are killed when trucks pull away from the docks while a forklift is inside the trailer. The Master Control Panels give us a high level of safety and they are proven, reliable equipment.”

Though this is a spacious facility, the seven doors at the receiving dock and the eight on the shipping dock are tightly lined up against the wall. “We like having it all controlled by one box at each dock,” notes Barlow, “plus the set up is neat, compact and doesn’t have a lot of wiring conduit.”

Once the printed sections arrive at the dock the pallets are loaded onto a Westfalia Technologies, Inc. Automated Storage and Retrieval (AS/RS) System. For the high-volume DMN operation the total of 4,400 pallet positions in the 75 foot high storage area helps the facility keep on schedule.

When signaled, the Westfalia Savanna.NET® WMS directs the AS/RS to retrieve the pallets from storage and place them on the out-feed conveyor. The system then directs fork truck operators to pick up the pallets and deliver them to the proper collator via fork truck-mounted computers.

The FSI’s are loaded onto 76-hopper FSI Prim Hall Packaging System collators which extend 400 feet and are located in adjacent bays, giving the DMN DC the capacity to serve up to 76 different sections in a single bundle – one of the largest collating systems in the country.

The FSI packaging platform enables The Morning News to produce micro-zoned packaging pinpointed within a neighborhood, handling inserts as thin as .002 inch, with delivery 100% verifiable. The post press system also has print-on-demand feeders capable of personalizing ad content as well as applying 2-color printing on the bag itself with special messages and contests.

As the bundles come off of the collating line they load onto carts, each having a specific destination. At this point bundles are manually stuffed into the newspapers because automation is not cost effective at this substation level.

To ensure the assembled bundles reach their assigned locations, each cart has an RFID tag. To enter the trailer the carts must pass beneath an RFID reader. If the wrong cart is about to enter a truck an alarm sounds, lights flash and the dockworker stops dead in his tracks.

Even though the traffic on this end of the building is manual, The Dallas Morning News chose TKO® Welterweight® impactable dock doors like they did for the receiving docks, which has forklifts doing the material handling work.

“We have this process so closely planned that we cannot afford any door downtime,” asserts Barlow, “so that is why we used TKO doors on our 15 dock doorways.”

Dock door damage is common in DC’s but the TKO impactable door eliminates these disruptions as a threat to TDMN’s schedule. Unlike standard dock doors, the panels on TKO doors ride along a V-Groove track. When the door is hit the panel does not resist the force of the blow, rather the guide slides out of the track. In just seconds the panel can be reset into the guides and traffic flow into the trailer resumes. Plus the doorway remains sealed to prevent energy loss when the door is closed.

Typically dock doors are operated manually. Powering door operation provides a better interface into the dock door system managed by the Master Control Panel. A photo eye provides the system with door position information.

The fully loaded carts weigh in at about 1,000 lbs. The Serco Hydraulic Levelers on the shipping docks are 10 feet long with a 16” lip. The extra length provides a more level interface from the warehouse floor to the trailer and less exertion for the dockworkers. Each trailer holds a maximum of 42 carts.

As busy as this operation is, The Dallas Morning News is set up to take on more business. The post press facility is built on a 50-acre site and could provide land for another post press building and a separate printing plant.

As for the current building, Barlow projects the collators could be fitted for another 24 hopper positions, a third line could be added, and they could take on direct mailing services for catalogs up to one inch thick and distribution for other newspapers. When all of this happens, the Serco and TKO dock equipment will be ready to handle the traffic.

Shipping Line-Up - The eight impactable dock doors on the shipping dock ensure the FSI’s make it on the trucks with no interruption to the schedule due to door damage. The dock levelers have 10 foot long platforms to provide a lower angle for easier entry of the carts into the truck trailers.

Tracking — Screens positioned along the collators to keep employees informed as to which inserts are being run, progress of the collating and overall status.

Control Box — The Master Control Panel at each dock doorway controls the sequence of operation to protect the dock employees and the dock equipment. The device is set up so that workers can quickly and reliably learn how to operate it.

Overhead Shipping — The bundles of FSI’s are accumulated on this fleet of manual carts for eventual shipment to the neighborhood stations. There, the inserts will be stuffed into the latest edition of the Dallas Morning News before the carriers go out on their routes.

Forklift into Trailer — Forklift enters a trailer on the receiving dock to pick-up a load of ad inserts, which from there go onto the plant’s AS/AR system. As with the rest of the operation, all of the dock equipment is organized with a systems approach to enable efficient engagement of the trailer restraint, dock leveler and dock door.

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