Saturday 22nd Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Currant bun automates giant printing plant

Newsprinters, the newspaper printing subsidiary of News International, operates one of the largest printing centres in the world – the equivalent in size to 23 football pitches – and brought in MLOG Logistics to automate it. 

News International’s four national newspapers – The Times, News of the World, The Sunday Times, and The Sun (nicknamed the Currant bun) – are all printed at the site; totalling 15.4 million copies per week. The Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph are also printed on behalf of the Telegraph Media Group.

The Broxbourne site, near Enfield, which was part of a £650 million initiative, has 12 full-colour printing presses, each of which can churn out 86,000 copies per hour, adding up to 330,000 tonnes of newsprint each year.

MLOG Logistics worked closely with Newsprinters and printing press manufacturer Manroland to deliver an automated storage and retrieval system at the site, which handles incoming paper reels and supports the required flow of paper through the printing cycle.

The system includes two high-bay storage and conditioning areas where packaged print reels are held following delivery to the site, along with two low-bay storage areas that supply prepared paper to reel stands ready to feed the 12 printing presses.


On arrival at the site reels may be cold, making the paper brittle and increasing the chances of a costly break during the printing process. Therefore, all reels go through a period of acclimatisation on entering the site.

As a result, all incoming reels are stored in two temperature and humidity-controlled high-bay storage and conditioning areas for two to three days before being transferred to processing areas for removal of packaging and reel preparation.

The two high-bay storage areas receive packaged reels via dedicated in-feed routes, with reels transported from the delivery trailers by two automated vehicle unloading docks and a floor-mounted reel conveyor system.

The high-bay racking systems each measure 23m in height, and provide a total of 3,282 bays. Each bay can store one full-sized reel, measuring 2,211mm in width and weighing up to two tonnes, or a combination of reels of smaller widths.

Both high-bay areas are served by two storage and retrieval machines (stacker cranes) located on a common rail, each with a specially designed, V-shaped, telescopic fork to handle the reels without risk of damage.


The cranes receive instructions remotely using wireless communication devices, while laser and encoder-based positioning systems, in combination with the latest drive technology, provide precise measurement data to help maintain high speeds. As a result, each crane can handle some 50 inbound and outbound paper reel movements per hour.

From the high-bay storage facilities, paper reels are transported via an automated conveyor system to six preparation lines where their outer packaging is removed and splicing tape is attached. Prepared reels are then transferred to two low-bay storage areas, each capable of housing up to 432 reels. 

Three storage and retrieval machines, operating on a common rail, serve each of the low-bay systems, providing a constant flow of paper to 60 reel stands that supply the printing presses. 
A rail-sliding area enables the selection and transfer of cranes to a maintenance zone to ensure that individual crane downtime has minimal effect on production.

The system is integrated to the Aurosys materials handling system provided by manroland AG, which controls the movement of goods throughout the facility including vehicle unloading, reel transport and storage, removal of packaging, waste paper management, reel preparation, and reel-stand loading.

As part of the deal MLOG provided preventative maintenance three times a year, and training for the some 50 in-house service engineers.

Clive Baldwin, group technical services engineer at Newsprinters says: “Every aspect of the Broxbourne plant has been developed to ensure production capacity is maintained to meet the tight printing schedules required by daily and Sunday newspapers.”