I worked at Archant Print in Norwich from 1999 to 2011. This was a record of a night at work. They were all the same for all those years. Reposted 2021.
I was too knackered to cycle tonight and took the car into work. As usual I arrive at 17:20 to 17:25, hang up my coat and put on my steel toe cap trainers. I have a wee and head into the main CTP room: our old CTP room. With the new equipment downstairs of late this room would be quiet with just the new shift arrivals making a cuppa and getting the days brief from the outgoing day shift. But tonight this room is in full production as the new equipment had failed yet again. I say ‘evening’ to my colleagues and hear a short brief from Steve, the casual agency worker, who is practically working like one of us full time Pre-Press Technicians.
Plates are coming out at the other end of the room and I go over to short these out until the other agency chap Ian comes back from his ½ hour break. Steve has left a bit of a mess and 3 publications are coming out at once. I sort out the plates into 1 page which is 4 plates: Cyan, Magenta together which are put on the bottom shelf of the plate trolley and Yellow and Black together on the top shelf. Plates are an aluminium sheet in A3 size (two A4 pages side by side.) The trolley they go in is the representation of a press tower. With 8 slots on top and 8 on the bottom one page goes in each slot. When this gets to the press they strap the plates onto the press drums in the same order.
I complete 1 of the publications and put the trolley near the door ready to take down to the press. I then try to start sorting the next publication of which some plates were already sitting on the sorting table, but it is rather confusing and before I have time to start laying into it Ian comes back. I hand over to him and take the complete publication by the door down to the press.
Coming back to the old CTP room I head up to the computer/driving end again. Here I discover that I can write 2 platemaps up. Platemaps are a sheet of paper with the pages of a newspaper written down in order on them, say for a 64 page publication you will have 1 to 32 down one site and 33 to 64 up the other side. Therefore your plate will have pages 1 and 64 on it, 2 and 63, 3 and 62 etc. The press data is then added in the form of a platemap so we know where to put the pages in the plate trolley. I write the press positions next to each page of the two newspapers. Then my team leaders come in the room.
Ripset is down. Ripset is a computer on which we check the digital image of the plates. Here we can see the layout of the page, text and pictures. We check the dates, page numbers and see if there are problems with the pages. This machine also sends data to the press so they get presets. These presets allow the press to setup the ink to each page before the press starts running, this saves ink and paper. This Ripset computer has died. Two bods from IT come in with the team leaders and start to disembowel this machine.
The day shift team leader goes home and my team leader looks at our publication output for the night. It is quite obvious that unless we use the new equipment tonight there will not be enough time to do all these newspapers. I head down to the new equipment with a platemap to see if the machine will work.
It is now 18:10.
Meanwhile production of plates in the old CTP room never stops. Chirs stays upstairs to handle the front end. We cannot check the plates on ripest tonight, which is one job less. Chris will check pages coming in to the pairers these are computers which put the pages in pairs. These then flow to the computer that images the plates through CTP. He will also talk on the phone to the offices sending the pages to us from various sites in the UK. This is to check that the publication is flowing smoothly, pages have not been missed, and that another page may need to come again as a replate. Replates are required if the first page had an error or needs a revision. Chris will will also write up more platemaps and enter some new publications into the system. These things will be taken out of my hands while I concentrate on running the new CTP equipment on my own tonight.
Downstairs I put my platemap on the table near the sorter where the plates come out. I get a plate trolley and change the markings for the plate positions. There are 10 press towers, the trolley holds 2 press towers and is flexible in which tower we mark up the positions to. I write the name of the newspaper on a piece of sticky tape and fix the tape to the trolley handle, now the press will know what newspaper plates are in this trolley.
I go over to the front end down here and look a one screen. Here I call in the publication from the database. This was setup today by the other shift which is data on how big the publication is and if it has any sections and changes. I call in the data and export it to the Newsmanger. Turning to the Newsmanager I open Internet Explorer, the address is plugged into the database and runs/monitors the activity of it, this address is the Newsmanger. I find the date of the pub and under this I find a representation of the pub in blank pages.
I switch to another window and open up the backup folders of the pairers upstairs. This is where all the single pages are stored for the pages coming into the computers upstairs. I select all the single pages of the pub and send them to Newsmanager. Here N.M. will pair the pages and ready them for output. While I wait for it to do this I go and check the quantity of plates in the Generation News Setter. This machine holds the plates ready to be imaged. Once it is sent a plate it will put an image of two pages on the plate. It will then send the plate to the processor, the processor runs developer over the plate and brings out the image. The plate comes out of the processor and enters the bender. The bender bends over the edges of the plate and punches a hole on two sides, this is so it can clip to the press drums.
Once out of the bender it sorts the plates into towers. I pickup the sorted plates and do the same as upstars. C,M and Y,K (K for black plate) and put them in the trolley.
I find that the G.N. needs more plates put into it. I put 400 plates in to 1 tray. Each tray holds 400 plates and there are 4 trays. The plates are stored on a pallet in a paper wrapping in bundles of 50. I open each bundle, dispose of the paper and put the plates into the tray. There are 2 bays in the tray, so I add 200 each side. I decide that even though the machine is not full I will not add anymore plates. There may be about 800/1000 in it.
Going back to the N.M. I find that there is a problem. The pages are pairing but are going red for error. Not sure what to do. I think a reboot may be needed. I start to reboot 1 computer and send a message by instant messenger upstairs. By instant messenger I mean that we have notepad open on a computer upstairs which we can all go in and view from other computers. I type what my problem is. Chirs messages back that Paul the Team Leader is on the way and he may know the answer. It had already occurred to me that this error maybe because Ripset is down. Paul arrives, I stop the computer from rebooting and he disables Ripset from the loop.
Paul goes, I resubmit the pages and they go purple, ready for output. We still don’t know at this point if the machine is going to work.
I check the pages by softproofing them, calling them up on screen like Ripset. I then submit them to G.N. It starts up and begins to image plates. Soon they are coming out of the processor. Everything seems ok. Only 144 plates to go! I sort some plates into the trolley. Processor has a red error. I go over and clear the error. Here I notice one edge of a plate curled over a little as it goes by. Presently I can go back to the bender, it all seems ok. Walk to sorter: more plates sorted. Walk to N.M.: more pages paired, check them, submit to G.N.
I would sort plates but there is an error on the processor (a red light comes on to tell me): more developer is needed. I open the side of machine, take out old the large container of dev and open another and swap over. Now there is an error on G.N.: open it up, clear error, retry. Back to finish dev container. Back to plate sorter. More plates into trolleys.
“So why are you using this now if they haven’t used it all day?” says chris a production manager coming over to me.
“Because I‘ve been sent down to see if it will work.”
Plates are coming out of processor slightly twisted on one side. Two plates come out side my side and one is not straight as it comes out. This is the one that has the odd folded edge. Then they are getting worse and I have a crinkly edge on the opposite site to the folded edge. They are turning in the rollers of the processor which is mangling them a bit. This is the problem they turned off the machine for. It is happening every few plates, I don’t worry too much yet.
Now there is an error on the bender: the plate twists going in. I open up the top flap and handle unbent plate out. Close, reset, put plate back other side of bender, more are queuing up. Error G.N.: vacuum time out. Open up take out paper that goes between plates. Machine should remove them, but not doing so. Reset. Error on the bender. Clear. More plate sorting. N.M. check, submit, and I have to resubmit errored pages from G.N. stopping. There are now incomplete sets of plates due to stoppage i.e. I have C,M,K for page 4 but no Y. The Y errored and is the one I resubmitted. Another error on G.N.
Progress is getting slow, errors, incomplete sets, G.N. vacuum timeout is now a frequent error message. Twisted plates, curly edges. Let them go, should be ok on press.
Message to Paul. “Vacuum timeout?”, “Try to disable tray?” This works. Soon paper not finished but no more plates to do at the moment. The people sending will send more pages soon.
I go upstairs. Things are not good upstairs. Engineers are all around machines. Alarms beeping, error lights flashing. We are down to one line out of three working.
“I have curly plates but can probably to more newspapers down there,” I say.
I go back down with 2 more newspapers and do another. Export. Setup trolley. Submit pages. Wait. Purple. Output. Curly plates, some serrated. Sort plates. All 128 are into the trolley.
Now 10 o-clock. I go upstairs. Still only one line working. The lines are much slower up here anyway. Paul sends me for a ½ hour break.
10:30 take over from Paul, sorting plates upstairs.
East Anglian Daily Times, being output, no Eastern Daily Press out yet. Could have output downstairs but playing up curly plates could be a problem for our best newspapers.
Paul back 11:00. Chirs goes for break. Press technicians come up for E.D.P. “Sorry, one line, no plates.”
E.A.D.T. finish. EDP start. Massive crunch in processor. Down to no lines.
“Go and ask Steve the Production Manager if curly plates are a problem,” says Paul, “it will take some time to fix this.”
Downstairs: “Steve, we have no lines upstairs. This is what a curly plate looks like.” I show him a curly plate.
Back upstairs: “Paul, Steve says will have to be. If it is no plates or curly plates it will have to be curly plates.”
I start to output E.D.P. downstairs. Export. Submit pages. Pair up. Purple: output.
Some curly plates. Not too bad. I sort plates into trollies until E.D.P. completed. Output change pages. Output last of first newspaper I was doing.
E.A.D.T. change pages complete from upstairs and Paul brings them down to press.
I start to output my last newspaper only 128 plates to go!
I then re-output serrated plates from earlier. Just in case.
I load another 400 plates into G.N. and clear waste paper up.
“We might aswell go home,” says Paul.
“Thank God I came in the car tonight.”
It is now 1:10am