Newspaper Industry : An Embodiment Of A Human Supply Chain

A newspaper is an integral part of many people’s lives. It’s so deeply rooted in our lifestyle that even in this age of digitization it has firmly held its share of the market. But have you ever wondered how the newspaper reaches to your doorsteps every morning without fail?

The news is of no importance if it doesn’t reach you precisely & on time. Newspapers are performing this task from so many years. Unlike the digital media, newspapers rely more on the human supply chain to reach out to the customers. The technological interventions have been limited to printing & data collection areas.

Technology in newspaper circulation has been limited but the distribution has been as efficient as any other news-carrier. Perhaps, it is this efficiency that separates newspaper from other sources of media & helps it sustain the competitive edge.

India has had a long history of print news; the first newspaper was founded more than 230 years ago. The government’s Registrar of Newspapers in India lists more than 82,000 newspapers. The Indian newspaper industry is worth more than Rs.18000 crores.

Overall, newspapers will grow 12 to 14 percent annually for the next several years, according to estimates by consulting firm KPMG India.

Characteristics of Newspapers:

One of the most important characteristic is that newspapers are worthless at the end of the day. In addition to the fact that newspapers rarely are identical from day to day there can also be great variation between different newspaper titles with respect to format, paper quality, publication frequency, and which subscription plans that are offered. These are all contributing factors to the complexity of planning newspaper production, as no two products, weekdays or weekends are equal.

It is of prime importance for the newspaper vendors to deliver the newspaper by 6-7 AM. As a consequence of the short deadlines most production and distribution is carried out at night and often in short shifts. Another corollary of the perishable nature of newspaper is the inventory; there is no finished goods inventory. Whatever newspaper is printed is either delivered or scrapped at the end of the day.

Newspaper circulation industry works like a six sigma organization with a minimal error rate. There are barely two kinds of error they can make: either miss the delivery to a reader or deliver the wrong newspaper. It is not known if the newspaper delivery people use any techniques to identify the correct delivery of newspaper. It is mostly dependent on the memory capabilities of the newspaper delivery boy!! The mistakes that the newspaper vendors make are very minor and get easily resolved by contacting the vendor. Thus, with negligible fuel costs, modern technology or investment they achieve almost 100% customer satisfaction.

Some of the critical factors in Newspaper Supply Chain are Forecast Uncertainty & Demand Variability. Most newspapers encounter daily problems in forecasting how many newspapers to print & distribute at different sales point. There is high demand variability within the week itself. It also depends on the type of supplements of the newspaper on a particular day. If demand increases the salesman informs the sales office which gives information to production department. All the changes required for printing & organizing logistics are to be done on a very short notice & so there are provisions for buffer production & extra vehicles.

Process Flow:

News & Advertisement > Pre Press > Printing > Insertion of Pre-Prints > Packing > Loading in Vehicles > Distribution

News Content:

News content is created by a team of reporters, photographers, journalists, freelance writers & supplied to newspapers. This content is then verified, edited & formatted according to different page numbers. After editing & arranging the content graphically it is sent to the printing press in the digitized format so that production can be started.

Manufacturing:

Manufacturing comprises of three major processes viz. – Pre-Press, Printing & Packaging. Most of the newspapers use offset printing method which involves use of printing plates.

Typesetting: The news is received in the pdf format at the printing location. Here it is arranged as to how it will appear for to the reader. Prototypes of these pages are created. First & last pages are prepared at last to accommodate any breaking news at the late hours before printing begins. Most of the content in middle pages has a regular format & require very less tinkering.

Image transference:  In a process room, the pages received for printing are processed & are transferred on a film using laser beams. The image transferred is the negative of the actual data to be printed.

Plate making: The film produced is placed on aluminum plates. Aluminum plates have a coating of light sensitive materials. These plates along with the films are passed under ultraviolet rays. This transfers the image onto aluminum plates.

Printing: In most printing operations only four colors or CMYK (Cyan (blue), Magenta (Red), Yellow & Key (Black)) model is used.

Packaging:

The newspapers are assembled & transferred to the packaging area after printing. Conveyer belts are used for transferring newspapers into packaging area. The newspapers are packed in bundles according to the delivery locations with a challan attached to each bundle with delivery location information. The challan is issued in the name of a salesperson, who would be responsible for further distribution of the newspaper at particular depot.

The packages are allocated to loading ramps where they are loaded onto vehicles for distribution. Packaging and vehicle loading are potential bottlenecks in the supply chain and seeing as inventory space usually is limited, the printing, packaging and vehicle dispatching have to be closely coordinated.

Distribution:

This is one of the most interesting aspects of newspaper life cycle as it relies mostly on manual labor. Newspapers are received at various depots & the concerned salesperson unloads them. The challan is verified & if any discrepancy is found in quantity it is reported to the newspaper executives.

The salesperson responsibility is to sell the newspapers to the vendors in a particular area. The salesperson maintains record for the vendors mostly in a register. The vendors purchase the newspapers from salesperson mostly on a cash basis & cater to smaller areas. The newspapers are then delivered by numerous delivery boys or the paperwalas to different households mainly on bicycle or foot.

Thus the newspaper is a great example of an industry which has maintained its personal touch even after so many technological interventions. It still is an integral part of the news & media industry & it is vital that customers keep appreciating it.

This article has been contributed by Kaizen, the operations club of IIM Indore.

IIM Indore

This article is published by Media and PR Committee, IIM Indore

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