Nikkan Pro Sports Newspaper Co, Ltd. introduced the first sports newspaper in Japan in 1947. Since that time, the company has dedicated itself to the production and distribution of track cycling newspapers. Later, the company began to make this information available on the Internet.
The group, headquartered in Tokyo, grew over the years and by 2014 the number of employees had reached 64. Nikkan's mission is to provide readers with up-to-date information in the shortest possible time and to keep them up to date with the latest events. From the very beginning, the company has published special newspapers with forecasts and outlooks on cycling races, which soon became very popular among fans of this sport.
"As the races take place every day, our company produces the forecast newspapers in 24/7 operation and delivers them to the race track. In recent years we have used small shops, kiosks and of course the Internet to increase the distribution of information, but readers still prefer printed publications. With the growing demand, we faced a real challenge in terms of time," explains Mr. Takeuchi, CEO of Nikkan Pro Sports.
The company publishes two newspapers - one delivered to readers daily and the other once a week. The daily newspaper was originally called "Keirin Shinbun", which means "track cycling newspaper", but this title soon changed. The red lettering used for the newspaper's title impressed the fans enormously. Therefore, they called the newspaper "Akakei" ("aka" means red in Japanese) from the beginning. For this reason the name of the newspaper was officially changed. The advantage of Akakei compared to other newspapers that also deal with track cycling predictions is its easy accessibility, the possibility to buy over the internet and the distribution through the numerous small convenience stores.
The weekly newspaper entitled "Pro Sports" is a 16-page folded magazine that is published every Wednesday. This publication mainly contains forecasts for races that take place one week to ten days after the publication date. In addition, the newspaper offers data on attendance and winnings per race, as well as statistics on leading cyclists based on a "leg strength index", which is based on a special calculation method developed by Nikkan Pro Sports.
At Nikkan, newspapers must be produced and delivered within a tight time window. For this reason, the company decided to speed up and streamline the production process by minimising paper handling and operational procedures.
To achieve this goal, Nikkan installed a Tecnau NewReady™ digital print finishing solution at its Tokyo plant, which is operated inline with a high-resolution Screen Truepress Jet520HD inkjet web press. "This efficient solution produces finished applications in a single process from white paper rolls to printed and folded booklets or brochures," says Thomas Olofsson, Tecnau's Sales Manager for Asia Pacific and Nordic Europe. "Unlike the offset press previously used, the customer can now print all pages in four colours, and has also been able to reduce the time and manpower required for production".
Tecnau NewsReady cuts the printed paper web into sheets and collects them. They are then folded once or twice and are then ready for delivery. Depending on the application at hand, the solution can be configured within seconds to produce single folded sheets (cross-folded or zigzag-folded) or multiple sheets collected with single folding. The NewsReady solution at Nikkan Pro Sports also allows the output of stacks of one or two-ups - with or without copy-wise offset. These stacks can be fed at right angles to a delivery belt for further processing into book blocks or other commercial print products.
"It all started when our employees saw the Truepress Jet520HD at a trade show. In September of the same year, we decided to invest. We chose this model because it prints our corporate colour red beautifully on paper. Previously, our daily newspaper was only partially in colour, but now the four-colour publication is highly appreciated by our supporters. According to them, the photos in our weekly newspaper are also more vivid and better printed. The four-colour printing has increased the overall value of our publications and also their advertising value," says Mr Tsukioka, Senior Vice President at Nikkan Pro Sports.
"The lightweight 55g paper used in newspaper production is a real challenge for any printer," Mr. Tsukioka continues. "Paper jams can easily occur, causing machine stops and wasted time and paper. The Truepress's near infrared (NIR) drying technology reduces the waviness of the printed paper, which is common with conventional inkjet printing, and improves print quality. This special feature ensures that we achieve excellent results on our full-colour, lightweight papers. The printed web leaves the press in a neat condition and the sheets cut on the Tecnau NewsReady system are accurate and extremely flat. This is a great advantage for the subsequent production steps, where the sheets are precisely collected and folded to achieve a high quality result".
"Some people may wonder why we have invested in state-of-the-art digital printing systems for a market like track cycling, which is tending to decline," Mr. Takeuchi added. "The answer is simple: we remain confident that our business has extremely high profitability. And by introducing the latest technologies, we have increased the value of our newspapers so that we can offer our readers the best possible product. We are also already looking ahead to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which will see track cycling races. We want to contribute to that in one way or another.
The complete solution consisting of the Tecnau NewsReady line and the Screen Truepress press was installed in a very short time with the support of Boewe Systec Japan. This company also provides Nikkan with support and maintenance services as part of a service contract to ensure constant and stable production.