Successful control systems retrofit at The Halifax Herald, Canada

ABB has recently successfully completed a control systems retrofit on the Wifag OF370 at The Halifax Herald in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The project was particularly interesting as it involved the replacement of systems supplied over a decade earlier by a competitor and no interruption to the daily production could be allowed — a challenging combination.

The Halifax Herald is the largest independently owned newspaper publisher in Canada. Its flagship newspaper is The Chronicle Herald, the best-selling newspaper among the Atlantic Provinces. The production and distribution facility lies just outside the city of Halifax, amongst the forests and lakes that are so characteristic of the Nova Scotia landscape.

There is just the one press at the print center: a Wifag OF370 installed in 2004 and consisting of two 4/1 printing towers, one 2/2 printing unit and one 4/4 tower, a double folder, and five reelstands. The press is the baby of The Halifax Herald’s director, Mike Murtha. Mike is a man who knows every nut and bolt of his press. As the ABB engineers learned, Mike is also a man who knows how to squeeze every last production possibility out of the configuration.

Mike Murtha, Director, Production and Facilities at The Halifax Herald, with one of the ABB control consoles

When a newspaper company decides for a press retrofit the reasons given almost always include the long-term availability of spare parts and support but Mike Murtha had some additional reasons too. “Our double folder is mechanically capable of handling two independent productions, but the original control system software did not allow this and has therefore restricted our production possibilities. In addition, the one single section control system meant that one fault could bring our complete production capacity to a standstill. No production director needs that sort of stress!”

The first phase of the project, the warm-up, if you like, was the replacing of the obsolete proprietary Wifag WPOS systems with ABB’s APOS system on the four towers and the folder. This was an easy start for ABB as the company has already done this job on ten Wifag presses: not quite plug-and-play, but routine.

The main part of the project, the commissioning of the new control system began in April 2015. ABB’s scope of supply included not only the control systems on the four towers and the folder, but also three control consoles, the press management system MPS Production, and the production analysis systems MPS Inform and MPS Insight.

The replacement of the controls required precise technical preparation and planning. Of course, the new systems needed to be installed in parallel with the existing system, but that was the easy part. They also had to work together with the existing systems. Gateways had to be provided between the Ethernet-based ABB world and the Arcnet-based communication of the old control system as well as the existing drives system. The drives are to be replaced in a later phase of the project — for the time being the existing Indramat drives are being retained.

In addition, redundancy at the section control level needed to be provided to avoid the single point of failure problem in the existing system. ABB supplied two separate section control systems and both of them could work with either of the two folder control systems, the latter being required to allow the two folders to operate independently of each other.

In the initial stages of testing, productions were run with the new ABB system and original control system working in parallel. As the installation and testing progressed and the majority of the ABB systems were available, the ABB commissioning team was able to operate the two sets of systems independently of each other. Typically the ABB systems were tested during a production-free time window in the early morning between about 3am and 10 am. The ABB engineers would then switch over quickly to the old systems for the day and night productions. However, once the tests had been completed, more and more productions were run on the ABB systems until eventually, the old systems were no longer required and could be laid to rest.

The competence of the ABB commissioning engineers made a big impression on Mike Murtha. “Those guys are real experts. I was very impressed with how they worked and what they achieved.  Our staff learned a lot from them”

“Of course there were difficulties that had to be overcome in the course of the project”, continues Murtha, “that is always the case with jobs like this, but the ABB team always came up with the solution and we are delighted with the result.”

Now that The Halifax Herald is producing 100% with the new ABB systems, Mike Murtha can really see the benefits that he has from the retrofit project. “Of course it is a real boost for us being able to run the two folders independently and to know that we now have redundancy in the system. There is a string of other things that we couldn’t do before. We can now properly preset web leads that use our self-made turner bar between the first two towers, the whole system is much more transparent from top to bottom and I’m getting all the production data that I need.”

There are two further phases to come in the project for The Halifax Herald. 2016 will see the replacement of the drives on the press and 2017 will bring the retrofitting of the controls and drives on the five reelstands. 



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