Friesen Printers in Altona has a 350,000-sq.ft. main plant with a well manicured frontage that even includes some commissioned art. All throughout the front offices is a wonderful collection of original Canadian art.
Begun in earnest in May 2011, CANAV’s history of CAE Inc. finally got on press on August 5, 2015. As usual, this included a trip for me to Friesens Printers in Altona, 115 km south of Winnipeg through glorious Manitoba farmland. In spite of some evident storm damage, the wheat, soya bean and sunflower crops were looking great and already some harvesters were in the fields. As I drove through Morris en route to Altona, a big PT6-powered Air Tractor was spraying some nearby fields, racing down its lines at crop level, then pulling up like a fighter plane to align for its next run.
Also as usual, I travelled to Winnipeg by WestJet, going each way in a comfy Boeing 737-700. These flights were pretty well at capacity – no surprise, eh. People are on the move in Canada more than ever, if WestJet is any indication. Needless to say, WestJet did not disappoint. I got an affordable fare and – out of the blue — an upgrade!
A visit to Friesen has many fascinating sides to it. The inviting main lobby, for example, includes displays of some of this year’s glitzier books.
These printing industry artifacts from a century ago contrast with a late-20th Century artifact – one of the first Apple “desktops”, below. Dinosaurs from two different centuries, right?
At 0830 on August 5, my customer service rep, Aron Friesen, got me started with a short briefing as to how the CAE job would go. Then he introduced me to lead pressman Vern Zacharias, who was ready to show me the first of 12 ½ forms for approval. Looking over the sheet, it was clear that this job was off to a great start. By the end of Vern’s 12-hour shift, the first half of the job was done, including the dust jacket and endpapers. At supper time, the evening crew took over to print the backside of the many forms. The job was nailed down soon after Vern returned for his shift next morning.
Pressman Vern Zacharias checks a 16-page CAE book form just pulled from his press.
The publisher stands by a pallet with about 2200 sheets. Then, the pallet is flipped by a specialized gizmo, so the backside can be run through the press with yet another 16 pages of CAE history.
Here I am approving the endpapers. The whole process can keep a publisher going, but I wonder if this could have been my last such visit to Altona? Friesen has perfected the remote proofing operation to such a stage, that it’s really no longer so important to have the publisher on site for such a job.
I’ve seen a lot of change at Friesen since they produced Air Transport in Canada for me in 1997. This year, for example, I saw the company’s flashy new 8-colour press. Meanwhile, there was some spacious empty concrete in another corner of the plant. The big, still-modern press that had been there in 2014 was gone – sold overseas. Nothing sits too still in any such a plant, where having the latest technology is not an option.
Friesen’s impressive 8-colour Manroland R900 73” press. It prints both sides of a huge sheet in a single run.
Here’s the 73″ sheeter which turns rolled paper into custom-size sheets. This is how costs are kept down for both manufacturer and customer,
A mountain of sheeted paper, ready for the press.
Always a highlight for any visitor to Friesen Printers is the company’s “Wall of Fame”, where the covers of many recent books are on show. Of course, I always look to see if CANAV still is on show. Sure enough, there this year among covers featuring Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, hockey, boat building and the paleo diet was Vol.2 of our Norseman series. Fun, eh!
It’s always a pleasure to deal with this great company: check out Friesens online for more information about them. Also, by now there are several informative CANAV Books Blog items covering various trips to Altona, including for AinC: Evolution of an Airforce, AinC: Bombing and Coastal Operations, and AinC: Noorduyn Norseman.
As the schedule now looks, Friesens will be shipping the CAE book to me on August 19 (it still needs to get into the bindery). So I’ll start mailing out books the week of August 24. Get in your order for this beauty, which looks in many ways to be about the highlight of CANAV Books’ little efforts since 1981.
Cheers and have a great summer and fall, eh … Larry