JDF BASICS -- It's Just the Ticket
Using the specification's own words is probably the best way to explain what it is:
In the next few years it is our belief that this specification will positively effect everyone involved in the creation and production of printing; regardless of form (offset, digital, and so on) or function (direct mail, publication, packaging, and so on). Furthermore, JDF will be of value to companies both large and small. Some of the benefits JDF may provide include:
** A common language for describing a print job across enterprises, departments, and systems.
** A tool for verifying the accuracy and completeness of job tools.
** A systems interface language that can be used to benchmark the performance of new equipment and that can reduce the cost of custom integration.
** A basis for total workflow automation that incorporates all aspects of production—human, machine and computer (otherwise known as computer-integrated manufacturing).
** A standard that can be applied to eliminate wasteful rekeying and redundancy of information.
** A common computer language for printing and allied industries.
The bulk of the specification is concerned with defining and describing all of the production processes (called nodes) and materials that are likely to be used by the graphic arts industry as a whole. Recognizing that printing is a flexible, or custom, manufacturing environment, it doesn't try to define a standard workflow. Instead, JDF establishes standard process building blocks (defined in XML) that can be used to digitally emulate any real-world print workflow. Theoretically, it provides a mechanism for exchanging process instructions and job parameters in an open, coherent fashion.
At the core of JDF is the Job Messaging Format, or JMF. The specification describes JMF as a subset of the broader format that is designed to handle the communication of data between equipment and systems in a printing plant. Communication can occur at the central command level or directly from subsystems, such as a color control unit on a press. "JMF can be used to establish a queue, discover the capabilities of a JDF-enabled device, determine the operational status of a device, and so on," the spec notes.