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JDF Update -- Fulfilling the Promise

March 2004
By Margaret Motamed

There has been much recent discussion in our industry relative to the progress of the JDF initiative and the impact it might have on the future of printing. As CIP4's chief marketing officer, the worldwide standards body responsible for developing and testing JDF and PPF, my challenge has been to increase the visibility and awareness of not only JDF, but of all of the activities being undertaken by CIP4 to promote computer-based integration of processes within the graphic arts industry.

The printing industry has been slow to adopt the principles of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), which have been in use for some time in most of the rest of the manufacturing industry. Perhaps because we are a custom manufacturing industry, we feel automation is problematic, unlike manufacturing such items as food products, apparel and automobiles.

A further complication has been the lack of consistent communication standards in a multi-vendor environment that would allow disparate systems to easily talk with each other as a job is being processed. Unfortunately, we cannot allow these issues to hold us back from adoption of automation any longer. We simply can't afford to do things the way they've always been done and still stay competitive—and profitable.

InterOperability Testing

As the standards body behind JDF, CIP4 is responsible for testing the viability of both the standard itself, and of vendor implementations of the standard. To that end, CIP4 hosts periodic JDF InterOps, which is shorthand for our interoperability testing process. We have held three InterOps since May of 2003, and it is exciting to see the progress that is being made.

InterOps are open to any CIP4 member. In preparation for the event, vendors apply to have their products tested. Based on those applications, product pairs are identified for testing. These pairs are identified based on input/output relationships; that is, as part of the workflow, each product accepts an input from some other product, and creates an output that is delivered as an input to yet another product. An example is shown in the above graphic.

When pairs test successfully, it means that the JDF instructions used by these two products conform to the JDF standard. In other words, there has been successful communication of information about a job from one step of the process to the next in a multi-vendor scenario.

While we have not been able to test all identified product pairs at each InterOp, what is extremely exciting is the growth in vendor participation, the number of products submitted and the number of pairs identified during the three InterOps sessions we have held in 2003.

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