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JDF Update -- Fulfilling the Promise

March 2004

And we have been able to increase the number of pairs tested in each successive session as we—CIP4 and the vendors—gain more experience with the process, increasing the number of successful pairs, as well. Notably, we were able to test more pairs in the latter sessions because so much more is now working. The graphic on the right is a summary of the JDF InterOps results to date. We plan to hold at least three more sessions during 2004.

What does this all mean for the graphic arts industry? JDF doesn't stand alone; it is a stepping stone to full computer-integrated manufacturing in printing. But beyond the technological advantages of JDF is a critical business advantage.

JDF can drive increased customer satisfaction for the print service provider. Increasing profits is not always about cutting costs. Most printers would agree that if they could increase the amount of business flowing into the firm, driving up revenues while utilizing the same fixed cost base, the result would be an increase in profits. With its full implementation, JDF can help increase customer satisfaction and increase business volume.

The automation offered by JDF-enabled products presents the print service provider with a better view, for example, of when a job will be completed, improving the ability to comply with promised due dates. Thus, it is important to think about JDF not only in terms of automation or cutting costs, but also in terms of its ability to make customers happier by improving service, reducing costs and decreasing turnaround times. But that's not all.

With JDF, graphic arts service providers are able to extend an automated communications capability directly to the customer, increasing the ability to implement a self-service model. While human interaction and relationships will always be important in a service business such as ours, customers increasingly want to take advantage of the Internet at a time and from a location that is most convenient to them. This includes such capabilities as viewing online proofs, checking job status, entering orders, uploading files and accessing activity reports.

With a fully implemented cross-vendor JDF-enabled workflow, customers can even assess the viability of a job prior to submitting it: Will the design result in the job being too expensive, too time-consuming? These are the types of things that often inform the buying decisions for a savvy buyer. To the extent an effective self-service model is utilized, productivity is enhanced for both the customer and the service provider. The result is improved cash flow and job throughput for the service provider, and improved customer convenience.

It will also result in higher customer retention rates. Of course, the service provider can still choose to filter information as appropriate. But as the traditional separation between customer interfaces and the production operation begins to erode, the entire process can become much more customer-oriented, and much more convenient for all parties to use.

In a nutshell, JDF brings the notion of computer-based integration and automation to the printing industry, reducing bottlenecks and improving overall business practices. It also comprehends the need to produce customer communications in media other than print, helping customers make appropriate choices about what is—and what is not—printed, and placing the service provider in the position of managing an entire range of multimedia communications on behalf of the customer.

In a time when the printing industry is experiencing negligible growth and competition from other media, this functionality offers a logical way for graphic arts service providers to diversify their portfolio of services, experiencing growth despite the pressures on print.

Come to the JDF Parc

CIP4 will have a key role as well as a key booth, the JDF Parc, at Drupa 2004, which many people are calling the "JDF Drupa." CIP4 members have been overwhelming in extending their support to make this possible. The JDF Parc will be comprised of 18 pods, each pod occupied by a different vendor showing from one to four applications.

When you enter the JDF Parc, you will choose from one of six different workflows, each ultimately producing the same print job. This means that rather than vendors operating in pairs, they will be simultaneously interacting with at least six different vendors in multiple workflows to demonstrate interoperability—making this a much more realistic JDF demonstration than simple pair interaction.

Based on the selected workflow, you will be provided with a job ticket and a job ticket ID that will act as your guide for navigating the booth. This will provide you with the opportunity to follow a job through its entire workflow, end to end, viewing JDF in action. We will also incorporate a presentation area that will allow CIP4 members (vendors, consultants, early adopters and other industry groups) to make educational presentations on their JDF implementation plans and achievements.

In preparation for this much more complex simulation, CIP4 was scheduled to hold its next InterOp at the end of February (just a few weeks before Drupa) in Zofingen, Switzerland. In past InterOps, vendor participants have brought their own JDF tickets to test.

In February, participants were planning to use CIP4-created job tickets. Following this InterOp, vendors will be able to correct any identified problems and, more than likely, we will hold one more InterOp prior to Drupa—a virtual InterOp conducted over the Web—just to make sure everything is in place.

We don't have the space within JDF Parc to actually print the applications, but preprinted samples will be available, and visitors will be able to closely follow the progress of "their" job through the entire process.

In conclusion, 2004 will truly be the Year of JDF. Products—both hardware and software—from a wide array of suppliers will be JDF enabled, tested and certified to interoperate. As these products begin to make their way into the print production environment, service providers—and their customers—will begin to reap the benefits. And CIM will become a reality in the world of print.

Our world is changing, and we must change with it. JDF is one of the key enablers that will facilitate that change, resulting in a stronger, nimbler, more responsive graphic arts industry than ever before.

About the Author

Margaret Motamed is the director of product planning for EFI, a global provider of digital imaging and print management solutions for the commercial and enterprise markets. She also serves as the chief marketing officer for CIP4, an international standards body whose purpose is to encourage computer-based integration of all processes. The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress (CIP4) is the successor of CIP3, which started in 1995. (www.cip4.org)
 

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