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Let's Move Forward Quickly --McIlroy

December 2003
In May 1998, William Davis, then new chairman and CEO of RR Donnelley—one of the largest printing companies in the world—said, "In this game, manufacturing discipline will win. The craftsman who has to leave his thumbprint on every page will lose." He continued: "We are a decade behind in manufacturing best practices."

His comments reflect the modern challenge of the graphic arts. Traditionally the manufacture of print has been craft-oriented, from design through to print. Designers made their reputations by creating unusual print pieces, with beautiful typography, tough-to-match colors, and unusual trim and bind requirements. Printers made their reputations by dealing under deadline with these extraordinary print demands of designers and their clients.

Standards Issues

Computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) is the term used to describe the complete automation of a manufacturing plant, with all processes functioning under computer control and with digital information tying them together. Different industry groups are approaching the automation challenge from different perspectives. Most of the work is going into standards development.

One group, the Digital Smart Factory Forum (www.smartfactory.org), is trying to build a conceptual framework around applying the principles of CIM to the graphic arts. As they point out in a recent conference brochure, "Over $9 billion of systemic cost found in the North American graphic communications industry…can be freed up by computer-integrated manufacturing, networked production and supply chain management techniques. Changes brought on by desktop publishing and CTP pale in comparison."

But most of the energy that is moving the industry forward is coming from the standards groups, most prominently those involved in developing JDF (the Job Definition Format) and some potentially competing standards.

PrintAction is a Canadian equivalent of Printing Impressions, a monthly journal focused on the printing industry and the key issues that surround it. The November cover story is about JDF and the modest controversy that has arisen over the Creo-sponsored Networked Graphic Production (NGP) initiative, seen by some as a threat or competitor to the slow-rising JDF development effort. The competition in standards has lead to a bit of a ruckus among our vendor community. I'd hate to think it's going to distract us from the essential CIM goal.

As many readers know by now, JDF is an open and extensible, XML-based print workflow specification. The JDF spec uses the job ticket concept and links together authoring, production and management upstream with manufacturing and delivery downstream.
 

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