JDF Workflows — Legacy Meets Automation

“We have nine cutters and only two of them are preset-able,” Murphy notes. “The Microcut has really helped us update some of the older machines.”

On the folding end, Murphy finds a challenge in sending out presets to mixed manufacturer gear. Japs-Olson operates MBO and Heidelberg (Stahl) folders, and it was necessary to script the prepress system to be able to write out preset files for both because a determination of which folder to use typically hasn’t been decided at this stage of production. Then files can be put on the network to be downloaded by the cutter or folder operator.

“That’s helped give us some flexibility to use some of the presets, which are vendor-specific. But it required us to have a fair amount of technical expertise on the prepress side,” he says. “The workflows are fairly complicated and we have a lot of scripting that’s necessary.”

Imperfect Match

With a large number of machines on the floor at The MATLET Group in Pawtucket, RI, and a wide range of vendors supporting them, introducing automation to older machines is problematic, according to Zeynel Zerek, vice president of information systems and prepress operations. And justification is a stumbling block that can invariably leave gaps in the automation chain.

Binding and finishing is generally the one area that struggles to make the ROI grade. “When you try to embed JDF functionality into them, you always say to yourself, ‘The amount of financial capital I’m putting into this project isn’t going to justify me to implement the JDF system,’ ” Zerek contends. “Machines like presses, even older ones, have bridging software available that enables a JDF workflow. But cutters and stitchers will probably run for 20 more years. It’s hard to put the money and technology into them.”

Zerek doesn’t want to give the wrong impression. He calls the JDF 1.2 implementation “a milestone” and believes it will be a workflow staple going forward. But until legacy equipment is completely turned over, printers will need to weigh the pros and cons as they apply to their particular workflow.

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