JDF in the Bindery a Work in Progress
Some years ago the CIP4 standards consortium in Europe devised an extended automation standard for the graphic arts industry. Thus the Job Definition Format (JDF) was born.
JDF is a comprehensive XML-based file format that was proposed as an industry standard for end-to-end job ticket specifications. It combines a message description standard with a message interchange protocol.
The electronic ticket specifications and messaging were designed to “talk” to the various prepress, press and finishing systems in the plant. Ultimately, this would enable automatic setup of each device. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize the enormous potential savings in a totally automated workflow and setup.
The JDF “schema” is pretty big. The last time I checked, it ran more than 850 pages. Finishing was the last of the code to be written.
Many finishing machinery vendors jumped on this bandwagon because it would permit them to offer a whole new generation of JDF-compatible systems. The siren song of a one-button makeready would prove irresistible to print shops. The buzz grew so large that one Drupa some years ago was actually billed as the “JDF Drupa.”
So, after 10 years (more, or less) of JDF, where does its adoption stand in the bindery? Well, not so large. There were lots of challenges in getting binders, stitchers, cutters, folders and more to operate seamlessly from downloaded instructions. Like with Smartphones, there were many different flavors of JDF used by machinery vendors.
If you were equipping your bindery with components from one vendor, great. If you were trying to get different systems from different vendors to play with each other, well...you know the story.
The intelligent setup features of many bindery systems also delayed adoption. You could setup the machine very quickly, so waiting for a file download didn’t seem so terrific.
Today, there are printing firms that have whole-heartedly committed themselves to a JDF workflow. But the majority of printers in the United States have not, and the JDF “revolution” may instead be a long, slow march toward adoption.