Spanning the JDF Generation Gap
Through RIT and my experiences interning at three commercial printing companies, I have had the opportunity to work in almost every department within a print shop. What I took away from each experience was an understanding of how each company is run and the unique workflow that took place.
In this blog, I will discuss my prediction for the future of the print production workflow powered by JDF (Job Definition Format) and how this will reshape the way companies structure their workflows—from start to finish—in the near future.
The power of automation is something that has driven essentially every industry to higher efficiency and further development. Within printing, JDF presents the opportunity for increased efficiency throughout an entirely automated workflow.
It’s one thing for a company to use JDF for just ink-key presetting, but by implementing the same underlying technology from estimating to delivery, that same company is able to operate at a much higher level of efficiency and thus support a much better print operation.
JDF is nothing new to the industry and was in development even before Drupa 2000. The CIP4 organization manages JDF with the mission of promoting the adoption of process automation. The goal of encompassing the entire life cycle of a print job is something that CIP4 fully supports, along with a wide variety of vendors.
However, I feel that a large majority of the top 100 printers in the United States don’t yet take advantage of the technology to its fullest extent. It might take longer to catch on with people, but I believe that it’s extremely worthwhile for every company to review its current workflow with the intent of targeting areas that are completed manually to be replaced by automation. A quick search on Google will lead to a plethora of vendors available to offer a customized solution.
If we look at the digital shift in the industry, increasing amounts of offset companies are putting digital equipment on their floor. Offering combined print services requires integration of the two distinct processes. This leaves organizations in need of transforming their workflow processes to successfully implement a “hybrid workflow.”
Within the near future, I believe that an increasing number of companies in this same situation will start looking toward JDF technology to solve their workflow challenges. After all, who wouldn’t want to enhance their shop’s productivity and flexibility?
As a student, there is a tendency to look at an aspect of technology and automatically think that a company should implement it because it’s “awesome and amazing.” With JDF, it’s clear that integration is not right for everyone and should not be installed “just to have.”
JDF implementation is very demanding and takes not only a great deal of time, but also the right, motivated people, up-to-date equipment and the necessary financial resources. For the companies that are able and willing, the successes have worked wonders and I believe will continue to do so.
When I return home to Minnesota in the summer from college, I like to make a point to visit Japs-Olson to see its continued progress with JDF. To walk through the company and witness true “lights out” production is something that is phenomenal.
Having top-quality equipment but needing an update in prepress, press and bindery areas in order to achieve maximum production is what prompted the company to look into JDF. In an already competitive market, Japs-Olson was able to stay ahead of the crowd by utilizing JDF to automate its pressroom color presets and bindery setup. The resulting success has allowed the company to send jobs out the door in record time with increased quality.
I hope to see many other companies taking note of the possibilities in automation and the ROI that can be achieved.