Tags:Fresh from GraphExpo and Seybold Chris Herric gets to grips with the drive to JDF and realises the need for printers to become totally IT savvy if they are to thrive.
Well – here in the northern hemisphere, autumn is upon us, and people have begun to stock their larders for winter. It seemed over the past month or two of trade shows that the printing industry is also at the same mindset. I think that my recent discussions with colleagues of mine; vendors and attendees alike seem to indicate that people are in a buying or at least shopping mood. Let’s face it, we are in a business where traditionally capital expenditure is large enough to require signing ones signature upon forms with more zeros than most people feel comfortable with. When we try to plan our market and needs, we have to take the big picture in mind, and we therefore have become expert in diving trends and markets that are sustainable.
I found it interesting how many booth exhibitors at GraphExpo were software manufacturers. Database developers, and server solution providers numbered in the dozens. It was not too long ago that software in the printing industry was an afterthought, a necessary evil to getting prepress done. Now, we are in a world where job plans fly through wires (or air) like so much white noise. All driven by new vendor offerings, and software. Companies such as Adobe, Quark, Xinet, Enfocus, Callas, and others do not actually manufacture anything physical (other than the CD that the code is delivered upon.) Despite the fact that they manufacture nothing more than ideas, their collective software applications have become essential to the daily production of almost all printed material today.
What is software? Software is nothing tangible at all. It is a series of codes, and information that allows a computer to perform a task of series of tasks. It is kind of like saying, “Here you have this display system (your monitor), this CPU to execute commands, and this output device… I’ll teach your computer how to be Photoshop for X amount of dollars”. Not only that… but by reading the EULA (end-user license agreement) one will usually find that one has actually purchased nothing, but has only purchased a license to use the software. Usually, the restrictions begin with a clause to be installed on one computer and one operator at one time. I have often had the reaction when explaining this to a client… “You mean I don’t even really own this?” Not only that, but some workflow and server software can run into tens of thousands of dollars, all for that small box on the shelf… that you do not even really own.
Why the move towards JDF workflows? It is that same recurring theme common to both shows. This is an important trend in how the role of prepress has changed, and how the printer market itself is shopping for prepress workflows. The printing community has taken on more of the prepress role, and the content creators are creating further downstream press-ready files. Prepress had built a niche industry for itself by fixing the 95 per cent failure rate of submitted electronic jobs. Now that PDF has entered the scene, that has changed the role of print production radically.
A trade show like GraphExpo is and has always been about vendors showing off their latest wares. The change however is in that historically we were investing in heavy metal and things that required you to put them on concrete pads. When you buy a press, you (and the bank) can go out and physically touch it. Now however, we are dealing in an intangible tool that is not something that can easily be appreciated. That brings about an almost “trust me” faith to a vendor solution when they are considering a purchase from.
The protocol is the film of today. It is a convergence of several important technologies to get to where we are today with workflow. This highlights the importance of a blind exchange file format to send a job or plan in, and allow it to be output with identical results on a multitude of devices (enter PDF/JDF as this PDF tool that allows complete job ticket information to ride along with the job). This year’s GraphExpo (as well as Seybold) was laden with JDF based or compliant PDF workflow systems, by no less than 20 vendors. This compared to a handful of vendors even discussing building upon it last year.
We came to depend and rely on the stability of film, and it seems that the protocols that most combine the stability of film, with the dynamic of electronic document ability are what the industry feels its products can offer the best to their clients. We hired strippers (planners) to deal with film, and now we are again at a period of change.
Bottom line, a digital infrastructure is an important part of all print production today. What I learned from being a fly on the wall at both major trade shows and conferences over the past two months, is that everyone involved in the nefarious world of print production must increasingly be willing to implement an information technology aspect to their business. Watching the vendor offerings, it seems everyone needs a server, internet, networking, databasing, barcoding, and to get their assets managed.
Chris Heric is a US-based prepress consultant. He specialises in the area of PDF and is the track chairman for the PDF for print Conference at Seybold.
Contact Chris Heric via email: email@example.com