Tags:Chris Heric reports on the future of JDF following his involvement in the recent CIP4 Interoperability Testing conference in Strasbourg Any trip to France is worthwhile for the amazing food and wines, but this one had the added bonus of participating in an unusual event for our industry, a coop/interop. Vendors from four continents, all testing interoperability between their solutions – it was amazing.
Think about it. It is rare that the industry players in print can agree or discuss industry issues much less cooperate in working together to make sure that JDF might actually come to fruition. To those unaware of the two terms I describe, here is a brief definition. CIP4 is The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress Organisation. The Cooperative’s main objective is to develop and to specify a schema for Print-Media Job Ticketing and tracking, known as JDF (Job Definition Format.)
So, what is the upshot of an industry-wide cooperative, a world when vendors sit in a room twice a year, to cooperate, and assure that their JDF implementations will work with their competitors, and co-workflow partners? I call it a future innovation to the industry, and I feel like I should mention, that if you do not know what JDF is, and what it will do, you owe it to yourself to find out.
First, the best way to learn about CIP4, and JDF, is at the CIP4 website: http://www.cip4.org/ There is a wealth of technical information as well as statements of compliance with Intellectual Property and whitepapers. If you want to know about JDF, this is your resource. This column is too brief to be able to adequately describe “What is JDF really, and how can it help me?”
A Job Definition Format, is basically a structured way with which prepress, proofing and press equipment interact, to exchange job information. This JDF implementation can contain technical job specifications as well as client and delivery information, and more, all embedded within the system. JDF also is built upon freely available solutions such as XML, and it implements its metadata in this format. JDF, above all, is an evolution from other efforts from vendor-specific solutions such as Heidelberg/Fraunhofer and Adobe, (CIP3/PPF and PJTF respectively.) The beauty of this is the CIP4 organisation has learned from the errors in the thinking of these prior efforts, and focused upon true vendor cooperation and interoperability testing based upon free and open tools.
Let me be clear here however, that this is not light reading. These are highly technical specifications and schemas, but suffice to say, there is a great deal of discussion and thought about how to exchange this information. If I were to emphasise one thing to know about JDF and CIP4, is that it is going to become a reality very soon, and it will be an integral part of nearly every hardware and software purchase you make over the next few years. There is interest from companies such as Quark and Adobe, as well as hardware manufacturers like Canon, Heidelberg and MAN Roland. They are already implementing JDF (or are making plans to do so) and they were at the Interop in Strasbourg, testing their solutions with their competitors.
So, how will this impact the basic print-shop owner or operator? As I have mentioned before in this column, the trend in solutions for our industry have been honing in on “hands-off operation” where no human intervention is required in order to run the job. That is, automated workflows that take human error and failings out of the loop (or at least further removed from the loop.) The basic lesson is, if a human has to manually handle the job, and setup the specifications and parameters of the job manually, they will inevitably make an error, and they take too much time. (grin)
Why would people begin to use this?
JDF, being based upon an open-language such as XML, makes its implementation platform agnostic, and device independent. It is for that reason that I get a real positive feeling when I look at what prototype solutions I saw in Strasbourg the other day. It was a room full of software engineers, exchanging files through sporadic wireless connections and USB KeyDrives, and testing their interoperability with every other member of CIP4.
I am usually a cynic about most new innovations and “solutions” I see. I have been in the industry for almost 20 years, and I have seen a lot of really poorly thought out solutions come and go, but I look at JDF and the hard work that these very smart people are putting into it, without vendor slant, and I cannot help but to think, “This is actually going to make it”. While I do not think that the readership of my column would be interested in the ugly details of JDF, but they may be interested in the promise of a truly unified file structure and method for exchanging job information. This will extend from the content creation solutions at the page layout stage of the process, and carry through all the way to finishing and delivery.
JDF is not a new PDF file, and it is not a magical solution for poor planning, but it is a means with which our industry can get a handle on the myriad of variables we have all spent a career managing. It is long past time for our industry to look into a cooperative set of tools, instead of the disparaging nature of equipment attempting to talk with other equipment, not designed to do so.
We can learn a lot as an industry from other business segments, whom have already implemented unified solutions, such as banking, warehousing and retail… could print be next? I think it will be sooner rather than later.