It takes about 25 minutes to properly set up a cutter manually, but the implementation of JDF cut the time to six seconds. That was Joe Novak’s quick response when I asked him for some quick examples of how JDF (Job Definition Format) saves time. It most certainly was a quick answer in almost every respect because, in this operation, it cut the setup time down to almost nothing.
Not many printing companies are able to hire a director of technology. With 350 employees and annual sales approaching $85 million, Williamson Printing in Dallas is big enough to have Joe Novak, director of technology, help bring them into the new world of JDF automation. But the size and diversity of Williamson also adds to the complexity of JDF implementation and necessitates a well-managed, professional approach.
First, Williamson has six “sister” companies as they call it. Williamson Printing, the main company, possesses a great variety of specialties and is loaded with equipment. Its sheetfed pressroom features three 12-color presses, one 16-unit press and an eight-color press. All are 40 or 41 Heidelberg models with some featuring various coating abilities. Add to this four webs and a complete bindery, and there isn’t much that they can’t do when it comes to offset printing.
Williamson Express Printing produces on-demand digital printing, including with variable data. The other divisions cover the gamut from fulfillment, financial and legal printing, hand assembly and, well you name it, they probably can do it. Plus they’re on an international scale with a presence in many countries throughout the world, through its Williamson International subsidiary.
Moving all of this into JDF in one stroke would be a rather daunting and probably unsuccessful task. So the approach was to first focus on the main company. Prepress is a great place to start and most major suppliers of prepress workflow systems are JDF-enabled. However, Novak threw me a bit of a curve. He spoke very enthusiastically, not so much about a specific prepress company, but about an individual with whom I should have been more familiar. Rohan Holt pioneered the computerization of job planning, and is the original inventor of SuperImpose. It was renamed UpFront after being acquired by ScenicSoft in 1999. Later, ScenicSoft became part of Creo, which was acquired by Kodak. So UpFront is now a Kodak product. Got all that!
According to Novak, UpFront is currently used to plan jobs at Williamson and much more—it can send data all the way to the bindery. Remember: the story starts with reducing cutter makeready time to almost nothing. Well, the imposition not only results in plates for a specific press, but instructs bindery equipment.
Novak continued by relating how Rohan Holt formed a new company in Australia called LithoTechnics. Its flagship product is called Metrix, which takes up where UpFront leaves off. Williamson is using both products, but this column isn’t meant to be a product review. (For more information on Metrix, contact the U.S. marketing team of Lisa and Brian Alterio at www.alterioassociates.com. For UpFront, see your Kodak rep.) Aside from automating production, JDF also enables users to put together solutions of their choice by matching suppliers that in the past couldn’t communicate with each other. Novak carefully researched specific solutions and, through the magic of JDF, designed a working system. For example, he also uses Esko’s Scope workflow environment, specifically BackStage, which Novak says really boosts productivity.
Apparently capitalizing on the strengths of different JDF-enabled solutions is working for Williamson. Novak reveals that, as of now, they have cut 25 minutes out of an average job moving through prepress. This is significant since they have about eight jobs moving through their system at any given time. However, Williamson has moved beyond prepress and the bindery, and has made real progress in the pressroom with much more to come. Some of their current equipment is PPF (or CIP3) enabled, which is the forerunner of JDF and can be made to work with JDF. Williamson has committed to buying the latest state-of-the-art presses. So, although much of the pressroom is automated now, just wait.
In order to really get sophisticated about JDF automation, a JDF-enabled MIS system is critical. This is particularly true for a company the size of Williamson. However, although most of the popular MIS systems are JDF-compliant, there is still more work to be done. According to Novak, Williamson uses PRISM and good progress is being made toward capitalizing on the benefits of JDF for total plant information and customer relationship automation.