|JDF (Job Definition Format) is not really here yet. The big coming out party will be at DRUPA, the world’s biggest printing exposition that takes place this May in Germany. It will probably be at least a year before it even starts to make an impact. However; you should start to learn about JDF now.
It is widely believed by many experts that JDF or Job Definition Format is the key to automating the complete end-to-end print workflow, resulting in far faster turnarounds at lower costs. As a buyer if this doesn’t have your attention then perhaps you ought to stop drinking decaffeinated coffee. You already know how important PDF (Portable Document Format) is. Last month we talked about XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) which is already here and more in your realm than the printers’. Well, JDF can link to a PDF and refer to XMP resulting in foundation technologies that can produce the highly efficient automated workflow our industry is striving to achieve.
You want to be informed so that you know if printers are moving in this direction and how they are doing it. Moreover, even though most of the action on JDF is in the printer’s realm, true JDF automation starts at your end.
What is JDF?
Job Definition Format was developed by Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland. It is based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), a universal, non-proprietary information carrier that can link and refer to files used by multiple devices. In other words, XML was created to structure, store and send information in an open environment. The importance of all this is that JDF, based on XML, is an open format available to any manufacturer or software provider. Making it easily available to all is the key to ensuring its adoption. Most importantly, it ends proprietary solutions that cause different software and hardware to be unable to talk to each other. With JDF, all would speak the same language, a critical criteria for an automated workflow.
The automated workflow starts in your company. If you create a job in a file format that is JDF compliant, you can capture job-specific information that will accompany the print job throughout the process. Information can be collected both manually and automatically. For example, job specific information such as size and color can be captured automatically in a JDF compliant desktop publishing program. Quantity, delivery, and other pertinent information can be added manually. This process can occur in all stages of the workflow. JDF can also pull information from the XMP file.
Perhaps at this point you think JDF is limited to job ticket and production information. Not so, it does eliminate the job jacket, thus eliminating the main culprit in creating errors. Just one of the errors that can occur with traditional job jackets is the improper transposition of specifications as a CSR or production person re-enters the specs of the job onto the jacket. For instance, the print quantity is 25,000, but the person enters 2,500 or the stock is 100# cover but the person enters 100# text. JDF means process control, in that its benefits and capabilities go well beyond feeding information to MIS systems. It can interact with devices -if they are JDF compliant. For example, JDF can capture color settings on its trip through prepress and automatically set the ink fountains on the press or help set-up JDF compliant bindery equipment. As the JDF file moves through a shop’s workflow systems, it collects and disperses information. Plus, it controls equipment. Moreover, progressive printers and buyers who are looking to do more will find JDF to be an invaluable asset. For example, the printed piece may be one part of a package containing other components. JDF can facilitate the ordering and coordinating of auxiliary materials. The possibilities are endless when it is realized that JDF can interface with other appropriately configured databases such as CRM software and supply chain information.
With established passwords you, as the buyer, can check on the exact status of your job through the Internet, forever eliminating the less accurate response of, “it’s on the truck.” Plus, there’s so much more than what is covered in this brief article. For more information on JDF, I would suggest you visit www.cip4.org which has a wealth of information. CIP4 is a world-wide operating standards body located in Switzerland. Basically they are the keeper of knowledge and standards on JDF.
Today, JDF compliancy is only available in a few products like the latest Adobe PostScript RIP, Adobe PDF Transit 1.5, and Adobe Acrobat 6 which is not enough to get JDF going yet. By the time DRUPA takes place, you will start to see JDF-compliant presses along with other hardware and software devices. As I said, it will take a little time before JDF becomes viable but time passes quickly and the time to learn and be aware is now so you are ready when JDF takes our industry into a new dimension.