Commentary & Analysis
It's All About Business Workflow
By Frank J.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: March 22, 2004
By Frank J. Romano March 22, 2004 -- Workflow is just another way of describing the new ways the printing industry will do business. Every supplier now has production workflow solutions. Most are based on open standards and some are not. All involve the Internet. Eventually, printers will remotely administer customer accounts, process orders, and update their e-order systems all via a Web browser. Reliable PDF delivery systems will be tailored to individual production workflows. Content creators will prepare PDF files from their desktops utilizing their own applications, and deliver them via the Internet. Everyone should support CIP4's standards such as JDF and the subsets for interoperability. Integration is a relationship where applications actually share a database. When applications are interfaced, they exchange data that is extracted and then passed on. The goal is integration of business, pre-print, printing, and finishing systems into production, management, and color workflows. If we can achieve that, we will see a better return on capital investments. But getting there is not necessarily easy. Here are the issues: Workflow is difficult to understand and demonstrate. Few printers will buy all system pieces from the same supplier. Printers do not know what JDF, CIP3/4, and PPF really mean to them. Some suppliers only give lip service to standards. Only seven people on earth understand JDF. In 1993, Heidelberg, along with Agfa, Adobe, and MAN Roland, developed the concept of the Print Production Format (PPF), assisted by the Fraunhofer Institute, and, in 1994, the first draft specification was demonstrated in a functional prototype. A few months later, CIP3 was formally launched with its first 15 members to present Version 1.0 of the CIP3 PPF at DRUPA 1995. Heidelberg helped initiate the CIP3 organization, established the first interoperability format (PPF), and now has more than 3,000 interfaces using the PPF specification linking the press and prepress functions. CIP3 PPF was the first industry specification intended to bring computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) to the printing industry. In 1999, Heidelberg, Agfa, MAN Roland, and Adobe came together again to develop and publish an open, extensible, XML-based print workflow specification framework. It was this initiative that became the JDF standard, and, in June 2000, the JDF activities were transferred to CIP3. CIP3 then reorganized as an independent, international standards body called CIP4. There are more than 3,000 CIP3/PPF interfaces, mostly employed with third-party products. While JDF was built as an open standard, JDF-compliance doesn't always mean “plug and play.” Suppliers have already implemented the benefits of CIP3 for some production systems, but we need more attention, explanation, and progress in making it all work with business systems.