By Gail Nickel-Kailing October 13, 2004 -- It’s been the “Year of Interoperability” and there has been one more addition to the list: CIMcity. Located in the MAN Roland pavilion, designed as a prototype printing plant, CIMcity demonstrates a complete JDF-workflow driven by a printnet backbone from ppi Media, a MAN Roland subsidiary. To sort this all out, WhatTheyThink Senior Editor Gail Nickel-Kailing enlisted the help of Christian Cerfontaine, Director of Marketing, MAN Roland, and Tim Daisy, NGP Initiative Marketing Manager, Creo. Here’s what they had to say… WTT: Help me out, here, guys. How are NGP and CIMcity different? Tim: The Networked Graphic Production (NGP) partnership is 46 companies who are cooperating in the use of open standards to build interconnected solutions that add specific value to the graphic arts supply chain. CIMcity is a tradeshow demonstration that depicts one example of an interconnected workflow among many of the partners of NGP. Some of these connections may be available in the marketplace; some are demonstrations of what is to come. We now have over 140 partner pairs, with close to 40% of these integrations available or installed in the marketplace. To the naysayers of CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing), I would point to this cooperation of vendors supported by a solid specification, JDF, as real-world applications of Networked Graphic Production and computer-integrated manufacturing. Christian: First, let me point out that MAN Roland is a charter member of Networked Graphic Production, as are several of our CIMcity partners. So we’re not competing with NGP. In fact, CIMcity works to help it get out the word that networking or integration is what’s going to drive the graphic arts to new levels of success. CIMcity is a demonstration of production components talking to each other in the JDF format to show Graph Expo visitors that CIM is more than a theory or a hope. It’s a working reality. NGP, on the other hand, is a manufacturer partnership to promote the implementation of JDF. It does so by identifying the current JDF-installations in production and publicizing the list of NGP-partner pairs. These are companies that have their JDF-compliant equipment talking to each other in production. In short, CIMcity is the portable JDF demo; NGP identifies and lists the multiple real production pairs. (Editor’s note: NGP does more than simply promote the implementation of JDF, the organization completed the development of a series of integration conformance specifications ICS that were delivered to CIP4 for inclusion in the larger body of work being done by that organization.) WTT: Christian, I attended a CIM Road Show a couple of years ago and the players are pretty much the same. Is this an extension of that effort? Christian: Yes, CIMcity is a continuation of our overall effort to promote the advantages of computer integrated manufacturing to the printing industry. We’ve been at it for three years now and it’s starting to have an impact. Printers are beginning to realize that the best way to remain competitive in the changing media markets is to cut their production costs. Automation and networking lets them accomplish this. In our CIM Road Show, we partnered with prepress and MIS innovators. CIMcity is an extension of the same idea. We now have included postpress manufacturers to produce a complete end-to-end JDF-driven workflow that produce products continually throughout Graph Expo. WTT: CIMcity sounds pretty much like PrintCity; is there a reason? Or should we be comparing it to SimCity - the game? Seems like the demos could be equated with "simulations...." Christian: The working plant concept is taken from PrintCity, which was a big hit at drupa earlier this year. The major difference here is that we are only integrating production equipment. We’re not including consumables as demonstration items. Why? Because printing supplies are not computer integrated. There are no microprocessors inside a can of ink or embedded in a skid of paper, the last time I looked. The goal of PrintCity is to show the integration of equipment and supplies in a real working environment. PrintCity did this without JDF at drupa 2000, before JDF was invented, and it utilized JDF at the last drupa, to comply with the state of the art. And PrintCity will live on at subsequent international shows. The purpose of CIMcity is more focused: to integrate only JDF-enabled equipment. Ink and paper manufacturers have contacted us to be part of it. At this point, that does not make sense. However, there are possibilities in the future: It won’t be long before all paper pallets or all ink cans carry an RFID chip (radio frequency identification) that will broadcast their identity and characteristics to a plant’s MIS network or directly to the presses. At that point, the paper and ink manufacturers will be welcomed as full partners in the CIM experience. As to the second part of your question; there is no relation between SimCity and CIMcity, symbolically or otherwise. CIMcity is not a simulation; it’s a real working plant, producing real printed products. WTT: Will there be other residents added? Or is this a gated community? PrintCity chose one company in each domain - best of breed, they said. Christian: Right now, it's a gated community created for demonstration purposes for trade shows. MAN Roland Inc. owns it. We envision using it at forthcoming shows, using one vendor/manufacturer, who is already one of our partners, per production process. That’s not to say that CIM is a gated community. Open architecture is at the basis of Computer Integrated Manufacturing. Embrace industry standards like JDF and JMF (Job Messaging Format) and you can plug and play with anyone. We’ve limited CIMcity to established partners because it’s easier to work with folks you know and it’s important to be loyal to your friends. CIMcity is smaller than PrintCity and NGP. We scaled it that way so it's easier to explain and to understand. Graph Expo visitors will be able to visit one area that shows the JDF-based software modules of the different equipment manufacturers working together digitally. Then they can go out on the show floor and see how that integrates production on the actual equipment. This is very much a case of a theory being brought to life. But we’re not doing it with an analogy or a simulation, but with a real working demonstration. So far the reactions have been extremely positive, and we think CIMcity will be a great resource for everybody who visits it. Believe me, this is one city that really caters to tourists! WTT: Tim, last February, I spoke to Mark Anderson (Product Marketing Manager, NGP) out of your Belgium office, and he said that the ICSs that NGP was working on had been submitted for inclusion in the specifications being created by the CIP4 MIS working group and that the ICS efforts of the two working committees would ultimately be merged. Any new developments on that front? Tim: So much so that our technical integration working groups within NGP have morphed into implementation forums whose goals are to identify opportunities for additional integration, manage the development and testing effort, and develop best practices for implementing and supporting our customers. The inner workings of CIP4 are very collaborative and non-competitive. Fortunately, NGP completed its integration specifications in December, 2003; the same time that work on CIP4 ICS’s had just begun. Many NGP partners are extremely active members of CIP4 and as such, have been able to incorporate our requirements into the fabric of the CIP4 ICSs. All of our integrations moving forward are based on the applicable CIP4 ICS(s) as they become available. WTT: Is the NGP Partners organization evolving from a technical focus into more of a marketing group? If not, is it going to? Tim: The mandate of NGP has been to deliver a choice of integration to the graphic arts community that delivers measurable business value in a way that is cost effective for the partners. Achieving that mandate requires the cooperation of our partners on a technical level as well as communicating the value of NGP to the marketplace. So for the foreseeable future, NGP will operate as most successful businesses -- develop a value proposition and communicate it to potential customers. Our primary strategy for promoting the value of interoperability is through the analysis, quantification, and sharing of customer case studies. WTT: In the beginning, it was free to join NGP Partners, is it still? How do you come up with the marketing dollars to make things like the NGP stand at Graph Expo happen? Is Creo still underwriting most of the cost? Tim: There is no membership fee to be a partner in NGP. The most basic commitment is to develop working integration with at least one other partner within a period of time after becoming a member. Marketing costs are shared amongst the members. In the case of Graph Expo, we have five partners (Quark, Creo, Prism, Xerox, MAN Roland) demonstrating a Networked Graphic Production environment from creative through printing. MAN Roland is hosting us on their stand and we are sharing the costs. WTT: Once we're all on board and fully understand the value of interoperability and the major vendors have all implemented JDF, what's next for NGP? Tim: Ah, look at other mature manufacturing industries – automobiles, printed circuit boards, plastics, etc. Each of these industries continues to become more efficient and more innovative in the way they can take cost out of their operations, reduce cycle time, and increase revenues. I see the partners of NGP leading the transformation of graphic arts from craft to manufacturing and delivering the tools for cost take-out, revenue generation, and cycle time reduction. WTT: Thanks, Tim and Christian, for taking time from a busy Graph Expo to give us the detail behind the headlines. Have a great show!