By Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor October 28, 2004 -- With all of the vendor hype around JDF and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, I wanted to know what it was that printers visiting Graph Expo were really looking for. Are they seeking JDF-enabled solutions? Do they even care about this latest in a string of three-letter acronyms? Are they seriously considering implementing CIM in their companies? With that in mind, I accosted a few unsuspecting victims on the show floor who were kind enough to share their thoughts with the readers of WhatTheyThink. Mark Weiss, CRW Graphics, Pennsauken NJ Weiss began our conversation by saying, “In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that while I do run a printing business, I am also very involved with the standards bodies. I am currently the co-chair of the advertising workgroup for CIP4.” Weiss comments that currently, the only real communication JDF-wise in his plant is between his Creo prepress systems-Brisque and Lotems for CTP—and his Heidelberg presses, where he is transmitting color information from prepress into the press room. He is currently working with MBO to add a JDF-compliant Navigator folder to the JDF-enabled workflow mix. He says, “Everything we buy has to be JDF compliant or have some plan to get there. CIM should be part of your purchasing plans even if you don’t plan to implement it right away. With equipment life of five to eight years or more, I don't want to end up with obsolete equipment that is two, three or four years old.” He also pointed out that the real glue that holds a CIM implementation together is MIS, and he is still waiting for his MIS solution to catch up. When I asked whether his operation would be JDF-compliant end to end by next drupa, he replied, “I don't know that I am going to be 100% JDF end to end before next drupa because I probably can't get enough capital equipment and procedures changed and because we do a lot of customized work. But within two years, I expect 85% of the work to be JDF end to end. What benefits does he see from implementing JDF compliant solutions? Weiss said, “I look at JDF as a great tool to free up my folks so they can be looking at the things that are going to impact the quality and creativity of what we are producing. Today I have talented people that are spending time making folding dummies of 16-page layouts that we have created thousands of times. With JDF, they don't need to do that. I can pick the right template and know it will work Once I start using JDF workflows, I know I am sending consistent instructions to my equipment and it won't have the variability of a human operator—equipment doesn't have a bad day; it either does the job or it doesn’t. “On the Internet side of our business we have been at this automation work for five years, and we have automated the whole prepress process there. If we find a problem with our process, the only way we can fix it is to go back and reprogram the computer so that the automation is smarter. In the beginning, 20% of the files we received required human intervention. We are now down to one half of one percent. The computer is tireless; it can search through a myriad of different combinations of things to find the right answer. When we do find a problem, it might take me weeks to program it out, but the next time that combination of variables hits me, the program will know what to do. I am looking forward to doing the same kind of thing with JDF on the printing side of the house.” What is his advice as to the best way to stay current about what is happening with the standards? He says, “Talk to your counterparts. Learn about JDF and CIM as your capital needs and your plant evolves, and step by step, think about how you can implement it. Because while it requires an upfront investment today, the payoff in terms of quality, process improvement and the longevity of your equipment in enabling you to compete economically makes it a viable investment strategy. Send someone from your operation through the IPA’s JDF certification program. It is delivered inexpensively via the Web and will provide you with an in-house expert that can add significant value in the planning and implementation process.” Ron Davis, While not operating a printing business today, Ron Davis has been a printer all his life. Seeing a need for a scheduling solution that mimics the way printers schedule work today, he has spent the last three years developing a Web-based hosted solution to do just that. Davis was visiting Graph Expo as part of his ongoing efforts to keep abreast of the latest industry developments. Relative to JDF adoption, he says, “ It is going to happen over the next decade. But printers could care less about JDF; what they want are the results that JDF can bring them. They want to see the benefits in dollars—what they spend versus what they can save and what efficiencies they can get by implementing a solution. They certainly don’t care about the 800 pages of standards associated with JDF. In the world of personal computers, we select print and it prints to any printer we have hooked up. In the production environment, we need to get to the same place. JDF needs to be transparent so that the printer doesn't have to deal with terminology, he just plugs and plays. The industry is behind; it is a slow and hard road, but I believe we will get there.” He concluded by saying, “The progressive, efficient printers will always be successful. If you don't stay efficient and up to date, you will be added to the 20% of print enterprises that went out of business over the last few years.” Arthur Kwiatkowski, Gilchrist, Toronto Arthur Kwiatkowski, the Senior Bureau Operative for Gilchrist out of Toronto, graduated with a degree in Graphic Communications Management from Ryerson last year. He says, “A lot of the courses at Ryerson had a st ron g focus on JDF, and the professors were always looking at new technology, and showing everyone how it can help and how we—as a new generation coming into the industry—can change the printing industry. Working at a global company, with offices in Canada and the UK , I see that JDF can streamline a lot of the issues we could face down the road with automation. When we are sleeping in Canada , the team in Leeds is working, and vice versa. So automation can speed things up and produce better efficiencies by making it easier to hand off processes back and forth.” Kwiatkowski worked part-time at a Gilchrist subsidiary during the four years he was finishing his education and was able to get in on the ground floor of a new development venture that started in the To ron to branch two years ago. The venture uses an internally developed MIS solution, DALiM TWiST and RealTimeProof in an integrated solution. According to Kwiatkowski, “DALiM and RealTime are JDF compliant; our next step is to build JDF compliance into the MIS solution”. He adds, “I think it is still going to take a few years for JDF to become pervasive, as existing non-compliant investments are being replaced. It will still take a few years, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.” In addition to his work at Gilchrist, Kwiatkowski is looking for other ways to spread the word. He says, “ I think the more that young people get involved in new technology, the more the industry will change. The more we know, and the harder we work to push the technology to its limits, the better off the industry will be in the future. You have to learn something new every day, and only then can we advance JDF and other improvements to our work processes. To help that learning process, a friend and I are in the process of putting up a forum to encourage more JDF collaboration and learning. Called, it will be an interactive chat environment using the latest Web collaboration techniques.” Robert and Tim Mahaffey, Mahaffeys’ Quality Printing, Jackson MS A father and son team, Robert and Tim Mahaffey operate a successful printing business in Jackson MS. Robert has been in the printing business since 1951. He says, “I started out when I was 18. I actually bought a printing plant on my honeymoon, and believe it or not, I am still married to the same woman.” The Mahaffeys came to Graph Expo to look at digital presses so they could add variable data to their mix of offerings. They purchased a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI in 1996 to do short-run printing, augmenting the long-run work produced with their 6- and 8-color Heidelberg presses. Today, the family is seeing runs get even shorter and a real opportunity to add variable data. Mahaffey Sr. says, “We have looked at some of the JDF developments, and we don't think it is ready. I’ve been going to drupa for 40 years, and quite frankly, I am not interested in JDF. I already have a good handle on my manufacturing process.” Mahaffey Jr., a graduate of RIT, pipes in, “Dad feels the whole market is going to move to digital over the next ten years. He has always looked out into the future and kept up with technology. And we have always had cash to buy new equipment.” Mahaffey Sr. adds, “We do a lot of quick turn work. Our customers are spoiled. We can take a job via PDF from a town 150 miles away and have it delivered to them the next day. That’s why I am not looking at JDF right now.”