A Case for Industry Standardization

Production is driven by efficiency. The point is obvious…efficiency equates to cost savings, which, in turn, equate to a more positive balance for an organization at the end of a quarter or year. Our industry’s life’s blood is efficiency and whether we realize it or not efficiency is the primary goal that each production organization strives for. Predictability of process and product is our collective goal.

For production to be truly efficient all aspects of a particular workflow must operate in harmony as dominos falling in a line. If one domino falls off center the flow stops. This causes a loss in time and effort bringing a particular process back in line so that the workflow can indeed “flow”. All partners within the workflow should operate in unison with common goals and objectives in mind, along with advanced skill sets that will enable participants to be as efficient as possible where processes are concerned, thus positively impacting the entire workflow, end-to-end. Standardization of process related best practices from genesis through final delivery (be it mail drop or freight) is vital to optimizing the interactions within a workflow and ensuring maximum efficiency and cost avoidance up and down stream. Without standardization and documentation of best practices each operation works within its own silo of knowledge, many times having a negative impact on those further up or downstream within a workflow. What to do?

The Need for Content Creator Driven Industry Group

Much of our industry is driven by content creators. Printers seldom if ever initiate production projects so it follows that those who are responsible for project inception and the paying of invoices related to production projects have a great deal of influence over the success or failure of a given project. To date, content creators have operated more or less within their own organizations with little or no input from a larger group of production professionals. While service providers and printers have multiple industry resources dedicated to their support and the establishment of best practices (specifications), content creators have had few “production” specific organizations and groups to fall back on. This is especially true where global end-to-end best practices and interactions are concerned. As we know producing a project and producing a project effectively, efficiently, and consistently are two different scenarios.

The need for an industry group dedicated to the documentation of best practices and/or specifications related to production from the content creator’s standpoint has recently been addressed by the inclusion of Digital Directions in Applications for Production (DDAP) as part of the International Digital Enterprise Alliance (IDEAlliance). Formerly known as the Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications Association, DDAP was re-launched in June 2005 with a new designation and mission before it.

Through its interaction with other IDEAlliance network groups and other organizations associated with IDEAlliance, DDAP will document and publish best practices for efficient, effective, and consistent end-to-end production from the perspective of the content creator. The end goal is more efficient and profitable production within all print industry segments and for all partners in the graphic enterprise (content creator, service provider, printer, lettershop, paper distributor, freight forwarder, etc). Innovation in the constant search for cost avoidance though workflow process optimization will be a primary focus of the newly launched organization, and with the networking opportunities within and without IDEAlliance, DDAP will have a strong and unparalleled support base as its membership strives to positively impact content creator workflow optimization.

The DDAP Original Mission

The DDAP Association was first formed as an ad-hoc industry committee comprised of representatives from major advertisers, advertising agencies, design firms, service bureaus, trade shops, printers, and publishers in 1991. At that time the group conducted industry surveys and research on what would be required, what the recommended technical approach might be, and what technologies were available and/or expected that might enable the digital delivery of advertising for publications.

These efforts resulted in the development and subsequent publication of the DDAP Association's User Requirement Specification in March 1992. This user requirement specification served as the application blueprint for the ongoing development of accredited technical standards for DDAP.

The association witnessed the following milestones:

1984 – DDES developed
1987 - CGATs formed
1989 - OSO/TC I30 reactivated
1989 - TIFF/IT development started
1990 - First reference to distribution of digital advertisements for publications (DDAP)
1992 – DDAP founded
1996 - TIFF/IT Spec published
1999 - PDF/X-1 Spec published
1999 – ANSI Accreditation of PDF/X-1
2000 - First PDF/X-1 Ad
2000 - First PDF/X-1 Verifier
2001 - ISO Accreditation of PDF/X-1a

The primary interest of DDAP members was to facilitate the implementation and use of, the various underlying accredited standards that comprise the open process integration approach and strategy for digital delivery as advocated by DDAP.

To support this goal and objective, DDAP members focused their energies in the following areas:

• Development of the ANSI IT8.8 (TIFF/IT) standard, published by the Committee for Graphic Arts Technology Standards (CGATS) in 1996. This first accredited standard provided a standard data file format for the transport mechanism for the independent transfer of print data between different systems. This standard was implemented on both the Apple Macintosh and Sun workstations by the DDAP Association.

• Development of the PDF/X-1 standard, also published by CGATS and initially approved by ANSI in October, 1999 and subsequently by ISO in 2001. This international standard improved the reliability of delivering files in PDF, a file format well known to the graphic arts industry, by limiting the format to specific usage, file types and color representations and optimizing the file for print production.

The number of standards implementations that brought to market on PostScript RIPs, CEPS, and several of the PostScript clone RIPs since DDAP’s inception is significant. Since the early days of the DDAP mission, DDAP actively advocated the use of accredited file formats in digital workflows and supported members' transition to digital ad delivery through the development of supporting tools and educational seminars and consultation to build solid business practices. The DDAP website, Digital Ad Database, and the Digital Ad Forum also enabled the distribution of critical information and allowed members to interact electronically, as we "walked the walk" in a brave new digital world.

DDAP Re-launched: A New Vision, A New Mission

The new DDAP – Digital Directions in Applications for Production – Network, an industry group which in the past focused on advocating standards-based digital advertising workflows, has embarked on a new mission with IDEAlliance (International Digital Enterprise Alliance) to advance digital workflow best practices to an expanded audience and supplement the IDEAlliance goal “to advance user-driven, cross-industry specifications and best practices for all publishing and content-driven enterprises.” This new DDAP Network group is working collaboratively across IDEAlliance committees and working groups in the entire production supply chain form content creation, advertising and production workflow, and distribution, as well as an international array of standards bodies. DDAP will position itself as “the” industry group documenting and publishing end-to-end workflow best practices and processes from the perspective of the Content Creator. By doing so, DDAP fills a void as a content creator advocate group that has direct interface with both national and international industry workgroups and associations. DDAP feels that this is of paramount importance as our industry is no longer relegated to local or regional projects, but is truly national and international segment to segment.

John Dunn, DDAP Chair, states, “The need for best practices associated with the content creator and from the content creator’s view has never been more necessary for efficient, effective and consistent success in the production environment. Technology is rapidly changing and we must evolve with those changes in order to leverage both technology and the related processes for our respective companies. The educated and informed organization will be the heroes going forward. They will be the production groups that are viewed as not “cost centers”, but as a primary aspect of their company’s business that actually add to the bottom like once the P&L are balanced. This will be due to their ability to achieve cost avoidance project to project, essentially achieving a near perfect product, while spending as little of their company’s hard won capital as possible. This is where documented best practices with proven records of success come in and this is where DDAP is positioning itself. Becoming a part of an organization with aims and goals like DDAP’s makes money, therefore it makes sense.”

New DDAP Vision

"DDAP will deliver documented and quantified best practices for digital workflows that create value across the supply chain in terms of productivity and profitability, enhancing standards-based workflow dynamics industry wide." This vision is guided by the DDAP Leadership Team. The Leadership Team consists of industry professionals who have dedicated themselves to improving our industry through content creator efficiency and the positive effect that will have throughout the workflow for both content creator and their respective print and production partners. The Leadership Team is comprised of:

John Dunn
Production Director
xpedx Corporation

Anthony Bellacicco
Director of PrePress Services
Foote Cone and Belding

Cheryl Kahahec
Corporate Vice President, Marketing & Technology

Javier Orellana
Pre-Press Coordinator
The New York Post

Fred Raimondo – Digital Ad Lab/NYC Chair
Director of Marketing, Magazine/Direct/Premedia
Quebecor World

Kathy Sandler
Assoc. Dir. of Premedia Technologies, Information Svcs Dept
Hearst Magazines

The Leadership Team works closely with David J. Steinhardt, CEO of IDEAlliance, who provides guidance and brings synergy to the industry groups under the IDEAlliance umbrella.

New DDAP Mission

The new mission of the DDAP Network is to:

  • Examine potential workflow optimization options from the content creator’s perspective, based on their ability to meet established criteria on quality, efficiency, consistency and profitability, both upstream and cross enterprise.
  • Synthesize leading edge technological solutions along with proven results from the relevant standards groups to produce universal workflow solutions.
  • Identify the appropriate workflow partners and test environments to analyze the proposed workflow solution’s ability to meet established criteria and relevance to other vertical applications, measuring results for both increased productivity and profitability.
  • Document the workflow solution as an industry “Best Practice” and present it as an educational tool that exemplifies the “best of” standards implementation for others to learn from.
  • Facilitate global communication among standards developers and end users to support this Best Practices process for our evolving industry.

New DDAP Membership Benefits and Takeaways

DDAP Network is focused on fulfilling the educational needs of members. Members may:

  • Actively participate in DDAP Network working groups and collaborate on workflow optimization projects towards the goal of developing industry Best Practices.
  • Help structure case studies to reflect “real world” challenges from your workplace
  • Gain access to the DDAP Forum for online discussion case studies in progress, problems encountered/resolved and new developments on standards front
  • Attend quarterly (format to be determined) case study reviews that tell what workflow optimization was attempted, how it was tested, and what the net effect was
  • Receive copies of final published case studies
  • Interact with industry leaders from numerous associations and groups, and by doing so bring leading edge optimization to one’s own production workflow.

In addition, as a DDAP Network member, you’ll receive:

  • Bi-monthly IDEAlliance newsletter
  • Discounts on products sold on www.PrintTools.org
  • Discounted registrations for all IDEAlliance events
  • Free admission to annual one-day “DDAP Think Tank” event for review of documented case study results and discussion of new projects to be addressed (To be held at SPECTRUM, September 2005 – www.idealliance.org/spectrum/)

Membership in the DDAP Network Group is an opportunity to:

  • Join an elite team of workflow partners collaborating on creating dynamic change in print production automation. Raise critical needs in the industry and work towards finding common, standards-based solutions.
  • Participate “hands on” in developing case studies as an actual workflow partner and brainstorm with teammates on possible workflow solutions and testing scenarios to prove the concept for multiple vertical market segments.
  • Share first-hand in the educational experience of transforming documented results into reports, presentations, webinars, and other educational tools, helping to create a new industry milestone

For additional information or to sign up, please visit: http://www.ddap.org/membership/networkform/net.asp

The Importance of Community

As with any industry it is the people who make the difference. When working in a vacuum, individuals can cause a positive, albeit localized, effect for their individual company. As a community we can have a far broader reach, touching each process within the production workflow and creating as unified force, positive impact on a global scale. As mentioned previously the drive for standards globally is on and those not aboard the “production train” when it pulls out of the station of obsolescence will indeed be left standing on the platform; that is until another train comes along and they are able to “join in” where others have lead.

Community also provides us with an opportunity to exchange instant ideas and practices that can be immediately applied at or respective firms to effect cost avoidance. It also allows us to give back to an industry that we love and has truly given so much to those of us who consider themselves production professionals. The term “Silo Ranger” has been coined to describe those who operate in a world of their own, recycling old ideas and production procedures. Many times these persons work with processes that are neither efficient nor consistent, conducting business, as it was 1985 and not 2005. In stark contrast to this description, Alan Darling, Executive Vice President for Vio US, and former DDAP Association chair, has called those who are in the constant search for optimization “Hunters”. This aptly describes the mindset of those who actively seek to improve our collective industry for the betterment of all. Community is the key, with active participation, many times, being the difference between the Silo Rangers and the Hunters who are making positive impact on their companies’ bottom lines and those of others. When content creator, service provider, printer, and everyone in between align we will realize the standardization that is sought by so many.

DDAP Today and Tomorrow

With the re-launch of DDAP an industry organization has been formed by and for those who drive projects and create the content. DDAP, along with IDEAlliance and its member and partner organizations, will take the lead as “Hunters” in the production environment of the 21 st Century. The evolution of technology will help our industry to achieve efficiency that could not have been dreamed of 20 years ago. This evolution, like any, will require that our industry professionals also evolve. Partnering with other industry groups and disseminating best practices to the content creators will be key. Not one, but all operations within the end-to-end workflow will need to evolve as new technology and/or processes emerge.

DDAP will be there to provide the unique perspective of the content creator to this partnering, and in doing so assist its membership and our industry professionals achieve the process and product predictability that is needed for each production project. The documentation and dissemination of quantified best practices that effect cost drivers will, if consistently employed, cut turn time and cost all along the graphic enterprise. This is the goal of any business and DDAP will be there as an advocate for positive change and standardization of processes within our industry.

DDAP is also aligned with www.printplanet.com with an online forum provided for the industry to discuss end-to-end processes and to provide creative solutions to production challenges.

For more information go to www.idealliance.org and/or www.ddap.org or contact David Steinhardt at IDEAlliance (703.837.1066 or [email protected]).