By Mike Safity March 20, 2006 -- Last month on OnDemandJournal.com, Bob Raus of Oce North America, Inc., posted a thought-provoking piece on JDF. Xerox's Mike Safity, vice president of the workflow business team, Xerox Production Systems Group, continues the conversation on the evolving role of JDF and open industry standards. Every business struggles daily to prioritize and manage work load in an orderly and timely manner to achieve efficiencies and improve profitability. This is nothing new, and is not reserved to the printing industry. Businesses in all industries use the speed and accuracy of standardization and automation to constantly improve processes, produce error-free work as cost-effectively and quickly as possible and develop new capabilities. Standardization and automation should be transparent to the end user --whether you are a car producer or print provider. It is simply a means to an end. The Ford Motor Company assembly line revolutionized American society by increasing the efficiency of manufacturing and decreasing costs to the consumer. Prior to the introduction of the assembly line, cars were individually put together by teams; a slow and expensive process. Ford was able to increase the quality of output by standardizing the parts of the car, and through automation, was able to reduce the assembly time from about 12 hours to less than six hours. The automation and standardization of processes is just as vital to the print industry today. Print providers are faced with the challenge of shorter run lengths and jobs with greater complexity. The adoption of standards is critical to raise levels of productivity by merging today's data exchange technologies into work processes. At the same time, standardization and automation should be transparent to the end user --whether you are a car producer or print provider. It is simply a means to an end. What is JDF? Simply put, Job Definition Format (JDF) is an open standard job ticketing language. It provides the foundation for print service providers to build the next generation of print jobs that encompass both the content and the business aspects of production workflow. JDF delivers the ability to carry a print job virtually from concept through completion by using a message description standard and message interchange protocol. These codes include detailed descriptions of the creative, prepress, press, postpress and delivery processes. According to a July 2005 Seybold Report, "JDF will evolve into an industry standard for the future and will eventually lead to an industrialized, integrated and mostly automated production process." Industry Standards Simplify the Process Simplifying the exchange of information between applications and systems is essential to all industries. This is especially true for the printing industry, where there are so many steps and processes --from order taking to invoicing-- that can benefit by using JDF to improve the efficiency along the complete value chain. Open interfaces and industry standards enable print providers to use one set of electronic instructions to direct a job from creation to distribution. In a nutshell, files that start with JDF help produce faster, more accurate, higher-quality print output and tie projects to other administrative functions like billing, shipping, job reporting and materials reordering. When properly implemented, JDF helps print providers increase productivity and therefore production capacity; automate job status and resource management; increase customer satisfaction; lower the cost to produce print jobs and increase overall profitability. JDF can also add incremental value to existing technology investments and provide a roadmap to long-term success. Open interfaces and industry standards give print providers the flexibility to automate their workflow and enable one set of electronic instructions to direct a job from creation to distribution. By using JDF, products will be able to communicate with each other to ensure an easy set up and guaranteed collaboration, regardless of vendor. Interoperability: The Key to Compete In theory, JDF shouldn't leverage any one vendor; it levels the field so that the seamless connectivity of a printer's environment --from the Web to production to billing-- brings the customer efficiency and productivity. JDF is the key enabler to integrating offset and digital print environments into a workflow that supports products from multiple vendors. When most vendors tout that their equipment delivers on the promises of JDF, what they really mean is that various equipment from one specific vendor can "talk" with each other successfully. But how many shops only use one vendor? At Xerox, we recognize that no matter how great we believe our equipment is, most print providers use a variety of vendor equipment. In fact, JDF is the key enabler to integrating offset and digital print environments into a workflow that supports products from multiple vendors. By closely collaborating with industry leaders such as Adobe and Creo, Xerox helped to create a unified JDF-based workflow that spans creative, prepress and both offset and digital printing. This effort drives our entire line of more than 30 digital print engines. Our FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection provides ways for print providers to either manage an all-digital workflow with an end-to-end solution or easily integrate offset and digital print process through open interfaces and industry standards such as JDF and PDF. An efficient workflow is the foundation for a print business, or any business for that matter. As print providers begin to see the benefits of JDF and how it will apply to their business, they need to invest in making existing equipment JDF compatible and invest in the training aspects of educating their workforce on JDF. Print provider buy-in is essential to tie results directly to the bottom line. The key to surviving in the competitive world of print is to continue looking forward. This is not about how to survive for 12 months, it's about prospering far into the future. Continued Evolution In today's ever-connected world, consumers see the automatic responsiveness of the Internet and cell phones and are demanding the same responsiveness of their print service provider. JDF enables that, because it's a common language of how the job should look from start to finish -- nothing gets lost in the process. The key to surviving in the competitive world of print is to continue looking forward. This is not about how to survive for 12 months, it's about prospering far into the future. According to a 2005 study by The Electronic Document Systems Foundation (EDSF) entitled "The Global Impact of JDF on the Graphic Communications Industry," to boost the growth of global graphics communications, printing vendors have the opportunity to encourage the adoption of a new technology that can transform the industry. Xerox is already capitalizing on this opportunity through continued support of the development of standards, and we have more than 40 engineers assigned to various standards bodies including JDF. For more than two decades, Xerox has delivered innovative technologies and processes that continue to revolutionize the digital production printing industry, creating new business opportunities for our customers. For example, our Graphic Arts Premier Partners Program is an e-community of an exclusive, global network of expert digital print service providers --proves the power of JDF. Print jobs from members are able to circle the globe, from machine to machine, print provider to print provider to complete the job without having to re-key or translate the document code. Partnering with best-of-breed companies and technologies allows us to help our customers achieve optimal workflow efficiency. We currently work with more than 100 business partners, helping customers integrate digital into their existing environments. For example, last fall at Print 05, together with Heidelberg, we demonstrated a Prinect JDF connector linked to FreeFlow Print Manager, to print on a DocuColor 8000 Digital Press. This scenario integrates job ticketing, pre-press, printing and finishing into one JDF pipeline, expediting job workflow from start to finish and improving consistency and quality across the board. Net result: a more efficient and profitable print shop with the ability to choose the ideal print process -- offset or digital or a combination of both. To maintain our industry leadership, we will continue to deliver upon our strategy of providing customers with the best products, workflow and business development tools to help them achieve success in digital printing. JDF is not specific to one vendor --it's an industry-wide change agent that affects the way all vendors approach the print production process. As mentioned earlier, JDF is not specific to one vendor --it's an industry-wide change agent that affects the way all vendors approach the print production process. As vendors increase their JDF offerings, print providers are beginning to see the real-world value of automation. And because it's an evolving standard that continues to gain momentum, we look forward to continued conversations around JDF and other industry standards that shape the success of digital printing.