Executives from the big digital print engine vendors all attend the various shows and conferences each year, but rarely seem to be in the same place at the same time. And in any case, their time is never their own due to meetings with customers and the many duties that come with their corner offices. When you talk with them, you find these seasoned pros have perspectives on the industry that are at once unique and strikingly similar. To hear these views on some key issues as we head into drupa, WTT gathered some of the leading digital print executives for a "Virtual Roundtable" discussion on some of the key issues facing the digital printing industry.
Participants in the drupa "Virtual Roundtable" include:
- Hewlett-Packard: Bill McGlynn, Vice President, Digital Publishing Solutions
- IBM Printing Systems: Bruce Otte, Worldwide Manager, Production Solutions Strategy
- Kodak Versamark: Kazem Samandari, Vice President of Global Marketing and Product Management
- Nipson: Alfons Buts, President of Nipson Digital Printing Systems BV
- Océ North America: Wendell Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer
- Xeikon/Punch International: Guido Dumarey, CEO of Xeikon and Punch International
- Xerox: Tom Wetjen, Vice President/General Manager, Graphic Communications Industry Business
|For productivity and profitability, it's important that the processes be established where the customer initiates the job by selecting templates to drive variable content for on-demand fulfillment.|
drupa 04 is being touted as the JDF drupa, with a major focus on the digital workflows enabled by the evolving standards coming out of CIP4 and vendors' adherence to these in new hardware and software offerings. But the 800-pound gorilla of printing trade shows and noted as a showcase for both what is real, what is not and what is only imagined. So what do seven industry-leading execs--and with JDF-enabled offerings on their stands--think of all the hype and glory of the JDF announcements forthcoming at drupa? Let's find out.
WTT: Drupa 04 is being called the "JDF drupa." Looking at JDF development overall, to what extent do you expect the many JDF solutions that will be shown at drupa 04 to be reality and how much will not quite be ready for "prime time?"
Bill McGlynn: In my opinion, there will be a mixture of futuristic and ready-to-market JDF solutions showcased at drupa 04. HP's customers are already using some of our workflow solutions based on JDF. Automating front-end processes like web enabled job ordering are top in the mind with our customers. For productivity and profitability, it's important that the processes be established where the customer initiates the job by selecting templates to drive variable content for on-demand fulfillment.
JDF is a critical part of this process because it enables the interoperability between workflow components in order to achieve automation, ease of use and smooth connection between different solutions. However, offering a JDF solution alone is not enough as it does not provide the strength. The JDF ICS (Interoperability Conformance Specification) effort is right on target as it will provide the ability for two foreign solutions to hook together. We are starting to see this capability in some of the solutions but there is still way to go to get to real prime time end-to-end results.
Bruce Otte: IBM is working with our counterparts in the print industry to drive JDF, and the idea is that all of the various pieces in a digital print or press environment, eventually, will be able to interoperate through JDF. It sounds like a simple thing, but a job ticket contains all of the attributes that describe how you want a job printed, finished and ready for delivery to the end user -- how you want it imposed, for example, what kind of paper you want it printed on and what size. All of those things are typically described in vendor-specific ways today. IBM implemented the first workable JDF based job ticketing solution in the Infoprint 2105 family of products. These state of the art cut sheet printers allow for utilization of a JDF based job ticket to print and finish jobs, as well as creating JDF based job tickets for distribution back into the system for archiving or printing elsewhere.
IBM has long been committed to championing open standards, just as we're committed to helping our customers become on demand businesses, and we think it shows in the solutions we deliver.
At drupa, for instance, we're announcing updates to our Infoprint 4100 and Infoprint Manager products. New Web-based job submission capabilities on Infoprint Manager support JDF job tickets and allow administrators, users or print purchasers to submit print jobs remotely, over the Internet from any Web browser. Since administrators only need to install the solution once on the Web server, it is easier and less costly to manage and support. With one central installation, users can submit all job tickets to a single server, including job tickets for both continuous form and cut-sheet printers.
Kazem Samandari: I am perhaps not the best authority for this question, however, I have learnt over the years in this industry that once the right course has been defined it will be only a matter of time until things fall into place. In other words, as the standard is truly adopted by print engine vendors, software providers and finishing equipment makers, it will all come together. Because the standard is still evolving, we should not worry too much that it is all ready for drupa 04. It will be fine if it is a little later and the solutions that evolve will be ones that are right for the industry.
|even those [solutions] that are 100% ready are going to have to depend on the early adopters in the market to gain a foothold and show the world what they can do.|
Alfons Buts: If you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door, but only if they have a mouse problem. On the one hand, the hierarchical input and output structure that forms the basis of JDF has been around for decades, so it's well proven. The application of that structure to the printing business, which JDF accomplishes, will succeed to the extent that users perceive its value to them. We expect that the JDF solutions being at shown at drupa will be at various stages of reality, but even those [solutions] that are 100% ready are going to have to depend on the early adopters in the market to gain a foothold and show the world what they can do.
Adopting new technologies and, more importantly, entirely new processes takes time. Simply because something is better doesn't mean people migrate to it immediately. To realize the full benefits of JDF, suppliers must work together to articulate the benefits to end users. Forums such as drupa are an excellent place for print professionals to gain knowledge of the latest technology. How much adoption of those technologies reaches critical mass largely depends on how well the immediate benefits to users are made apparent.
Wendell Wilson: In my opinion, companies that believe in and are committed to the JDF open standard will have solid solutions at DRUPA. At the Océ Open House 2004 in February the Executive Director of Océ Digital Document Systems announced that Océ has made the major strategic decision that our software architecture will always incorporate the JDF standard. This opens up our systems and allows our customers to use Océ products with third party or competitive applications.
For example, being able to integrate new technology standards is a key strength of our PRISMA workflow management solution that offers our customers solid investment protection. JDF, with its ability to link applications throughout the workflow dovetails perfectly with the PRISMA philosophy.
To integrate with job submission, pre-press and press from Océ and non-Océ alike, JDF as a standard leads to more efficient product development and more powerful integration in the supply chain. So, with this in mind, yes, you can look forward to seeing JDF-compliant solutions for all Océ Digital Document Systems products at DRUPA.
Other companies will also offer JDF-compliant solutions, too, while some organizations may view JDF as the "flavor of the month" and pay lip service to it but not have solid solutions based on JDF.
Guido Dumarey: Technology and products that will help customers assemble their workflows and achieve automation more rapidly and more cost-effectively will have a fundamental advantage, and open industry standards are necessary to achieve these goals. JDF holds the promise of being the interface of choice for many aspects of workflow automation, and Xeikon plans to be among the first digital press vendors to release a JDF-based digital front-end.
|JDF-based products for digital printing will definitely be seriously outnumbered by the JDF-based products for traditional offset since the JDF specification is more mature for traditional technology.|
For digital printing, the standardization process for JDF is still ongoing through the combined efforts of the CIP4 and PODi organization and its members. This is why Xeikon expects that at drupa 04 many vendors in the digital printing arena-- including Xeikon--will massively announce their belief in and support for JDF. We also expect the first batch of working JDF-based workflow products will be shown. But such JDF-based products for digital printing will definitely be seriously outnumbered by the JDF-based products for traditional offset since the JDF specification is more mature for traditional technology.
Once CIP4 and PODi will have concluded their work and will have extended JDF for digital printing later this year Xeikon plans to be among the first to incorporate this standard into its DFEs.
Tom Wetjen: For Xerox, JDF is a reality. Through our JDF-based FreeFlow Print Manager announced earlier this year, Xerox is delivering to customers the benefits of the initiative--a more streamlined workflow that increases productivity and saves time, money and personal resources in print operations. At drupa, Xerox will build on that by demonstrating the first fully functional JDF printing workflow beginning with creation and finishing with production on a Xerox Production Press.
Many vendors are using drupa as a venue to showcase their first JDF solutions, while others will show tools that have already been exhibited and discussed. The proven leaders in the industry with a track record in workflow will set the tone for what JDF based solutions are ready for "prime time," but ultimately, customers will be the ones who determine what JDF solutions are viable and ready for integration.