May 20, 2004 -- VIO recently sent the following statement to press and industry analysts. It is written by Alan Darling is Executive Vice President of Vio, Inc.
I have been reading the JDF articles that have been appearing in the trade press with great interest. I have a definite vested interest in the success of JDF. However, it is as a user and a proponent of standards that I write this letter. I joined Vio in March of 2002 after having spent more than 17 years in the user environment. During that time, I have had senior management positions in prepress and commercial print shops. Until last year, I was also chair of DDAP (Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications) and have been an active member of CGATS (Committee for Graphic Arts Technology Standards) for nearly 12 years. It is from this viewpoint that I will share my opinion on JDF with you.
Some of the JDF editorial has been on the conservative side – predicting widespread adoption of JDF over the next ten years. I am much more bullish on JDF, but not by itself. It is the users who are reading this that need to get involved. I’ll explain how and why.
There are several assumptions that I would like to propose before we get into the guts of JDF implementation.
1. The graphic arts industry is a cottage industry that is years behind other manufacturing industries in the adoption of CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).
2. The graphic arts industry is one that is basically custom manufacturing at commodity pricing and is fraught with sub-contractor relationships.
3. Multiple key stroking of data into various systems is wasteful and error-prone (we perpetuate this because we insist on exchanging information between enterprises as faxes and FedEx packages). It also leads to gross inefficiencies and causes Customer Service Representatives to have phones permanently implanted in their ears to reconcile information that comes from and goes to multiple sources.
4. We are emerging from a recession. We have all reduced our workforce to a bare minimum, and as new jobs come in the door, we cannot hire back staff that do not add value to the manufacturing process.
5. A common goal is to control your bottom line while leveraging your manufacturing expertise to increase your top line.
6. Gone are the days when we could charge cost plus for our services and goods. We are in a market-driven economy and the only way forward is to manage our processes and automate where necessary and appropriate.
7. We have propelled ourselves into an era of open platform integration. Monolithic systems worked in the past because there was generally only one way to do something right (as opposed to today’s “desktop” where there are better and worse ways to do pretty much everything). We have made that statement with our wallets, and one only has to look at the names from the early ‘80s (Crosfield, Hell, Scitex, Dainippon) to see that the landscape has changed radically in less than 25 years!
8. There is no silver bullet to solve our problems.
In short, we have an incredible opportunity to turn our industry on its ear and come out of the current recession lean, mean and a heck of a lot more efficient than we have ever been. However, it will be up to individuals to select best-of-breed applications, systems, processes and hardware to achieve this.
Whether or not you agree with my all specific premises, I strongly believe that this is roughly where we are. The question is, “How do we move forward?” Obviously, part of the answer is JDF; otherwise, I would not be wasting your and my time with this letter.
There are several other items that need to be taken into account, and probably the best way to look at them is to ask a few questions:
-- What else do I need in addition to JDF?
-- How do I get JDF into my existing systems?
-- Do I have to implement JDF for the whole company?
-- What benefits can I expect?
There are more, but these four form a good starting point.
JDF in and of itself is not an answer. Instead, it is a way to codify the graphic arts business in a way that we have not been able to do before.
So, if JDF alone is not the answer, what is? It is JDF-enabled systems. These systems can be a mixture of hardware, software and applications that work together to accept or to create JDF that can be “consumed” in other processes within your workflow and in your partners’ workflows. The long-term goal is to have all your systems “speak” and “hear” JDF.
The great message that JDF brings us is that the vendors in our industry are talking together for the benefit of the users – in my 30 years in this industry I have never seen such cooperation. The companies involved in CIP4 are investing many hours in working out what should be done and then many more hours in actually making them work – not only in isolation, but also demonstrating and testing solutions that work with other vendors in interoperability tests. The results thus far have been very encouraging.
What was shown at DRUPA was a staggering array of solutions, and CIP4 sponsored an area where interoperability could be seen in action.
So, now that you have seen, or read about, the array of tools at DRUPA, what do you do? You look at all the different processes you have in your company and identify one or two that could benefit from better management and more automation. If you are honest, you will note that this describes pretty much every process that you have! However, to try to implement JDF throughout your company at the same time would be untenable. Picking a few applications is neater and easier to implement.
Let me give you an example from my own experience. I had a client whose operators had to write a job ticket for the files that they were submitting to the shop that I was running. The job ticket took about an hour to write, and then they faxed the ticket to me and submitted the job digitally. It took the receiving CSR another hour to key the information from the fax into our job ticketing system. Pretty inefficient!
We created a method to generate the job ticket as the job was being created; data was automatically extracted from the file as it arrived and sucked into the ticketing system where the job tickets were created automatically. This saved the client’s operators an hour, our CSRs an hour and, in the final analysis, allowed us to accept jobs at any hour of the day or night without a CSR being present. The CSR would use their time most effectively to answer specific production questions. Jobs got into the system quicker, and we were actually able to reduce the client’s pricing through efficiency.
This project was done before JDF was even a twinkle in the developers’ eyes, but I would have used it in a heartbeat to normalize the job tickets coming into the shop. You will notice, though, that it is not just the advent of JDF that causes the change – JDF simply facilitates the change and makes it feasible to do this across multiple systems.
You will also notice that, in this case study, JDF would be used in one specific area. The beauty of JDF is in its logical progression: I can now take the JDF metadata (the digital job ticket) that comes in with the job and feed that to a digital invoicing system to generate billing faster and more accurately (do not underestimate the power of increased cash flow!). If you are smart, you can link this to your estimating system and invoices can be generated without your billing, estimating and production departments facing interminable meetings to get a bill out of the door.
Follow this process to its logical conclusion. As more of your workflow becomes JDF-enabled, that initial JDF job ticket marks the start of a job’s life, which can now be tracked through JDF as it moves through your shop.
JDF is the key to unlocking this industry – we have to be able to identify the locks into which this key can be inserted.
As mentioned earlier, some of the editorials I have been reading recently have been on the conservative side. I am much more bullish on JDF, but only with your involvement. You, the user, need to get involved and identify processes like the one that I have described above and implement a 21st-century solution to address it. It really is common sense to use JDF. Work with your vendors and workflow partners to identify the areas that will initially benefit from this the most. I think you will be surprised at the applications that you will find for this exciting technology.
Your next steps – there are several industry conferences that are taking place now and in the near future. While a visit to DRUPA in Düsseldorf would be a great place to see all the solutions in one place, I think that there are some great sources of information that you can find closer to home. Talk to presenters – they choose to take the time because they believe in the solutions that they are talking about. This makes them a valuable resource.
Remember, in this open platform society in which we live, it is going to be up to you to define what needs fixing in your operation. And now is a great time to do it.
Alan can be reached at [email protected]
or at 973 535-6080 x5512.