To optimize production processes in a very complex market sector with so many variables and with a very high risk of process redundancies. That’s why nearly ten years ago the Job Definition Format (JDF) was initially thought and created by the CIP4.
At the end of the ’90 the main suppliers of the Graphic Arts global market, with players such as Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg, Man, Fujitsu, Dalim, HP, KBA, Komori, Mitsubishi, ..., decided to gather together in a Consortium called CIP3. The objective was to give birth to a consortium to study and to develop a new international standard to be shared across the whole industry that should have been able to help the communication between the different components involved at all levels in the production workflow.
During the Drupa 2000, the CIP3 was renamed CIP4 (International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress Organization) and the initial PPF bacame the current JDF. By the way, since 2004 the author is one of the official members of the CIP4 supporting its development and international growth.
After nearly ten years, the JDF has become an international standard adopted in the Graphic Arts industry, based on XML technology which means an open format by its very nature. What did bring all these big global comptetitors players together? It is still a very valid and actual reason: to link or to connect the work of all offices, departments and players of a graphic industry, within a very structured and integrated workflow management system. The very heart of a JDF workflow system is the Management Information System (MIS) which is a shared and centralized solution where all information arrive and from where all information are distributed in real time to the different operational or functional areas of the company: administration, logistic, production, procurement, accountancy, wharehouse. The job ticket becomes a digital file which follows the job, or the project, from start to finish gathering any information throughout the whole production workflow. In this perspective, the JDF is much more than a simple digital job ticket, allowing a constant interactive exchange of information in real time between all functional and operational areas of the company.
Lets deep into the steps for the production of a commercial brochure to “taste” how complex can be the road that brings to life a simple product. The process start with the request for quotation from the customer: the technical office is in charge to evaluate the best possible ratio quality-speed-price. There are in fact many parameters to evaluate: the deadline needed for production, the requested deadline from the customer, the paper format, the paper weight, the number of pages, the kind of paper, the quantity, the number of inks, of special inks, the kind of delivery, the finishing process such as folding, stiching, gluing, cutting, the delivery address, the address of the invoice, and many others.
When the offer is accepted the job ticket gets created and the technical office needs to evaluate whether the stock of paper, of inks is enough for the new order or if new material must be purchased. The working process starts with the reception of the layout file which goes through the DTP department, the repro office where colour corrections will be made, where digital colour proofs will be printed for the “Ready to Print”. The next step is the production of plates with the CTP and the print out of the blue prints. Now is time to print. Beside the paper, the inks, the signed digital colour proofs the operators needs to have a lot of others information with regards to the ink setting on the printing machine so as to better manage the ink flow in every single part of the sheet. When printing is complete, the inks and the paper must dry before being cutted, folded, stiched, glued, packed, ... The very last step is the final delivery to the customer.
At the end of this trip through the production process (which I could have made it much more detailed and much longer) I believe is quite evident how heavy and deep can be the interaction between the different functional and operational areas of the company during the production of a commercial brochure. This is the strategic element of the JDF workflow: to allow the communication of production data and their interactive exchange in real time through all areas of the company. The benefits of the JDF workflow are multiplied in case of repetitive jobs: higher speed of execution, better quality, higher precision and punctuality.
The importance of JDF I think is here and this is why in my opinion we can say that the “founders” of the CIP4 where farsighted when they decided to start the analysis for the creation of the JDF from the bottom of the value chain: the Customer. They knew well that putting the Customer satisfaction at the heart of all company efforts, many others problems would have been solved and successfully overcome.
In conclusion, the main subject taking full advantage from the JDF is still the final Customer who can finally see the jobs executed in less time, with much more precision, more accuracy and basically at the same price. Thanks to the JDF format, to the technology built around it, to the solutions integrating it through the whole production process, the relation with the Customer has become a new element that brings satisfaction, reward and growth within the company.