JDF the Language of 21st Century Printing
Process automation (also known as computer integrated manufacturing, or 'CIM') isn't new to publishing or the graphic arts. Some larger printers have been automating their processes for years. But until this year, it just wasn't feasible for broad industry adoption of process automation.
What changed? Until recently, printing wasn't totally a digital process. In the last few years, CtP (computer to plate) and fully imposed film setting, digital and soft proofing, standardized file formats, and advances in color management have all but eliminated process cameras, analog production processes, manual stripping, and so on.
An increasing number of devices on the shop floor have digital controllers that can be incorporated into an automated process. These changes are some, but not all, of the reasons that process automation is now being more broadly adopted.
Another major factor is the very complexity of our modern production processes. Printing is the ultimate form of flexible manufacturing. Other manufacturing industries are now trying to reach the level of flexibility that printers manage every day. Is there any other industry that literally changes and retools its production line for every order?
The last hurdle to implementing process automation throughout the industry is to create a common language that captures and supports the complexity of our businesses. This isn't new thinking.
Early attempts at creating a common process automation language include the Portable Job Ticket Format by Adobe, IFRATrak 1.0 and 2.0, PPML from CIP3, and GCA's Industry Architecture Project. Each of these pioneering programs ultimately failed, we learned valuable lessons in the process:
The industry language must be in a standard format that is supported by programming languages (e.g., XML).
The metadata about production and the business of printing can't be embedded into production files (printers, publishers, and prepress services are not going to upgrade front-office systems and storage to handle huge production files to sort and extract small amounts of process data).