Publishers and Printers Move to “CIM” City
By: Bert Langford
By: Bert Langford
Having won the “CTP wars,” we now are onto the next technology front: “JDF” and “Prose/XML” will lead to computer integrated manufacturing, or “CIM”. Yet, aren’t these just software tools your printer uses to automate its internal production processes? What do these mean to you and your job? Most importantly, why should you get involved in something that benefits your printer, but with no apparent benefit to you and your company?
Understand, however, that JDF is not just about CIM. More so, it is about the integration of all business processes, both internally within the publisher’s offices and between the publisher and printer, including the printer’s CIM. What it can mean for the production manager is elimination of manual and clerical work in favor of better oversight of the business of publishing production. Unfortunately, even in these days of electronic spreadsheets the processes are very time-consuming and fraught with errors and unproven assumptions: there just isn’t enough time otherwise.
When heading up production departments, my supervisory philosophy was to empower my staff to take charge of their responsibility areas, to find better ways of doing their jobs more efficiently. I learned that when an employee’s responsibilities are largely clerical, they become bored, which can lead to unhappiness. Process automation instead enables the production manager to devote his time largely to planning and management, something any manager can take pleasure in.
We saw this happen with the Mac and QuarkXPress eliminating typesetting, then CTP eliminating film, and are seeing it now as CTP becomes more simplified with less processing steps. The next phase is automating many of the production department’s planning functions in favor of computerized solutions: right now, by automating the magazine map.
Soon this will lead to the computerization of printing contract management through automated processing of production/purchase order data that can drive the printer’s manufacturing processes while automating business processes for both companies. There is a significant and common database of information the production manager deals with that is repetitive from month-to-month: trim size and paper stocks, even page counts and quantities for many magazines do not vary much.
But, there can also be some tremendously complicated parts of our job, that the appropriately motivated production manager finds both challenging and fascinating, like geo/demo production. In particular the more complex the production manager’s job is, the more software solutions can help.
For me, I’ve been searching for a solution to magazine production planning since 1978, and just a couple years ago finally found the appropriate software company who I believe is offering such a product built from the ground up by and for publishers: dataplan GmbH of Hamburg, Germany (www.dataplan.de). We are working with Fry Communications presently under a trial period to assess the applicability of these products to integrate and automate business and manufacturing functionality between Fry and its many magazine publishers. To leverage that hugely important database as the starting point for Fry’s own CIM efforts. In turn, to offer the publisher a truly superior way of doing business.
From my perspective, the potential benefits to magazine publishers are huge:
Automated map planning helps to assimilate late ads for the least cost and eliminate positioning makegoods.
Mapping can also automatically generate the lion’s share of the database of variables required for not only the publisher’s internal planning processes (like budgets/estimates and schedules), but also process automation between publisher and printer, including:
inventory management (paper and unfinished and finished goods), and
An online cost optimization system that de-skills the process to compose accurate estimates even for the most complex, geo/demo, magazines: the result of “what will four extra pages cost?” can be answered by the click of a button. Provide for all geo/demo ad buys in the most cost-effective manner while assuring that all placement priorities are met!
Automatically compose production/purchase orders from this planning database can lead to better process correlation between publisher and printer, and with less risk of human error.
All of the above can most optimally be achieved with actual labor savings through automated collaborative tools between publisher and printer, the foremost of which is enabled through JDF.
In summary, the answer to technology is not to resist it but to rather look for imaginative solutions to enable you to truly manage the processes rather than being victimized by them.
OK , what is it?
Job Definition Format – JDF is an industry standard designed to enable automated information exchange between different applications and systems in and around the graphic arts industry. Simplistically stated, information and instructions you generate on your desktop PC can later help to drive the computer console managing the printer’s saddle stitcher during setup and running.
JDF was adopted by CIP4, which builds onto and extends CIP3’s Print Production Format (PPF) and Adobe Systems’ Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF). It also enables the integration of commercial and planning applications into the technical workflow. JDF joins the growing number of standards based on XML (eXtensible Mark up Language ), ensuring maximum possible portability between different platforms and ready interaction with Internet-based systems
So what does JDF do?
The most prominent features of JDF are:
1. The ability to carry a print job from genesis through completion. This includes a detailed description of the creative, prepress, press, postpress and delivery processes.
2. The ability to bridge the communications gap between the printer’s Production and Management Information Services (MIS) departments. This ability enables instantaneous job and device tracking as well as detailed pre- and post-calculation of jobs in the graphic arts.
3. The ability to bridge the gap between the customer’s view of product and the manufacturing process by defining a process-independent product view as well as a process-dependent production view of a print job.
4. The ability to define and track any user-defined workflow without constraints on the supported workflow models. This includes serial, parallel, overlapping, and iterative processing in arbitrary combinations and over distributed locations.
JDF can perform all of these functions under nearly any precondition.
So why does it help publishers and printers ?
JDF provides one uniform data structure to any printer adopting JDF, enabling all required publisher-to-printer exchanges to be 100% digital, and automated into the printers Information Systems. This creates efficiencies for the publisher in manufacturing job instruction, communication of those instructions, and ideally eliminating update handling of those instructions, since process can be triggered at the latest possible time. Publishers should realize cost savings impact internally, and possibly from the Printer as well. The automation can also begin to move upstream into planning, layout, page manufacturing, and distribution, consolidating the “System” of manufacturing and data integration and exchange.
So why is Fry into it ?
JDF creates efficiencies in a process that a) needs some, and b) has very few areas to derive them from. As an example, paperwork being sent to a printer from a publisher and manually transferred via hand keying into a printer’s system cries out for streamlining.
Additionally JDF moves upstream at the printer, feeding set-up information to machinery, etc. However, new systems need to support all types of manufacturing equipment, and this is a longer road to completion, at least in our manufacturing realm. Digital printing, cutting, folding, and so on have evolved very well, and very quickly. Capital to move to the “Heavy Iron” will be forthcoming.
Ultimately we see the same types of efficiencies gained that PDF provided to the Prepress workflow throughout the entire process, thereby minimizing effort and saving time both in labor and lead time from submission to print completion. Since XML is the underlying data structure inherent to Internet communications, there is a high confidence level that all investments in time, effort, and capital will not be lost in a worst case scenario, meaning the XML exchanges remain valid, even if adoption globally in the industry of “JDF” does not prevail.
Fry has already purchased two JDF “enabled” saddle stitchers and installed OANetConnect from Objective Advantage Inc., a web enabled portal for JDF exchange. Fry has integrated JDF into its Prepress and Job Ticketing systems. This is not an announcement, but rather a validation that printers like Fry are actively moving in this direction and hope that publishers follow us on this journey toward mutual reward.