“People are slowly but surely automating, whether it’s silos or entire segments of their operation,” said Alex Hamilton, director of business development for Enfocus Software. “JDF support is one of those necessary checkboxes that you have to have today in order to claim that you’re a workflow automation application, like Switch or Prinergy or Dalim or EskoArtwork’s Automation Engine 10,” he explained. “Whether you use JDF or XML is a matter of user preference, but at the end of the day you’ve got to have that metadata if you’re going to automate your operations.”
Some Skeptics Hold Out
While JDF has certainly progressed since its uncertain introduction, still not everyone is sold on its value. “From my viewpoint, JDF is a solution in search of a problem,” said Eric Pearson, president and CEO of commercial printing firm TechnaPrint in Eugene, OR. “We have expert operators who can configure our press and the bindery equipment very quickly thanks to the hardware’s programmability, so we don’t need the added expense of a JDF interface for those devices. While we do use a very small segment of JDF functionality—ink key presets—I don’t foresee a complete JDF implementation anytime soon.”
Despite such cost misgivings for smaller companies, James Harvey, executive director of CIP4, points to the rapid return on investment experienced after implementation according to data gathered from its International Print Production Innovation (CIPPI) Awards Program. His analysis of these case studies indicates that firms which invested in JDF integration saw an average annualized ROI of 277 percent.
“Smaller companies are more likely to get C-level buy-in for full automation, where the largest companies have much more complex approval processes to go through,” Harvey noted in a recently published report, What Print CEOs Need to Know About Automation. “Small and large printers were more likely to have moved to full integration, [which] dispels the myth that JDF-enabled automation isn’t for small printers.”
Given the growth in JDF/JMF adoption over the last decade, it seems clear that the early criticism did not kill JDF, but instead made it stronger. Love it or not, it’s the only standards-based approach to integration available for a printing industry bent on achieving ever-greater levels of automation. PN