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FLEXO Magazine : February 2008
www.flexography.org FEBRUARY 2008 FLEXO 31 TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES comes back in JMF (job messaging format), in real time. That data includes the job ID, every step that has finished or any status change the job goes through, as well as quantity printed: all the information required to update both the costing information as well as the master schedule. This allows everyone in the shop to know the status of all jobs in production in real time. This can either be seen on the customer service screen or graphically on the electronic scheduling board, significantly reducing the need for human intervention. Obviously, sleeves must still be mounted and the press brought up to color, but it cuts down on time and error. In addition, if a printer/converter can get real time information from the press and finishing equipment, that data becomes valu- able from a customer service standpoint. Assume that a customer calls in and asks, "Where is my job?" The customer service rep- resentative has to go for a walk or make a phone call, potentially disrupting the production manager. But if the information is available to him/her through a centralized system, that rep can respond immediately with an answer. That answers the question of why automation is important, but what does it have to do with JDF? The answer is that JDF allows the software and equipment vendors within the printing indus- try to "speak the same language." A JDF-enabled MIS system can easily incorporate any JDF workflow into its framework. JDF allows users to bridge the communication gap between produc- tion and a MIS, providing a means to set up communication formats between systems from different vendors with minimum configuration efforts. Specifically, JDF provides the ability to link prepress, press, and finishing processes to a MIS, providing total automation. JMF is a language used to communicate between JDF agents and controllers. An MIS system may use JMF to command devic- es on the shop floor. For example, it may change the order of jobs in the queue. The device (a press, for example), may communicate back to the MIS and send a status update, which is picked up di- rectly by a customer service screen in the MIS. JDF is a great term in the printing industry, but what's really going on is computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). We are taking software and integrating it with the machinery on the plant floor. The automobile and aerospace industries have been doing this since the 1970s. A study by PIA/GATF valued the productivity of the average print employee at approximately $150,000 of revenue. This pales in comparison to the aerospace and automotive industries, where productivity per employee is significantly higher. The primary reason for the large gap is because of the high degree of automa- tion in those industries As such, any printer/converter that wants to be a leader in the industry would want to automate, especially with margins shrinking as they are. As mentioned above anytime you have a breakpoint in the workflow, it's going to cost you money. JDF helps eliminate those breakpoints. Each breakpoint is different and costs associated with each will vary, but a shop doing about 4,000 orders per year with about four or five breakpoints, could expect to save upwards of $220,000 per year. IMPACT OF JDF INTEGRATION As stated earlier, JDF is really the printing industry's route to CIM. According to the U.S. National Research Council, CIM is responsible for production productivity increases of 40 to 70 percent, and reducing overall costs by 15 to 30 percent. Streamlining workflows in this fashion also facilitates: The ability to produce short run orders in a timely fashion Productivity gains through a reduction of data re-entry en- suring increased profit margins CSR's with real-time information at their fingertips Elimination of "Islands of Automation," in which different pieces of software or equipment are not communicating with each other. It is possible to streamline operations without JDF, but the task is a difficult one. For example, without a common language, there can be issues of equipment and software incompatibility and dif- ficulty in integrating protocols. JDF also preserves data integrity, which is important as most printing equipment does not react well to bad data. THE KEY TO SUCCESS It is important to note that JDF is not a silver bullet; it is an operational tool that, if implemented properly, will provide a new dimension to productivity. With implementation in mind, there are three key things required to ensure a successful JDF project. First, ensure there is senior management commitment to the project. Your employees are constantly watching the senior man- agement team to check in on what's important. Without a mem- ber of the leadership team championing the project and "walking the talk;" it won't get done. Instead, the day-to-day demands of the business take over and, with no internal champion, it just never happens. Secondly, be sure you aren't inadvertently creating any new "is- lands of automation." When it comes time to make investments in new equipment, ensure you ask the vendors the tough ques- tions about their JDF strategy and what level of JDF enablement they have built into their equipment. And finally, when it comes to bringing all the pieces together via your Print MIS, ensure you are dealing with a company that has a proven JDF track record. All vendors are talking about JDF -- only a few have actually completed projects involving JDF inte- gration. About the Author: Patrick Bolan is President and CEO of Avanti Computer Systems. Avanti provides JDF-enabled Print MIS solutions that run commercial and in-plant print facilities. In business for 23+ years, Avanti specializes in software solutions for sheetfed, web, digital, large format, and binderies with inte- grated modules extending from the Internet through to the shop floor, CRM and Invoicing. Avanti won the Best in Show Award at OnDemand 2006 for its JDF Framework. For more information, point your web brows- er to www.avantisystems.com