Ten Years After: CIP4 and the Creation of JDF
CHICAGO—Few printers know the name International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress Association. And although the moniker "CIP4" is more recognizable, the organization's impact on the printing industry is huge. Can you think of any printing industry association or standards organization that made more of an impact on the industry in its first ten years?
Computer-to-plate and digital file exchange were beginning to have an impact on the industry. Digital printing was in its infancy, PDF/X was new and you still had a variety of file formats to pick from. Private networks, DAT cartridges, and CD-ROM were used to transfer files ... and that was the state of the art in the year 2000. Stat cameras, phototypesetters, drum scanners, and strippers could still be found on in most printing plants. Although a few large printers had implemented custom automation, it was far too expensive and too complex for the majority of printers to even contemplate.
Yet, between 1998 and 2000 Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and manroland created an XML schema, whose function was to serve as the keystone for printing automation. The companies decided to entrust the XML schema to the former "CIP3" organization, on the condition that CIP3 reorganize as an open and global international standards organization. In 1993 Gerhard Fischer and Udo Blasius of Heidelberg had asked Jürgen Schönhut of the Fraunhofer Institute to help form CIP3, which was a consortium of manufacturers working towards print automation and the creation of the Print Production Format; popularly called "CIP3" and used today in ink key presetting systems. The CIP3 organization was selected by Adobe, Heidelberg, Agfa and manroland at drupa 2000 to create CIP4. A "Transition Committee" was formed to write the new organization's bylaws, decide how to organize the association and create a legal foundation for the association. Martin Bailey of Global Graphics, who would become the first CEO of CIP4, led the Transition Committee and Stefan Daun of Fraunhofer became CIP4's Secretariat. Just 40 companies belonged to CIP4 when it was formed in July, 2000. Introducing process automation to the printing industry wasn't just a monumental objective ... some argued for several years that it wasn't possible, and that the Job Definition Format, or JDF, couldn't work.
The original JDF Specification was written by Bill Wyman of Adobe, Peter Schellekens of Agfa, Rainer Prosi of Heidelberg, Markus Möller of manroland, and Moritz Schwarz and Mark Herkrath, both of Fraunhofer, and the XML schema behind JDF was developed by Graham Mann of Adobe. This was a Herculean task—trying to develop a language that could support interchange of data and automation with all devices in any potential graphic arts production workflow. Even though JDF 1.0 was 463 pages long, it was not long enough to do everything. From the onset, JDF initially focused on commercial sheetfed printing workflows. While many early decisions were right "on target," some technical aspects of the early specification would later be fixed, such as the partitioning of NodeInfo and customer information or how layout information is structured. Even though some folks thought that the inclusion of Job Messaging Format was "over the top," it has since become a key component in JDF's ability to support automation. Rainer Prosi, who became and continues as CIP4's Technical Officer, also developed a software development kit that was used to prototype and test ideas as they were developed. These SDKs have remained very important to vendors supporting JDF.
Today the JDF Specification (version 1.4a) is nearly 1,100 pages long, and facilitates web printing, digital printing, packaging, and much, much more. At present CIP4 has about 300 member companies, from which more than 1600 folks are participants. There are approximately 25 technical and managerial working groups that continually work on the further development of JDF and promote process automation in the printing industry. Taking into account development time, education programs, sales and marketing, and integration and testing, the industry-wide investment in JDF easily exceeds a billion dollars.
Ten years later, every printer has some software or equipment capable of handling JDF, but that isn't the whole story. CIP4's success was not a given, and along the way, there were some trying moments. CIP4 started off as a standards association whose mission was (and still is) to "foster the adoption of process automation in the printing industry." Many have argued that "true" standards must be established under the ISO umbrella, however there are other models to follow. CIP4 works in a way similar to software standards organizations, such as the World Wide Web Consortium where "standards" are floated in draft form to the membership, allowing members to develop and test systems and provide feedback. Several iterations of a standard may be necessary before everyone can agree that it's ready for publication. In the case of JDF, it wasn't until version 1.1a of the JDF specification was released in October 2002 that systems could really be tested with beta users, proofed, boxed and shipped. The first major wave of JDF-enabled software and systems didn't hit the market until drupa 2004.
In those four long years there were a few significant challenges for CIP4 to overcome. First, for JDF to become successful, a significant number of vendors would have to support it, in terms of the practicality of printers integrating systems from different vendors on their shop floor. This meant that CIP4 had to learn to actively promote JDF, not a customary activity for a standards organization. "Many of the early CIP4 officers and Advisory Board Members, such as John Sweeney, then of GMI, spent a lot of time talking to peers and the trade press," said Martin Bailey CTO of Global Graphics Software and CIP4's first CEO. "Ultimately we were successful in that the organization grew rapidly, but public relations were quickly becoming a full-time job." By 2004, CIP4 had 200 members, and had hired Jim Harvey to serve as Executive Director of the organization, taking pressure off of the volunteer leadership. CIP4 members began talking at industry events about JDF almost from the start, but printers understood very little about it other than the term.
"A major problem was that word spread about JDF before there were products availableto support it," said Margaret Motamed, CIP4's former CEO and former Marketing and Education Officer. "For printers, JDF was only a buzzword in the first few years, with a limited number ofearly products to implement."
With the release of JDF 1.1a in September of 2002, the industry had its first version of the JDF specification that was ready for development. However, JDF isn't about any one product, but the integration of products, and for this reason, CIP4 began holding interoperability testing events or "Interops" where members could bring products in development to test interchange with other vendors privately. "The first Interop was hosted by Adobe in March of 2003," said Harvey. "I was there mostly as an observer, and it was quite a spectacle. There were a room full of people with laptops, a server and cords everywhere. The group was trying to create a network with all different press controllers, MIS, prepress systems, and the like, yet even with firewall and other connectivity issues, folks were exchanging JDF within 30 minutes. CIP4's 19th Interop will be held in Nice this fall, and it would not be surprising for 200 to 300 pairings of systems to be tested. Behind the scenes, the degree of cooperation, even among competitors in the market, is just amazing."
During this period, JDF was also maturing, with additional support for a wider range of printing and printing processes. Device Capabilities, a major JDF feature, was also created and added to the specification. Craig Benson of Adobe and Rainer Prosi conceived Device Capabilities at the first Interop in Darmstadt, Germany. "The idea was to automatically check if a device could execute a given JDF command, a precursor to the long-term goal of establishing plug-n-play compatibility," said Prosi. "The difficulties of achieving plug-n-play in a networked production environment are much more complex than for the desktop, but we continue to work in that direction and Device Capabilities is the cornerstone of that work."
Even with Interops and the creation of Device Capabilities, there were still some folks who wanted to see JDF used for simpler integration, and made easier for printers to use. Creo sponsored the creation of a group called Networked Graphic Production Partners (NPG) in 2001 to facilitate the development of partnerships between companies offering interoperability integration. When NPG also began publishing specifications for interfaces between devices and wanted to pursue certification testing, it may have appeared publicly that NGP was competing with CIP4, when in fact the membership of the organizations overlapped significantly and NGP was committed to supporting JDF. In 2003 the two organizations came to an agreement where CIP4 would pursue certification testing of products (which is now done by Printing Industries of America under contract with CIP4), and NGP would not publish specifications, but focus on marketing, education, and business networking programs.
In 2007, NGP was folded into CIP4. "Some former NGP marketing and education programs have become the foundation of current CIP4 programs," said Mark Wilton of Wilton & Partners Consulting, former NGP Director and CIP4 Membership Officer. "The Production Automation News has been produced at drupa, Ipex, Print and GRAPH EXPO, and the old NGP integration matrix has become the current JDF Integration Matrix. The Matrix now documents over 600 integrations between products available in the market, and has become a popular reference for printers around the world."
Not all challenges to CIP4's growth were external. A significant issue regarding protecting JDF from patents (that would prevent openness) was coming to a head. In 2003 it became clear that CIP4 members had to come to an agreement on how intellectual property would be both protected and shared. At the time, controversial patent cases had caused ISO and other standards bodies to reconsider their IP policies. No international standards organization had been able to reach an agreement on IP policy that CIP4 could simply copy. "I hadn't expected to spend my time as head of CIP4 discussing law with lawyers," said Martin Bailey. "The legal wrangling in 2004 was very frustrating, and at one point, I didn't think that we could get past the problem." In early 2005 CIP4 members did come to agreement on an IP policy that all members were required to sign ... an accomplishment that was even reported in European legal periodicals.
Another challenge for CIP4 happened in November of 2005 when Jürgen Schönhut passed away unexpectedly. "We were in the middle of creating a long-term contract between CIP4 and Fraunhofer for support," said Stefan Daun. "When Jürgen passed away, we were caught completely off guard." Today Stefan continues as the Secretariat of CIP4 and has assumed more managerial responsibility, as well. Now Fraunhofer also provides additional staffing to help with CIP4 management.
Moving to the Masses
By 2004 JDF-enabled products were available and the JDF specification was stable, but there was still a lot of confusion in the marketplace. Some printers thought JDF was "a vendor thing," and others thought it was either too complex, or something they expected to work transparently. Many other printers were waiting to see whether their peers would adopt it. "It became clear to CIP4 that in order to accomplish our mission of 'fostering process automation in the printing industry' we had to create education and marketing programs targeted towards printers, not just vendors," said Margaret Motamed. CIP4 set up a series of programs including:
• Creating an online, streaming media training program;
• Setting up and supporting educational seminars held at trade events from South Africa, to Paris, Milan to Chicago, Miami, Boston, and many places in between;
• Creating user references, such as the JDF Marketplace to help users find JDF solutions;
• Staging public interoperability and workflow demonstrations at drupa, Print, IGAS, Ipex, GRAPH EXPO, On Demand, Page and Graphitec;
• Creating user forums in Spanish, German, French, Japanese and English;
• Creating an awareness program, initially "JDF Now" and later "JDF Works" that provided brand identity to JDF-enabled products on the market.
"One of our biggest problems was developing case studies that we could share with printers," said Motamed. "Vendors who were ready to share technical expertise, were not ready to share information about customers. So in 2005 we created the CIP4 International Print Production Innovation (CIPPI) Awards program to recognize printers who have made remarkable achievements with print automation implementations. The CIPPI Awards are international and have become a very popular program." To date over 60 detailed case studies have been collected and published, including case studies from printers of all sizes and types.