How to implement JDF

This page provides guidelines for people who want to implement JDF in their company. I have split up this overview in 3 separate sections:

  • General guidelines
  • Technical aspects
  • Human aspects

General guidelines

Go for the benefit, not the technology

Even though JDF was launched in 1999, the word still has some buzzword value today. Management sometimes buys into these things and may insist on implementing JDF, just because the press makes it out to be ‘the thing to do’. Investing in automation is probably never a bad idea but there may be other types of automation that offer a quicker return on investment, such as automating some of the finishing machines or investing in scheduling software. The focus in any project should be on its profitability, not its current marketing appeal.


Most vendors sell the JDF integration module of their software as an extra option. Some charge a steep price for it. I recently heard the story of a printer who estimated that they would need around 8 years to make any money on the JDF module for their finishing equipment!
There are two sides to the cost of automation: the cost of the solution and the cost of the problem. Do the math and you may discover that some types or levels of integration are worth it and others aren’t.

Work out a roll-out plan

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same is true for linking different processes and departments using JDF.
Larger automation projects need to be planned using a phased approach:

  • Make the first step a fairly easy to obtain target which shows an immediate benefit to the project.
  • Set target dates and goals for each step.
  • If some of the software is new, you need to foresee time for the implementation of that software. It is difficult to understand that some companies want to invest in a brand-new MIS system and expect its JDF module to be operational within 2 to 3 months of the purchase of the software. Rolling out the MIS system itself, gaining experience with it, and making sure that people feel comfortable using it takes 6 to 12 months. Don’t even think of implementing JDF during this time.
  • Insist that all vendors are physically present at key moments during the project. Remote access makes it easy for vendors to fix little problems during a log-in session. For large multi-vendor automation projects, it is still wise to insist that all partners are physically present at important moments. Being able to talk face to face and sort out who needs to do what and when is essential to keep the project going at its foreseen pace.

Assemble a roll-out team

Companies often look at vendors to implement and guide their automation projects. This may work fine for smaller projects but when it comes to automating processes across different departments, the company’s management itself needs to be involved. This is particularly true because of the human factors described below.
For larger projects, I think it is a good idea if someone with the necessary decisive power to get things done heads the team. Ideally, this person also has a good grasp of the production processes and inner workings of the company. He guides a team that includes at least 1 person from each of the departments that get involved (sales, prepress, printing, finishing,…) to make sure that things run smoothly.

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