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Using Metadata and JDF to Automate Workflows

In Meeting Notes. From the Digital Smart Factory Conference Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport Orlando, Florida, August 15-16, 2000. By Dennis E. Mason. Also PDF.

Robert Schaffel, senior product manager for professional publishing systems at Adobe Systems, spoke next, on Using Metadata and JDF to Automate Workflows. Schaffel began by noting print market trends. He commented that print industry growth has been constrained because the cost of doing business is high, because the Internet has changed the value of mass communications, and because future growth must come from workflow automation.

JDF is an open, extensible, XML-based print workflow specification framework initiated by Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland. It ties together authoring, production, management, manufacturing, delivery, and MIS control. JDF begins the job definition from the product intent, and ends with process specifications. JDF describes print tasks via processes and resources. JDF consists of nodes, which are collections of hierarchical nodes. A node may represent an entire job, a product component, a group of processes, or a single process. JDF also consists of resources, which are the input and output of nodes -- such as PDF files, process parameters, and consumables. Also included are product specifications, which can capture the customer's product intent, in addition to processing. Product intent allows customers to describe the end product without having to specify the details.

JDF may be created through production management software, through workflow management tools, customer interaction, or print driver. JDF connects more than just workflow. PDF connects the creation and prepress functions, while the press and postpress functions are connected by CIP3. JDF connects all of these functions, and provides links to print business management systems. The print supply chain, Schaffel said, is an end-to-end workflow model which can employ JDF protocol throughout.

Schaffel then moved through a typical job workflow. He began by commenting that arguments about vocabulary notwithstanding, users have already developed their individual definitions for the content they deal with. Because the content owners will wish to maintain control of their content, they will wish to pull information from the data repositories, and have it appear in a form which is familiar. He described a system in which the actual information extracted from the database is the tagging rather than the actual content. This will permit proceeding from page layout, through workflow manager, to project planning. In the process, JDF will permit generating or editing job tickets, and actually scheduling the work. OEMs and systems providers should be able to simply furnish a metadata repository, calling up only the information required, and then pass information on to the manufacturing operation for production planning. Digital assembly then could be automated by simply calling up the raw data.

Schaffel said that this is a future that cannot be built today, but that collaboration such as that being discussed would permit such a scenario. A draft specification is available at

Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive.

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