The Standard Standards

From FTA's FIRST to ISO certification to CIP4's new JDF spec, industry standards are all the rage. Find out what these standards mean, why the industry is turning to them to deliver quality and service, and how to get info from the various industry-related standard-making organizations.

On the Standard Ride
Many manufacturers are hopping on the "standards bandwagon"; industry companies and suppliers (such as MeadWestvaco, NDC Infrared Engineering, and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.) more and more, are reporting their ISO 9000 certification.

According to MeadWestvaco, its Evadale, TX, USA, paperboard mill recently garnered ISO 9001:2000 registration, which the company touts as "the first major paperboard mill in the US to be registered ISO 9000:2000 Quality Management Systems standards." And NDC Infrared Engineering reports its Irwindale, CA, USA, facility achieved ISO 9001:2000 certification earlier this year as well.

Chevron Phillips (CP) Chemical Co. says it's achieved ISO 9002 certification for its Polyethylene Units and Polyethylene Laboratory at Cedar Bayou, TX. "By achieving ISO certification," says Neil Nethery, Polyethylene ISO-9002 Project Team Leader at CP Chemical, "the Cedar Bayou plant is seeing instant benefits. Customers have indicated they plan to increase their polyethylene product purchases due to the expanded ISO certification."

So what does "ISO certification" actually mean? What's the difference among the various classifications, for instance 9000:2000 as opposed to the 9001:2000, or even ISO 14001 certification? And why would customers be interested in that anyway?

ISO is the widely used acronym for "International Organization for Standardization." According to the ISO site (iso.org): "ISO has been developing voluntary technical standards over almost all sectors of business, industry, and technology since 1947." Certification means your operation has complied with all requirements set forth by the organization, and you have become certified through the ISO. (Check the ISO site to learn more about how to embark upon the certification process.)

As for the difference among the types of ISO certification, well there are many. Following is part of the "ISO 9000 Family" table found on ISO's site. (The full "ISO 9000 Family" table can be found by clicking here.)

Standards & Guidelines

ISO 9000:2000, Quality management systems—fundamentals and vocabulary

Purpose
Establishes a starting point for understanding the standards and defines the fundamental terms and definitions used in the ISO 9000 family, which you need [in order to] avoid misunderstandings in their use.
ISO 9001:2000, Quality management systems—requirements This is the requirement standard you use to assess your ability to meet customer and applicable regulatory requirements and thereby address customer satisfaction.
It is now the standard in the ISO 9000 family against which third-party certification can be carried.

As for ISO 14000, the organization also has a table dedicated to that family, and it can be found by clicking here.

Customers are interested in whether or not your operation is certified primarily, it would seem, because of quality and service assurance. Explains Lee Miller, NDC's manager of quality assurance at the co.'s newly certified Irwindale facility, "The new ISO standards will make us more proactive in communicating with our customers and conveying their needs throughout our organization to drive product improvements." Adds Kurt Andersson from Tetra Pak, a MeadWestvaco customer, "ISO requirements help to assure the consistency of MeadWestvaco's product. This consistency gives us better stability in our converting lines and in our customers' filling lines, resulting in a high-quality finished product."

ISO initiatives aren't the only standards the industry is adopting increasingly these days . As the technological world continues to embrace the power and speed of digital innovation, standards—in order for us to communicate effectively from anywhere on the planet—are a must.

By creating and participating actively in CIP4 (The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress), converters, printers, and suppliers certainly recognize the need for standardization.

In early May, CIP4 officially released its JDF 1.1 Specification, "the new version of JDF, workflow automation standard," with this release:

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress (CIP4)…announced the public release of version 1.1 of CIP4's Job Definition Format (JDF) Specification.
The new version of the specification includes provision for variable data print needs. The organization, writing, and graphics also already have been greatly enhanced. Additional areas of modification include: color workflow, eCommerce, finishing, and device capability description. The new specification can be downloaded [for free] at cip4.org.
The specification was enhanced in cooperation with industry groups including CGATS, ICC, IDEAlliance, PODi, PrintTalk, and UP3i.
An updated schema will follow in several weeks, followed closely by an update of the JDF API.
"With JDF Release 1.1," says Dr. Rainer Prosi, CIP4 technical officer, "CIP4 has developed a backwards compatible extension of JDF that incorporates feedback from real-world implementation experience and that will serve as the foundation for end-to-end workflow solutions in the graphic arts industry."

About the Job Definition Format
JDF is an upcoming industry standard designed to simplify information exchange between different applications and systems in and around the graphic arts industry. To that end, JDF builds on and extends beyond pre-existing partial solutions, such as CIP3's Print Production Format (PPF) and Adobe Systems's Portable Job Ticket (PJTF). It also enables the integration of commercial and planning applications into the technical workflow. JDF joins the growing number of standards based on XML, ensuring maximum possible portability between different platforms and ready interaction with Internet-based systems.

About CIP4
CIP4 brings together vendors, consultants, and end-users in the print communications, graphic arts industry, and associated sectors, covering a variety of equipment, software, peripherals, and processes. Members participate in focused working groups to define future versions of JDF, to study user requirements, and to design the JDF SDK.

More information about CIP4, including info on how to become a member, is available at cip4.org. Or contact Stefan Daun, Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics: +49 6151 155 575; email: Stefan.Daun@igd.fhg.de.

"FIRST" Standards Push Flexo to the Forefront
According to the Flexographic Technical Assn. (FTA), implementation of its FIRST standards (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances) "should lead to better consistency and greater confidence in flexography." And, according to an recent FTA poll, "Cost-conscious, productivity-oriented packaging buyers are turning to flexography in increased numbers. They acknowledged the fact print quality has improved when compared to offset and gravure, and they credit the push toward standardization—spearheaded by the FTA—with enhancing [flexo's] competitive posture, as well as its ability to produce consistent, reliable results.

Says Elizabeth Johnson, manager, packaging development and advertising, Agrilink Foods, "Developing standards for flexo printers, as well as designers and prepress firms, has given the flexo industry a very powerful, useful tool. It has eliminated much of the guesswork for printers, as well as instilled more confidence within the consumer products companies they can achieve competitive printing." According to FTA, Ray Pitsch, senior packaging engineer at Kimberly-Clark (and a member of FTA's FIRST committee and subtrate committee), is also convinced the move toward a standardized approach in flexo will stand out as one of the most important developments in the early 21st century. FTA says when asked what factors will have the biggest impact on flexography in the next five years, "Pitsch emphatically replied, 'Total digital workflow,' and added, 'Standard operating procedures and a commitment to run to the numbers will represent a change in culture, but it will help bring about predictable, consistent, repeatable results that will make for a truly cost-effective process.'"

Find out more about FTA and its FIRST standards at flexography.org.

Standards affecting the industry certainly are not limited to operating efficiencies and print production. For instance, ICC (International Color Consortium) standards have been around since 1993, and most other pro-standard groups, ICC continues to promote standardization issues in the industry.

Even if your operation isn't quite ready to hop on the standardization "ride," it seems a worthwhile endeavor to check out the myriad types of standards affecting the industry. For those that employ them, it seems standards have helped many better manage their bottom lines.



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