In this week’s Q&A, Ricoh’s Jeff Paterra, who serves on the AFPC’s board of directors, speaks to the reliable bedrock upon which AFP was founded, and how the architecture and the AFPC have evolved over the years. Jeff also serves as RIcoh Production Print Solutions’ COO, Senior VP, General Manager of Technology Solutions Development, and as a member of the company’s Board of Managers.
Q: What do you see as the single most important value AFP capabilities bring to an organization?
Jeff: The principle the architecture was built on initially and that’s still true today: data integrity. That’s the keystone, and I think that, in the simplest terms, is the most important value of AFP.
Q: Why do you feel the AFPC is important to the print industry?
Jeff: I believe having participants from across the industry collaborate on the architecture only strengthens it and adds to the advancement of the architecture. You get the value of multiple viewpoints. Having a group that gets together to collaborate on the architecture is very important for the industry.
Q: Do you see AFP becoming more broadly deployed beyond transactional print? If so, in which types of output?
Jeff: I absolutely do. While it originated primarily in the transactional space, as we’ve moved into color, we’ve looked to make it more relevant in adjacent print markets – clearly, I think the commercial print space, with POD applications, can take advantage of AFP. The importance of variable data is continuing to grow in the commercial print space. As the offset to digital migration continues, I see AFP being able to be a key facilitating element in that transition. If you’ve got variable data, integrity is critical, and AFP does that very well.
Q: How do you see the marketplace in ten years? How will AFP and PDF work together? Will there be more options for organizations to look to?
Jeff: AFP and PDF already work together today, with AFP being able to handle certain elements from PDF. I think that will continue to evolve and strengthen, and I think there will always be more options, even if the acronyms and architectures’ and data streams’ names remain in place, because of the continuing evolution of the space, and those two formats’ interoperability, by their nature, that will create more options for customers.
Q: What is the most innovative application you’ve heard of that leverages AFP technology?
Jeff: If you think back to the roots of AFP, it was initially aimed at high-performance, variable data, where data integrity was essential. That’s what it was created to do. And when you look at it today, and the applications that have been generated over the years, and now as we’ve moved to color, image content and graphic content have been added to documents to increase their value. That’s more of a generic answer to the question, but I do believe it’s that evolution. Originally it was intended to get these documents out the door on time, and with integrity, but because of the power of the architecture, it also allowed all kinds of other things to be added to documents, which increased the value of those documents.
Q: In your opinion, what was the most important evolution of AFP you’ve seen over the years?
Jeff: AFP’s evolution over the past 30 years has truly been astounding to me. Outside of the original creation of AFP, the move into color and the commitment to do this in an open consortium fashion were by far the biggest moves on the AFP front in all of that time. It was a completely different direction, to do it through a consortium-based architecture, and then just trying to take all those values from the monochrome world into the color space. That, in my mind, was the biggest step for AFP so far.
Q: Do you see adoption of AFP into more cutsheet shops or is it still primarily leveraged in continuous feed organizations?
Jeff: There’s really nothing precluding AFP from being as important in the cutsheet space as it is in the continuous form space. Again going back to its high performance, high volume origins it certainly made sense that it found a stronger foothold in the continuous form space. But the same values we’ve talked about already – data integrity, variable data, performance – as cutsheet printers get faster and more high-speed color cutsheet devices are appearing, I think we will see continued growth in cutsheet for AFP.
Q: What industries do you see AFP being leveraged in the most today? Where do you expect its adoption to increase in the next five years?
Jeff: The transaction documents environment is where AFP is still at its strongest. I think, as we discussed earlier, the commercial print market and POD-type applications are where I would expect to see a lot of growth over the next five years. With variable data appearing more and more in commercial print applications, more operations are able to really leverage AFP and benefit greatly. So I can see the adoption of AFP really taking hold in that adjacent space.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts with the AFPC?
Jeff: As AFP continues to move into adjacent spaces, I want to see its relevance continue to expand. I think we’ve done a lot already, but there’s still more to do. Its capabilities can benefit a lot of organizations. We have to continue to get the word out and make sure it’s understood just how powerful AFP is.
Q: What would you like to see AFP do that it isn’t doing right now?
Jeff: Well, it’s kind of contained in that last statement, but I want to make sure we’re getting the word out and continuing to make sure people understand the value and capabilities that AFP brings to the market place. I think AFP is known in – obviously very important – circles, but outside of those circles, not too many people are familiar with it or all that it’s capable of. I want to make sure we’re effectively communicating to all print markets just how valuable and capable AFP is.