Dealers and repair centers need to be kept up-to-date on the latest part numbers, wiring diagrams and schematics. The old way was to print a 350-page manual and send it to thousands of locations.
"We've been around for a long time, so there's a lot of information and older models that we have to continually upgrade and update the information for," says Steve Valvoda, technical service manager for Royal.
In 1999, Royal changed the way it did things.
"Because of a combination of printing costs and the new technologies that were available, we decided to try putting the information on a CD-ROM," says Valvoda.
The company moved all the information on the manual to the new CD. It was set up so that users could look up parts, create an order and e-mail it to the company, all in the same program, or they could print it out and send it in if they didn't have Internet capabilities.
"We made about 2,500 of them that we went through in the first year," says Valvoda. "The maintenance was a lot easier than the printed manual, but the only drawback was, as we introduced new models, we were printing new CDs."
Now about 70 percent of the service centers use the CDs, while the rest still prefer the printed manuals. The cost savings was substantial -- the manuals cost about $12 to produce, while the CDs only cost about $5, with a lower mailing cost. But eventually, even the CD will be obsolete.
"We're going to put everything online on the Web," says Valvoda. "The dealers will be able to look everything up there and order it. Once it's on the Web, we'll let the CD fall by the wayside."
But for those small mom-and-pop shops or those that continue to fight technological advances, the manual will probably survive, outlasting the shiny silver disks that threatened to replace them. How to reach: Royal Appliance, (440) 996-2000; www.royalappliance.com
How to make a CD
Steve Valvoda, technical services manager of Royal Appliance, worked on moving the company's 350-page printed manual with part numbers and diagrams to a CD that could be mailed out to thousands of service centers.
Royal worked with an outside vendor, but Valvoda warns you should be ready to do a lot of work.
* Choose a vendor carefully. "We got three to four companies that do this to come in and go through an interview process and provide samples of their work," says Valvoda. "We didn't go with the lowball offer. Look at the quality of work and what you are getting for your dollar."
* Streamline communication. Royal worked with its vendor to upgrade the computer systems so they could talk to one another, speeding the communication and approval process.
* Expect delays. "The process is more technical than I expected," says Valvoda. "Before, we would take a blueprint and turn it into a schematic, then print it. When you break that down into bits and bytes and coding, at times it can get a little hairy."
* Allow for debugging."You want to give yourself some time with it once it's complete to make sure it works right," says Valvoda. Royal spent about six months making sure everything worked the way it was supposed to before mailing out the CDs. "With part numbers and other numerics, one little asterisk can throw all the coding off."
* Remember that planning is key. "Work out a plan and get a real good team together," says Valvoda. "This is nothing that just one person could handle. Try to keep it simple, and keep it true to the printed format. There's a lot of stuff you can put in, but the nice thing is, you can always go back at a later date and add it in. The best thing is to just formulate a plan based on what you are already working with and the rest will come to you."