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Renault Improves Service Quality With Help From Apple's Technologies


Renault wanted to help its dealers and repair centers to more easily and consistently use its technical documentation. At the same time, the company needed to reduce the high cost of updating, printing, and distributing hard-copy documentation.

In order to remain competitive in the fast-paced auto industry, Renault now has a CD-ROM-based electronic technical documentation system, Dialogys, that was created using Apple Macintosh computers and Allegiant Technologies HyperCard. Dialogys stations, based on Apple Power Macintosh computers and Apple Workgroup Servers, are now installed at 3,000 Renault-affiliated dealers and garages around the world. The new system has improved overall service quality, and made Renault dealers and repair technicians more productive and efficient.

Challenge: In the late 1980s, Renault faced a major challenge. The volume and complexity of hard-copy technical documentation required for technicians to maintain the vehicles increased in equal proportion. Technicians were finding it difficult to manage the reams of paper documentation. At the same time, the need to exploit documentation was becoming increasingly indispensable. "We needed to ensure that technicians could easily and reliably use our technical documentation. We believed that service quality and customer loyalty would improve as a result," says Denis Van Den Bremt, product manager for Dialogys at Renault.

Solution: Renault developed Dialogys, an electronic documentation system for Renault's "after sales" personnel, distributed ten times per year on CD-ROM. Sales of the system, which includes a Power Macintosh 7200/90, the CD-ROM, and the necessary data transmission software, began in 1992 to the "primary" network of resellers (Renault branches and dealers), and during the Spring of 1994 to the "secondary" network (other repair agencies). The "secondary" network runs a standalone version. The "primary" network is connected via AppleShare to Apple Workgroup Server 7250s using MacOS file sharing to more cost-effectively provide real-time data exchange of information from the Data Management System (DMS) to ten end-user stations at a time. The DMS tracks inventory, billing, accounting and other administrative functions, and is linked to Dialogys. The CD-ROM and end-user applications were developed on Apple Macintosh computers using the HyperCard Development Toolkit and Pascal programming language. Dialogys stations are now installed in 3,000 Renault garages all over the world, with 4,000 Dialogys stations in use.

In 1987, when Renault made the decision to develop Dialogys, the company considered PCs, but Macintosh was the only platform that fulfilled all of Renault's criteria. "We needed a platform that offered well-integrated hardware and operating system software, a graphical user interface, and a completely mouse-driven interface-essential for non-computer-savvy mechanics. We also wanted to cut development time by using simple and flexible tools, and HyperCard was the answer. "Apple was the first microcomputer manufacturer to have a CD-ROM drive in its catalog (1987) and to introduce models with built-in CD-ROM drives," he says. Van Den Bremt also says the power of Apple Power Macintosh computers has subsequently become necessary to effectively run Dialogys-a CD-ROM with more than 600 MB of data, loaded with graphics.

Dialogys also helps Renault make better use of its human resources. The person in charge of a spare parts store, for example, can concentrate on customer sales and stop worrying about complex analysis of which part is most appropriate. Training on technical documentation for spare parts store owners has been reduced from one year to one month. Human resources are also used more efficiently in the repair shop. Before Dialogys, the manager or technical coordinator had to find the necessary technical documentation. Now, the mechanic is autonomous, determining which spare parts are necessary and which repair methods are best.

The Power Macintosh computers and Apple Workgroup Servers have been very reliable, an important factor for a far-flung computer network managed mostly by specialists in cars, not computers.


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