Problem: Moving orders efficiently between offices

Solution: Software that expands printer memory and a wide area network

Payoff: Fast and orderly dispatch of orders

For Maintenance Warehouse/America Corp., a San Diego-based company that sells tools, cleaning equipment, and other maintenance products to large institutions, moving orders among its 13 offices was a nightmare. After all, faxing every order that came into the company would be a waste of time. And faxes would also be easy to lose .

How could the company cut down on the time spent sending orders out to branch offices? Have a computer in one office read the orders directly to a printer in another office via a wide area network.

Easier said than done. Doug McWaters, a member of the MIS team, tried using the company's Xerox 4030 printers to print out order forms. But the printers -- lower-end Xeroxes -- didn't have the capacity to store the templates permanently for the many order forms Maintenance uses. And buying the next-level printer would be expensive, "especially because we didn't want to pay for all the bells and whistles we didn't need," says McWaters.

Luckily a friend of McWaters had just heard about a new product -- OptiForm (Pacific Data Products Inc.; $349-$649; 800-737-7121) -- a flash single in-line memory module (SIMM) and software package. The SIMM fits into a printer and expands its memory, which means the printer can store hundreds of templates. It also means that there's no longer any need to reload the templates before each printing session or after a power interruption. McWaters bought Hewlett-Packard printers (they were cheaper than the Xerox printers -- plus the 4030s had been discontinued -- and available just about everywhere) and, using the OptiForm software, was able to download all the order forms to them.

Now that employees at Maintenance are spending less time tending to the printers, they have more time for other work. Better still, getting orders processed takes a fraction of the time it once did.

-- Sarah Schafer