Life for service technicians could be less frustrating because of new web-based software from IBM.

Its Automotive Dealer Collaboration (ADC) offering is an Internet portal that promises to OEM-supplier-dealer communications easier and faster.

OEMs and dealers share data electronically via Dealer Communication Systems (DCS). Many OEMs have been moving these systems to the web. But they've been limited by lack of full integration and by poor communications between systems.

The IBM solution could aid technicians who spend valuable time hunting through various sources to get the information they need — time away from repairing vehicles.

Today, service technicians may access DCS for parts information, but then they may need to search through manuals for the specific parts bulletins and read through faxes or e-mails for service updates pertaining to the part or repair procedure.

ADC will consolidate all of the service-related information in one accessible location on the web. Auto makers will be able update their existing systems so that all the information technicians may need (from part numbers to service updates to placing an order) is available with a few clicks.

Technicians can go online to see a two-dimensional diagram of a car with its various parts and corresponding numbers. The technician can click an icon to see all relevant service updates and warranty information. Technicians can then check availability or order parts online.

For now, ADC is a proof-of-working concept. It's only part of what IBM would like to do. It proposes creating one master business portal, with all of the OEM, dealer and supplier portals accessing it.

IBM wants to create an open collaborative web-based network in which all facets of the automotive industry can share information over the web.

Whether ADC becomes reality depends on how far OEMs are willing to go towards an open collaborative network to happen. Auto makers are moving in that direction, says Larry Stolle, Business Development Executive for IBM. But they are still focused only on making it happen within their own brand — a mindset that multi-franchise dealers find frustrating, he says.