It can take days and weeks for manufacturers to resolve some customer warranty concerns at dealerships.

Now it takes minutes. That's with web-based camera equipment that records digital photos of potential warranty work, then sends the images to the automaker for a review and a quick decision on eligibility.

About 260 Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships are the first to use the new system. Early results are encouraging, says William Rowse, president of MediaMagic Corp.

“Our target is to get customer information back in 20 minutes. We're running 12-15 minutes,” says Rowse, whose company is licensing the digital imaging system.

“It combines the traditional warranty claim with a pictorial documentation of quality concerns,” he says.

Here's how it works:

  • The dealership service writer takes a series of images related to the customer's concern.

  • The photos and a dealership report are transmitted to a quality reviewing station at Ford Quality/Six Sigma Center for evaluation of warranty eligibility.

  • One of 15 experts at that Dearborn, MI quality center reviews the images on a large screen.

  • After the review, Ford's quality office in minutes tells the dealership if the warranty work is approved.

“The customer concern is reviewed and resolved by Ford within minutes, as opposed to the days and weeks it traditionally takes automotive OEMs to respond when a manufacturer's rep is needed to resolve a customer concern,” says Rowse.

Little “paperwork” is actually done. The camera equipment scans in vehicle identification numbers and other data.

“It leaves to the dealership to do the mileage and repair order,” says Rowse. “We want to make it as simple and bullet-proof as we can. We want the service technician repairing cars, not spending a lot of time on the computer.”