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Y2K - Who's problem is it?

Contributed by Steve Soderberg

Industry Network Corporation

Y2K�.Who's problem is it? It is everyone's! It is your problem, it is you vendors problem, and its you customers problem. This doesn't mean it can't be resolved, it just means that everyone needs to get involved. There is no "Silver Bullet" that is going to resolve this issue by January 1, 2000.

Will everything run smoothly on January 1, 2000? No. Will it be catastrophic? I don't believe so. Some things will go on as though it is just another day, others will have disruptions. This can affect you at work or at home. So many products today are computer and date controlled, alarm systems, MRP systems, financial systems, production equipment, etc. How we plan for this and how we handle it when it happens is what counts.

Why are we in this predicament and have we known this would happen? Years ago program size was critical. Programmers would save space by using a two-digit date instead of a four-digit date. Unless your computer is Y2K compliant, when the clock rolls over from 12/31/99 to 01/01/00 the computer will recognize this as 1900 instead of 2000. Programmers have known about this issue for years. Many thought that the programs would be obsolete by the year 2000 and it wouldn't be a problem. What is interesting is that some software companies have known about this for years, but have produced upgrades that have not been Y2K compliant.

How do you determine if you are Y2K compliant? There are various software packages on the market that will test your computer and software. If you have custom software, contact the manufacturer. Will it test for everything? Some say yes, and some say no. You have to make sure. There have been cases where a company bought a batch of "identical" new motherboards for their computers only to find out that after testing, some where Y2K compliant and some where not. This was due to the chips on the boards being from different batches or manufacturers. Don't take a vendor's word as being 100%. They are finding problems with Y2K issues everyday. This isn't intentional, there is just a lot to test. Until you have had someone in your company that can verify that you are Y2K compliant, assume that you are not. The main solution is to test, test, test.

What is going to happen if you are not Y2K compliant? It is hard to predict. Hopefully you have analyzed your company and determined where your critical areas are, and what you can do if they are not functioning properly. You may be affected in more than one area. What will you do if a software package doesn't function? You may not be able to resolve it immediately, and if not, how will you keep your company running without it? What will you do if a piece of manufacturing equipment has a non-compliant imbedded chip that shuts down your production line? What if your vendor is not Y2K compliant and can't ship you materials that you need for manufacturing? What will you do if your customer is not Y2K compliant and can't pay you for the goods that you shipped them?

You could come up with "What ifs" all day long. We recommend that you meet with your personnel and hold "What if" sessions. Look at all the areas of your company that might be vulnerable. Prioritize them based on which will cause the most disruption if it crashes. Start developing sound contingency and remediation plans. When areas are identified that are not Y2K compliant, what are you going to do about them? Are you going to attempt to upgrade/fix the problem or are you going to replace the problem equipment? You will need to weigh the cost vs. time factor. Some upgrades may be inexpensive or take just a little time while others may be quite expensive and/or take much more time to resolve.

Industry Network Corporation (INC) can help. We are a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) that is available to assist manufacturers and related industries with their Y2K issues. A free 'Self-Help Tool' (via CD-ROM) is available that will help you identify if you have Y2K issues, and guide you through your contingency planning.

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