The Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s nationwide network of centers is offering a computer-based tool to help smaller manufacturers find and assess problems caused by the so-called "millennium bug," Commerce Secretary William Daley and the department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology announced today.
"Time is running out. Like other businesses, small manufacturers must start paying attention to this potential problem today. If they don’t, they risk losing business or even their ability to survive," said Secretary Daley.
The millennium bug, or Year 2000 date problem, refers to the failure of a computer program or system because the "00" year designation is mistaken for "1900." The Stamford, Conn.-based GartnerGroup, a leading authority on information technology issues, has reported that as of 1997, 88 percent of all companies with fewer than 2,000 employees had not yet started Year 2000 remediation projects. Many companies that are addressing problems with their computer systems may be overlooking potential problems embedded in other systems such as machine controllers and building control systems.
The Automotive Industry Action Group has cited some examples of Year 2000 problems. They include conveyor control systems that malfunction and prohibit the execution of scheduled production, time-keeping systems that will not function, security systems that inappropriately restrict access, and manufacturing resource planning software that will not operate properly.
MEP’s computer-based tool—called Conversion 2000: Y2K Self-Help Tool—will help smaller manufacturers:
* conduct an inventory of equipment, including hardware, software and embedded systems;
* identify core business systems and rate their importance to the survival of the business;
* develop contingency plans; and plan and manage remediation projects.
While it is a "self-help" tool, most users will need training, said Kevin Carr, director of the NIST MEP. MEP centers will provide training to smaller manufacturers through user groups and video conferencing and possibly on-line, as well as assistance with planning and managing Year 2000 remediation projects, he said.
The new Year 2000 tool was developed by NIST in conjunction with several MEP centers—including the Connecticut State Technology Extension Program, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, and the Utah Manufacturing Extension Partnership—and KPMG Consulting. It expands the MEP Y2K services announced by Secretary Daley on May 11, 1998.
MEP centers recently began conducting Year 2000 seminars to raise smaller manufacturers’ awareness and understanding of the problem. More than 1,500 small companies nationwide have attended these seminars.
For assistance with Year 2000 conversion, as well as business and technical projects, smaller manufacturers can call 1-800-MEP-4MFG (637-4634) to reach the MEP center serving their region. Information also is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.mep.nist.gov and at http://www.nist.gov/y2k.
NIST’s MEP is a nationwide network of manufacturing extension centers providing business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business "coaches" whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness.
The U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 2,350 firms served by MEP centers in 1996. These companies reported an increase in sales of nearly $110 million and showed savings of $16 million in inventory and over $13 million in labor and material. They also invested more than $85 million in modernization. These companies directly attribute these benefits to the services provided by the NIST manufacturing extension centers.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.
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