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1997-08-15 10:20:03


Union Pacific Puts Pressure on Its Suppliers


The Union Pacific Railroad Company is the one railroad on which there is a smattering of information regarding y2k. As an integrated system, the nation's railroads are crucial to the survival of cities, yet there is almost nothing on the y2k compliance of the industry. This tells us that the industry is not compliant and is unlikely to get compliant by 2000. No news is bad news when it comes to y2k projects.

In a July 10 letter to its suppliers, Charles R. Eisele sketched the origin of the y2k problem in one paragraph. Then he added a paragraph on Union Pacific's repair project. What is disturbing is that he did not say that the actual repair is underway. He indicated only that an assessment project is in progress. According to the California White Paper, inventory accounts for 1% of the project and assessment accounts for only 5%. He wrote:

"Union Pacific is well underway with a Year 2000 Project. The objective of this project is to evaluate all computer software, hardware and equipment to determine if it is year 2000 compliant. If not, we will manage a timely conversion, replacement or retirement of the software and hardware."

"If it is year 2000 compliant..." They don't know yet? They were informed about the problem in 1995, according to a DATAMATION story (Jan. 1, 1996). This letter sounds as though they still aren't sure if they are compliant or not. This implies that assessment -- 5% of the overall project -- has taken two years, and they are not yet finished.

Then the letter goes on to require suppliers to fill out forms regarding their y2k status. They also have to sign a detailed y2k compliance warranty.

My prediction: no supplier will sign this warranty because none can claim y2k compliance, any more than Union Pacific can claim it, or a bank can, or any other major organization can. But Union Pacific has at least gone through the motions of seeking assurance from its suppliers. Hardly any other organization has.

It's a shame that lawyers can write such detailed warranties when mainframe programmers can't meet their requirements. We need more mainframe programmers and fewer lawyers. But you knew that already.

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