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1997-10-25 20:53:57


Why Y2K Repair Costs Are Underestimated



MECHANICAL ENGINEERING (Sept., 1997) discussed the problem of manufacturing plants. They are not managed as tightly as mainframe computer systems are.

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Another reason why estimates of the y2k problem are conservative at best is that systems running in the plant usually are not managed the same way as corporate IT systems. "It's not a rigorously managed environment," Owen said, "like those dealing with legacy projects [that involve COBOL and old programs]—no control libraries, no database managers, no version management, minimal change control, and the like." Furthermore, plants often have proprietary software to run various mechanical systems such as process controllers that have no readily identifiable version to manage and update, nor most likely compliance with the year 2000. The same is probably true with "hidden applications" written on the factory floor—scheduling and product configuration performed on spreadsheets, for example—without the help of IT personnel.

All of this makes it difficult to gauge how much work is necessary to get the plant floor ready. Many operations still use older computer systems and have no regular, planned means of upgrades. "Some would argue that any PC put in a plant is taken out within five years," Miklovic said, "but are they really? When you get to the factory floor, there are still a lot of plain old 286-type machines out there that are in dedicated-operator type of situations, and they have been there for many years already."


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