Efforts to help small manufacturers in rural America find and assess problems caused by the year 2000 computer problem are being stepped up through an agreement signed today by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture.
Signed at a satellite conference on "The Y2K Challenge for Small Businesses and Manufacturers," the memorandum of understanding outlines a variety of ways that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, managed by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Agriculture will work together to help small manufacturers address the year 2000 problem and to improve their productivity and competitiveness, especially in the food, fiber and wood products industries.
"We are thrilled to be a partner with the Department of Agriculture in providing urgently needed resources to help small manufacturers deal with the year 2000 problem and a broad range of technical and business services and assistance. Through the Commerce Department’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, small firms have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business specialists. These experts are guiding U.S. small manufacturers toward greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness," said Commerce Secretary William M. Daley.
The President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion has designated Oct. 19-23, 1998, as National Y2K Action Week to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to act on the year 2000 computer problem. "We are concerned that many of the nation’s small and medium-sized businesses are not taking the year 2000 problem seriously," said Council Chair John Koskinen. "The goal of this week is to help them to take action on the problem so that they can continue operating in January 2000 and beyond."
Also as part of the satellite conference, Willem Bakker, director of the NIST MEP center in Iowa, described methods and tools that small agri-businesses and others can use to determine whether they have year 2000 problems and to take corrective action. Through its nationwide network of centers and offices, NIST MEP is offering seminars and a computer-based tool to help small manufacturers better understand and deal with the year 2000 problem.
The year 2000 date problem, often called "Y2K" or the "millennium bug," refers to the failure of a computer program or system because the "00" year designation is misunderstood or 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 worldwide 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.
For assistance with the year 2000 problem, as well as other business and technical projects, smaller manufacturers can call 1-800-MEP-4MFG (637-4634) to reach the MEP center serving their region. Information on the year 2000 problem also is available on the World Wide Web. Web sites include http://www.mep.nist.gov, http://www.nist.gov/y2k, http://www.y2k.gov, and http://www.reeusda.gov/y2k/y2k.htm.
MEP is a nationwide network of manufacturing extension centers providing business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards through four partnerships: the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Baldrige National Quality Program.