The UK manufacturing industry's provision for the millennium bug is woefully inadequate, according to research published last week. The findings of a study carried out by Benchmark Research and presented at the Computers in Manufacturing '97 exhibition in Birmingham reveal that half of the study's sample of 1,700 respondents believe their systems will not cope with the Year 2000 problem. The study also shows marked variation between different areas of manufacturing. Some sectors such as pharmaceutical and oil manufacturing are well prepared, with most companies in these markets having either already solved the problem or at least begun to. However, other areas are not doing so well: at least 10% of the aeronautical sector still has no idea how to tackle the Year 2000 problem. This figure soars to 79% for the mining industry. Ian Parks, managing director of Benchmark Research, said he was dismayed by the results."The industry is not taking itself to task over the millennium bug issue," he commented. "It is not something companies can avoid, and the fact that there is a propensity towards proprietary systems in manufacturing makes it a particularly severe problem for the manufacturing industry as a whole." Parks said that the reaction from delegates at the exhibition was a recognition of the need for the media and suppliers to make the problem a business issue rather than just a technological one. Robin Guenier, executive director of former government initiative Taskforce 2000, added that the report gives an accurate picture of UK business. He noted that if strategies to guard against the millennium bug are not implemented by March 1998, an estimated 40,000 small and medium sized UK companies will be seriously vulnerable to its effects.
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