Rolls-Royce told shareholders at its annual general meeting last week that the threat of millennium bugs on Britain factory floors is "a myth".
Sir Rolf Robbins, chairman of the aerospace engineering group, said that ensuring Y2K compliance for its enterprise planning systems and for its key trading partners far outweighed problems with embedded systems. The company says it will drop suppliers whose systems are not Y2K compliant.
Robbins dismissed claims that manufacturers faced an uphill task tracing and correcting millennium problems in embedded systems, or so called 'black box' controllers.
"It's completely untrue. The problem is not with the machines, it is with the shop floor systems," he said.
Only around one per cent of machine tool controllers keep track of calendar dates for maintenance scheduling, said group managing director Colin Green.
"If the bugs are not fixed after the millennium, that one per cent might send out a warning that they think they are due for a service - but that's all they will do. None of the controllers will shut a machine down. It would just be an administrative problem dealing with the alert," Green said.
Robbins told the AGM that one of Rolls-Royce's biggest Year 2000 headaches will be ensuring the compliance of its suppliers and their common interfaces.
"We've made it very clear to our suppliers that if they are not Year 2000 compliant, then they won't be our suppliers any more," he said.
Green said Rolls-Royce began millennium compliance on its inhouse manufacturing system five years ago. The system has been tested and is now compliant.
Tim Stammers is deputy news editor of Computing.
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