Why Team Building and Communication Could Have Helped Those That Predicted Gloom

One of the big things that led to the Y2K scare is the lack of communication between parties and the fear that was built around it. Everybody likes fear – but it’s not the most productive emotion. And this is what led to the Y2K Status bug in the first place – there was a lot of mis information and many parties did not communicate with each other on exactly where the threat was coming from and how to fix it – but more importantly how likely it was to actually become a reality.

There was an agenda for the news cycle to hype up this fear in order to get attention and eyeballs from the general populace – the whole thing was unfortunate and what was more unfortunate was the amount of money that companies spent to be “Y2K Proof” – something that if you look back at it – was really a bunch of un necessary spending.

If only there was more communication than the software engineers could discuss with management and get to the bottom of the reality that at the end of the day would allow both parties to focus on things that are more important.

There is a company in Sydney who does team building sydney ultimo and they had this issue recently with a company they worked for – what they said was that IT companies face very unique challenges in their team building roster – technology companies traditionally rely on digital communication methods and this can pose a risk when it comes to brainstorming and actually getting into a room and discussing these things.

So that is why team building is so important – my hope is that more people will use team building in technology related situations – while the Y2K situation was an instance where nothing ended up happening the worse situation is when people don’t expect it and something bad actually happens – the good news is that any time something that we plan to avoid risk for doesn’t happen we don’t really lose that much – since at the end of the day whether we prevented it or it didnt’ happen anyway – we’ve still spent the money – were aware of the risks and nothing had come of it.

Examples of Failures – Embedded Systems

Tava Technologies : A White Paper that Discusses the Significance of the Effect of the Millennium Bug (Y2K) on Process Control, Factory Automation & Embedded Systems in Manufacturing Companies. Feb 98. (pdf) ”

“To date, with plant floor Y2K experience at over 400 sites, the company has yet to find a single site that did not require some degree of remediation; and, to date, having researched tens of thousands of manufacturing automation systems and components for Y2K readiness, the company has found more than 20% to be either non-compliant or “suspect”, that is non-compliant under certain circumstances.”
Problems range from major operational nuisances to erratic production shortages to complete plant shutdowns. But, perhaps the worst case of all will be systems that continue to work but make bad decisions effecting product yields. It may be on January 1, 2000, or it may be days or even months later.”

Industry Wakes Up to the Year 2000 Menace Fortune article

Ralph J. Szygenda, chief information officer at General Motors, whose staff is now feverishly correcting what he calls “catastrophic problems” in every GM plant. In March the automaker disclosed that it expects to spend $400 million to $550 million to fix year 2000 problems in factories as well as engineering labs and offices.
Rob Baxter, Honeywell’s vice president in charge of making his company’s line of industrial control products “year 2000 compliant” From what he has seen among Honeywell customers, Baxter fears that “some plants will have trouble operating and will have to shut down. Some will run at a reduced scope. I expect considerable system outages during December 1999 through February 2000.”
Manufacturing’s task is compounded by the multiplicity of its computer programs. Below the layers of more or less standard software is a vast range of equipment run directly by built-in chips and programs, which outnumber those in the rest of business by a factor of ten.
General Motors – “At each one of our factories there are catastrophic problems,” says the blunt-talking executive. “Amazingly enough, machines on the factory floor are far more sensitive to incorrect dates than we ever anticipated. When we tested robotic devices for transition into the year 2000, for example, they just froze and stopped operating.”
Only a few companies offer software that can deal with factory problems. Among them are Raytheon Engineers & Constructors, Fluor-Daniel, and Peritus Software Services of Billerica, Mass., as well as the service operations of companies that sell industrial controls, such as Foxboro and Honeywell.
Tava Technologies. Its Plant Y2kOne software includes a database on 10,000 microprocessors, related control devices, and software from more than 1,000 vendors that is used on the factory floor. Among other things, Plant Y2kOne can check out software in robots, PCs, and PLCs; operating systems such as Unix, DOS, and Windows NT; and embedded software such as a program used to guide automated vehicles.
Leap-year snafus damaged production lines when programmers failed to account for the extra day in February 1996. At a small U.S. manufacturer of industrial solutions that prefers to remain unnamed, production ground to a halt on Jan. 1, 1997. Before workers could remedy the situation, the liquids hardened in the pipelines, which had to be replaced at a cost of $1 million. That caused late deliveries and the loss of three customers. A similar leap-year oversight caused $1 million of damage at Comalco’s aluminum refinery in Tasmania, when controls at all smelting-pot lines shut down, damaging five pot cells beyond repair.

Year 2000 Problem Sightings ( http://info.cv.nrao.edu/y2k/sighting.htm ) Excellent source for general Y2K failures

report Anesthesia machines non-compliant – supplier tries to sell new systems
report Congressional Subcommittee survey
Phillips Petroleum Y2K test – an oil rig hydrogen sulfide detector system stopped working.
Chrysler plant lock out
NORAD Y2K – total system blackout
Cara Corporation Embedded Systems Specialist David C. Hall stated that there are over 40 billion microprocessors worldwide, and anywhere from one to ten percent may be impacted by the date change. Hall described an oil company that has determined the need to replace thousands of chips controlling an oil dispensation system. The chips, he said, do not fit on the existing motherboards and new motherboards do not fit into existing valves. As a result, the valves themselves will have to be replaced, Hall said
report Users Demand Y2K Lemon Aid, Control Magazine
Y2K failure rate in semiconductor plants – 3.3 billion micro-controllers embedded in the automation infrastructure, 50 million will have Y2K anomalies.
As a reference point, Woll reviewed the Dept. of Defense Year 2000 project inventory report. He said of 3,962 applicable systems, 582 were OK, 623 were being renovated, 628 were retired, and the balance of 1,900 was being assessed. The numbers suggested that about 25% of all the systems would require some level of fixing.
Patrick Meehan, Y2K program manager, DuPont Operations, presented the large-user perspective. “Let’s face it, there’s not much upside and a lot of downside,” he offered. He sees that 50% of DuPont’s work will be with process control devices and systems and his current estimate is that, while 100% will be examined, 10-15% will need remediation.
“Towards the end of 1998, those who haven’t yet worried about Y2K will find themselves forced to. If they don’t, Y2K becomes the best thing that happened to lawyers since divorce.”

http://www.xs4all.nl/~zooko/Y2k-real-life.html

full story General Motors tested robotic devices – they “just froze and stopped working”
full story control valve for generator cooling integrated over time for smoothing
full story Chrylsler plant test locks the doors on testers
We’re pretty sure our first tier will work,” Chrysler President Thomas Stallkamp said of his company’s largest suppliers. “It’s the second and third and fourth tier who supply not just our industry but others. As you get further down the food chain, you’ve got a guy making widgets for us as well as for Boeing and Maytag, and those guys are the ones we’re worried about.”
“We got lots of surprises,” said Chrysler Chairman Robert Eaton. “Nobody could get out of the plant. The security system absolutely shut down and wouldn’t let anybody in or out. And you obviously couldn’t have paid people, because the time-clock systems didn’t work.”

http://www.euy2k.com/reallife.htm

a power plant in the United Kingdom – control valve for generator cooling is integrated over time for smoothing
ITRON meter reader decks and associated upload/download equipment fail on 2000
NRC-NEI Meeting (If a plant can be shut down because flooding prevents proper emergency response, then Y2K failures of emergency procedures could require shutdowns)
details Hawaiian Electric Company
Western Power – Many of the control systems represented in power systems, have dates associated with them. These could be reclosers, Voltage regulators, Governors, PLCs etc. The list is endless. You then have a swathe of actual ‘applications’ involved in the delivery of electicity such as your Distributed Control Systems and your SCADA (System Control and DATA (eg.dates) Acquisition) systems, all of which have dates associated with them. Much of what happens throughout the process of generating and delivering electricity is ‘DATE AND TIME STAMPED’

http://www.sysmod.com/embexamp.htm

North Sea Expro (Shell-Exxon JV) Platform, Pipeline and Gas Plants – 12% failure rate
Alcoa Steel Plants : 50% of control systems will fail
BP Refinery – vendor not found for 20, 3 will fail, 2 will cause shutdown
Capelrig Millennium Test Centre for Shell
demonstates how failing system controlling an oil rig pump would float the platform
oil rig typically has 8000-10000 embedded systems
details Hawaiian Electric Company energy management system (EMS) failure would haveresulted in HECo’s transmission network crashing, and by default, a major power outage and loss of all generating capacity
Programmable thermostats fail, one cannot be restarted.
Chip failure would cut off cooling system and cause explosion in chemical plant
Fossil power plant control and downstream PLC clock mismatch would trip plant
Gas pipleline metering failure
PLC’s locking up due to Year field overflow
Sewage controls fail to track tide tables properly

http://www.year2000.com/archive/similar.html (Computer problems similar to Y2K)

telephone outage that occurred in New York on September 17, 1991
Gulf War Patriot missile system had an unrecognized clock drift over a 100-hour period – tracking error of 678 meters
the software for the F-16 fighter would cause the plane to fly upside down whenever it crossed the equator
Berlin 1993, two trains collided – the track was set on the holiday two-way traffic setting
Cement factory chip failure drops rocks on cars
99 year old man’s blood count judged by infant norms
In Colorado Springs one child was killed, another injured – the traffic light systems continued in weekend mode and ignored the school schedule -failure getting the time transmitted to them from the atomic clock in Boulder
Several leap year problems noted including aluminum smelter

http://www.granite.ab.ca/year2000/incidents.htm

The Tiwai Pt, New Zealand] aluminium smelter,
PCMH Biomedical Department – Hamilton ventilator failure
UK National Health Service problems
Credit card failure
“a major, catastrophic problem” in ICBM launch controls
Bank merges due to Year 2000 problem
Robot has the wrong date
Therac-25 X-ray system kills six patients (Details on non-y2k “software” problem
More Visa card problems

Embedded SystemS Problem (ESSP) Ltd

Embedded systems are used extensively to control and monitor engineering and manufacturing processes. They underpin the whole of the world’s manufacturing and engineering base. Energy (oil, coal, gas, nuclear), planes, ships, pharmaceutical industries .. food, drink and clean water …car manufacturing, national and international defence, railway networks, telecommunications, medical equipment, broadcast media. Washing machines, microwave ovens, video recorders, alarms/intruder detection systems and central heating controllers. control temperature, lighting, air conditioning and security access in many offices. And they also support point of sale equipment, cash dispensers and traffic management in a typical High Street.
During 1995, more than 200 million PCs were shipped worldwide. In the same period, the number of embedded systems shipped exceeded 3 billion. According to research conducted over the past year, around 5% of simple embedded systems were found to fail Millennium Bug tests. For more sophisticated embedded systems, failure rates of between 50% and 80% have been reported (Action 2000 UK Government Taskforce). In our own experience however we have found it closer to 15%-20% in processor intensive industries.

http://www.ccta.gov.uk/mill/embed.htm

http://www.state.id.us/y2k/solemb.htm Process control software
http://www.compinfo.co.uk/y2k/scada.htm Embedded Industrial Control Systems
http://www.iee.org.uk/2000risk/toc.htm
Chip, Microcontroller, Microprocessor – Hitex Resources (not Y2K)

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