It appears information-technology executives in the supermarket industry have heeded the often dire warnings about the year-2000 computer problem. They have been marshalling their forces to test, update and re-test automated systems to make sure they will correctly read dates by January 1, 2000.
Retailers told SN they are at or beyond the halfway mark in ensuring their own systems' compliance, and are beginning to query and test in earnest their trading partners' readiness for the new millennium.
It's still too early to determine the long-term impact of this concentration of time, energy and resources on a project that, by its nature, could not be postponed.
Have other IT initiatives been put on the back burner or abandoned altogether? Has the year 2000 process, and the attention it has gained in the mainstream media, focused the entire organization on IT's importance? Has the need to upgrade or replace certain systems been a net gain for supermarket technology? These are questions that will be debated well into the 21st century.
VP, management information
systems chief information
officer Abco Foods, Phoenix
The year 2000 will absolutely have an impact on our information technology priorities. In fact, it's our number-one IT priority. This goes across the board -- it could be the biggest nightmare we've ever faced as an industry if we don't take care of this issue right now.
If we don't get year-2000 compliant and then find the means to test this before we get into or close to the actual year 2000, there will be a lot of surprised people in this industry. For example, people might not get their bank accounts right.
At Abco Foods, some of our applications are already year-2000 compliant and are being tested. We want to have the rest ready to be tested by the middle or the end of 1998.
We are pretty confident that our other trading partners, especially in the data and banking industries, will also be year-2000 compliant in time. We're constantly testing with major players such as Visa, American Express and MasterCard, and they're testing us in turn.
In addition, we're owned by Fleming, and they have a major effort in place. We have to show them we've run and done year-2000 testing and send it on to them so they can be sure we're not just talking but doing it.
Balls Food Stores
Kansas City, Kan.
We are in very good shape for the new millennium. We began our evaluation and upgrading process last year, when we had an outside consultant come in and do an internal project analysis. We know exactly where we need to be.
This third party helped us document systems and vendors that we might not remember are related to the year-2000 issue, or the outside technology that needs to be addressed. This includes alarms on coolers, clocks, etc.
We continue to address the problem and will probably go all the way through the third quarter of 1999 to ask ourselves, and confirm, that we have touched every area. We are about two-thirds of the way through switching systems that are not compliant, and we expect to be compliant by the first quarter of 1999. Technically, we really should be completely compliant by the end of this year, but it is good to have a bit of extra time.
What we are doing over the next six months is documenting what we and our vendors are doing to be compliant. For example, [our clock vendor] reported to us that our time clocks are compliant, and we conducted a test to get the results for any further issues. We are on the ball.
president and CEO
Stater Bros. Markets Colton, Calif.
We are confident that Stater Bros., as well as our trading partners, will be compliant for the year 2000. By early 1999 we should be ready for the new millennium. We have been working on these conversions for over a year.
Our number-one priority is making all of our applications year-2000 compliant. So far, we are halfway done, and the other half will be done by the end of 1998. This is an area where every company should be aware and aggressive. We started our conversions last year.
Right now our trading partners are testing their critical systems. This is a concern, but based on the ones we talked to, some are already there and others are working toward their compliancy goal.
I think we should be nervous. If something doesn't check out, the whole system, which includes many areas, blows up and shuts down. This is a major concern for anyone.
chief information officer
We expect that by the end of the year we will completely solve our year-2000 conversions. Currently we are more than halfway through the conversion process. We have been working on the compliancy of our systems for almost two years.
Before the end of this year we will be all set for the new millennium. As for our trading partners, we are working with critical suppliers to ensure their compliance.
I think our first priority is to get our own systems in-house in order, then concentrate on external suppliers. And that task will start very shortly.