AKRON—To keep the Millennium Bug from shutting down their businesses, tire dealers need to move quickly and remove all potential glitches from their systems and equipment. Most industry software providers say computer-savvy persons can test their equipment, but suggest they might want to contact their suppliers to avoid problems. (The Small Business Administration notes there are risks involved in rolling the date on your computer systems forward. It suggests you understand what those risks are for your organization.)
Dealers who feel they are capable of testing their computer hardware and operating system (Windows, Unix, DOS etc.) should, during non-business hours, set the date ahead to 12/31/99 and the time to 11:59 p.m., said Wayne Croswell, president of ASA Tire Systems Inc.
If the computer shows Jan. 1, 2000, in the next minute, that means the operating system is compliant.
Within all computer hardware is a time clock hooked to a battery called CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor), which tells the computer the time when it's turned on.
The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) reads the CMOS clock and expresses that reading as a time and date. The operating system then uses the date to run software.
To test the hardware, set the same date and time as for the operating system test, but shut the machine down and wait a few minutes, Mr. Croswell said. Hopefully, when the machine boots up again, the default date will show Jan. 1, 2000.
If 2000 doesn't show up as the year for either the operating system or the hardware, then a dealer will need to call the hardware and operating system vendors about upgrades.
In some cases, the BIOS can be changed to read the year 2000. If not, then the only solution is to buy a new computer, said David Elsey, director of marketing and corporate sales at Quality Design Systems Inc.
The same time/clock tests need to be done for 2/29/2000 to see if the computer can read the coming leap year, Mr. Croswell said. An inability to read the leap-year date can cause sales numbers to run into the next month or fiscal year.
Once those two components are tested, dealers need to evaluate all software applications, including programs loaded onto the computer that don't directly affect a dealer's business, such as word processing.
The tire-industry software vendors contacted by Tire Business—ASA Tire Systems, which sells Tire Max and Tire Pro; Quality Design Systems, which sells TireMaster and CyberWheels; and Signal Software Corp., which sells Tire Works Gold—all maintain that these accounting software products and all other software products they offer are Y2K ready.
Signal also maintains that its automated retread management system and its tire-tracking system for commercial fleets are Y2K compliant, said Peter Carlino, Signal's vice president of sales.
However, all three companies admit that older versions of their software may not be compliant. TireMaster versions below 2.1 are not Y2K compliant, Mr. Elsey said.
These software firms offer upgrades on disk or CD-ROM and technical support for all customers.
Signal performs a systems audit for its users that includes the time/date test for the BIOS and operating systems, Mr. Carlino said. Signal prefers to handle Y2K tests for its customers rather than let dealers do it themselves.
``We'll inform the dealer of what happens under certain scenarios,'' he said. ``We want to protect the dealer from the problems he accidentally or purposely creates, because those problems become problems for our support department.''
Mr. Croswell recommended that dealers perform the time/date test on the computers that control diagnostic machines, even if the machines are only 2 years old. A manufacturer could have had an oversupply of BIOS chips programmed with two-digit dates.
At least two manufacturers, Hunter Engineering Co. and SPX Corp., list the Y2K status of their products on their respective Web sites: www.hunter.com/pub/product/y2k.htm and www.spx.com.
The most important thing to remember about Y2K is that the date error could be anywhere and needs to be checked, Mr. Carlino said. ``Dealers fail to realize that every device they have attached to the network and every software product that they use on any of their PCs could cause a problem to the integrity of the network.''