COLOGNE/ZURICH - No major problems were experienced by European automakers or their supply networks as the millennium arrived.
'Our performance turned out to be far better than I expected,' said Peter Erbert, program manager Y2K and European Monetary Union coordinator, Ford of Europe.
Jim Dunn, general director of Y2K and European Monetary Union programs at GM international operations, said he always knew 'if we did the right job we would have no problems.'
Indeed, both companies believe their Y2K experiences will help them prepare for future projects.
'European Monetary Union will be more complex than Y2K,' said Erbert. 'I expect the lessons we have learned during Y2K in how to structure ourselves for a cross-company program will be effective through the EMU program.'
Dunn said the experience gained from the Y2K program would continue to work for GM.
'I believe it will add significant value to GM as we go forward in other areas, for example in product planning and in planning new plants and lines,' he said.
'We are the biggest automotive organization, but the best lesson of Y2K has probably been if we can get senior management behind a program, we can also become a virtual organization to face new challenges.'
Erbert estimates Ford's European compliance operation cost about $60 million. 'We had expected problems with suppliers. That was not the case. The suppliers worked very well with us, and we were very pleased with their support - and likewise the support from the dealer side.'
Erbert said Ford's compliance program was 'worth the money, and the effort. We did extra research into all sorts of basic computer systems, and we found a number of problems during the testing stage. That was extremely valuable. We are still discovering a few basic computer hiccups which we have been able to rectify in a way that has meant our business has not been impacted.'
Erbert said most of Ford's Y2K work was completed by the beginning of 1999.
'We prepared rigorously for this well in advance,' he said. 'We quickly came to the conclusion that communication holds the key to the success of the whole structure.
'The perception of how deeply company processes are dependent on information technology was something that had never been recognized by all people across all levels.'
In the run-up to the millennium, GM estimated its global Y2K expenditure at between $564 million-$624 million. GM Europe's share was about $92 million.
'A lot of money was spent - we are still adding up - but it will be in line with expectations,' Dunn said.
Not all GM plants, processes and programs were yet fully operational after the turn of the year - Australia has been on summer vacation, for example.
It will be the end of the first quarter before the total compliance study is complete.
'But I think we can make a provisional assessment with confidence,' Dunn said. 'We have no reason to think Australia is going to have any particular problems, because they use the same systems as the USA and Europe. I would say we have been successful and there have been no problems related to Y2K. We are really pleased.'
Dunn said there was always the thought that GM might have overlooked something.
'But as the moments passed, the lines in our control centers around the world remained clear,' he said.
Dunn said his team spent two-and-a-half years on GM's Y2K program.
'I think it has been extraordinary because of the number of people in the organization who worked together over an extended period of time,' he said.
'It was a brand new program. We will never know the exact number of people concerned, but globally it was hundreds. I cannot say enough about the human resources involved. Together, we had to solve problems as they came up, and maneuver successfully through the project.'
Dunn said GM's Y2K expenditure was clearly justified.
'Money well spent? I think it was,' he said. 'Without that expenditure, Y2K would have been catastrophic.
'We did not fix anything that did not need to be fixed, and we can demonstrate that the money was well spent.'
Dunn said the experience gained from the Y2K program would continue to work for GM. 'It has been a great confidence-building exercise.'