Japanese vendors assembling Y2K crisis teams

Japan's largest computer vendors said yesterday that they are preparing year-end contingency plans to assist customers with the year 2000 (Y2K) problem.

Hitachi, NEC and Fujitsu said that over the New Year holiday spanning late December to the beginning of January, they will ready systems engineers and service personnel to fix any disruption resulting from the year 2000 problem.

A report in yesterday's Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper said that in total Japanese computer vendors will mobilize 50,000 personnel to deal with the date issue. Several of the vendors, including NEC and Fujitsu, said final plans have not yet been set. Toshiba Corp. will not prepare a year 2000 crisis team, according to a spokeswoman at the company.

Hitachi confirmed that it will dispatch a team of 10,000 systems engineers in November to assist its group members with the last-minute testing of computer systems for year 2000 compliance. Hitachi's team will be on call to fine-tune and troubleshoot systems through early next year, according to Masanao Sato, a spokesman at Tokyo-based Hitachi.

"We completed a full review of our computer systems in March of 1998. But there are still places which appear weak and we are doing more tests," said Tatsuya Shinozawa, department manager of Hitachi Software Ltd. Year 2000 Project Center. Hitachi Software is a part of the Hitachi group of companies.

Shinozawa said that 92 percent of his company's 7,639 computers and computer systems have been tested for year 2000 compliance and that the remaining machines and systems would be finished by June.

A spokesman at NEC said that yesterday's newspaper report had exaggerated the number of employees his company would commit to its year 2000 task force. NEC has developed a year 2000 contingency plan but details of the plan are still being discussed, he said. The newspaper reported that NEC would designate 10,000 people to a year 2000 crisis management team.

Last week, the Japanese government released a report indicating that while most industries were in the final stages of testing their computer systems for year 2000 compliance, small and mid-sized businesses and the public sector were lagging behind larger companiesAccording to the report, released Friday, key industries such as energy, banking and transportation will finish conducting tests of their vital computer systems by June.