Its Y2K time not Thai time : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

News from Thailand

Embedded chips could prove most difficult Y2K problem

'We are on Y2K time now, not Thai time'

Tony Waltham

Embedded chips in over 80,000 medium to large factories throughout Thailand could prove to be the most serious component of the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem for Thailand, and it is the area that has received the least attention, according to Managing Director of Utilistar Asia Company Ltd Geoff Humphreys.

He pointed out that globally now there was already a shortage of critical instrumentation and control devices that needed to be upgraded in order to work properly after the end of the year.

In some cases, even if a factory here ordered a replacement part today, it would not be available until early next year, he said.

"Suppliers now cannot cope and this problem will become much worse when production stops in factories around the world because of Y2K problems at the end of the year," he warned.

"We are on Y2K time now, not Thai time," Mr Humphreys said, adding that embedded PLC devices and distributed control systems were generally the most overlooked aspect of the Y2K problem.

Everyone focusses on financials when it comes to their computer systems, but if they are unable to manufacture any product, then there will be no money to worry about, he said, adding that embedded systems was the "red-haired stepchild of Y2K."

Mr Humphreys, who has 20 years of experience in process automation and whose company has a long track-record working in Y2K remediation in US factories, including nuclear plants, noted that embedded systems "tended to fall between the cracks."

While a company's IT department will say embedded systems are not their responsibility, the instrument people tend to say that it is the responsibility of IT.

He said that in his experience there had not been one facility that had done a Y2K inventory and assessment that had not found something that needed to be fixed and that, typically, where there were 1,000 instruments, perhaps two or three would have a serious date problem.

The potential problems were magnified, however, if there was automation and if more than one system was integrated into a process and was feeding information back to another system, he said.

Y2K remediation (fixing) expenses for plants in the US had ranged from some $18,000 to over US$1 million to ensure compliance, he noted.

He added that here engineers were often the ones telling management that there was a problem, and that this was the wrong way round.

"Y2K is a business issue and business decision, and not an IT problem but rather a management problem and is not unlike taking out insurance," Mr Humphreys said, adding that there were very few dedicated embedded systems people here while work was also starting very late.

In addition, those staff that have been charged with addressing the Y2K issue in factories generally had other full-time jobs to do and often did not have the resources to work effectively. In addition, very often staff here were given responsibility without authority, he said.

He advocated taking a step-by-step approach that followed a procedure and which took integration testing into account.

Mr Humphreys noted that his company had boiled down all the US nuclear regulatory commission requirements into a semi-automatic process and Utilistar now had a SQL database of documented information on equipment and instruments.

He added that this would now make the remediation process cheaper for its customers in Asia.

Utilistar Asia is a registered Thai company that recently signed a teaming agreement with Y2K Task Force and the company has held talks with government and business leaders here on the Y2K embedded systems issue.

Mr Humphreys said that a national effort was needed to address the embedded systems Y2K problem and that as this stage a "triage" approach would have to be adopted, looking at the mission critical areas as well as where hazardous materials were involved in production processes.

-- y2k dave (, May 21, 1999


'In some cases, even if a factory here ordered a replacement part today, it would not be available until early next year, he said.

"Suppliers now cannot cope and this problem will become much worse when production stops in factories around the world because of Y2K problems at the end of the year," he warned.

I have wondered if there were shortages in this arena. Makes remediation impossible. And after the first of the year? As my three year old grand-daughter said to me today: "oh, my!"

-- Shelia (, May 21, 1999.

Shelia -

actually it wont take a year in many cases - all it takes is long enough for the company to use up it's available $$$, and then it pretty much wont matter how much longer the parts would take to get there.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, May 21, 1999.


I wonder what this will mean in Thailand. Executives will know they are up against it sooner rather than later. Look for many companies trying to sell. Many will try to merge. There may be numerous retirements.

There is also the possibility of the looting of the corporation from the inside. Kind of like stripping a corpse.

By the way, I enjoyed our conversation at dinner last evening and I will see you at the next one.

-- Mike Lang (, May 22, 1999.


yeah I'm looking forward to the next one too! You raise some good points to ponder and here's another:

What effects will this have with regard to the Shan state / opium trade?

[For those who are unfamiliar with the area, the Shan State - a.k.a. the 'golden triangle'- is a triangular area (duh!) that takes in the northern parts of Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand on the map. That area is ruled by a semi-hereditary (as in which relative stays alive longest) warlord and produces one crop - opium poppies. They produce opium and some heroin, as well as marketing the raw poppies to various interested parties. They accept only *one* form of currency in exchange - gold.

Although treated as an outlaw state to the point that it is not even marked on regular maps, the Shan state has never been successfully invaded. The region is extremely mountainous, with few developed roads, the altitudes are high (uh, yeah) and the peasants are absolutely loyal. This last is due not so much to the Shan warlord's sense of law enforcement (swift and absolute), as it is to the fact that the peasants are well aware that they are making hundreds of times the income available to peasants outside the area, who can only raise legitimate agricultural products.

Traditionally the Shan state has been able to export it's products due to the simple expedient of being able to pay all of their bribes in gold. In recent years there had been, at least in Thailand, a lessening of passive support for Shan smugglers due to the growth in the Thai economy brought about by increased exports of, shall we say, less controversial products such as expensive custom dyed silk, inexpensive cotton clothing, and the like. These new products in large part have depended on automated processes in order to make them profitable. Should that production capacity suddenly decrease or fail, with the inevitable impact on the Thai economy, many folks will have only one other source they will think of to turn to, in order to maintain their new lifestyle....

Since most of the endusers of the heroin, opium, and so on are in Europe and North America, we will most likely see some sort of impact in the drug culture here in the states as well.

linkages, domino effect, all that good stuff.

just something to think about,


-- Arlin H. Adams (, May 22, 1999.

All too true. I wonder how many crack and heroine addicts in this country. Have you ever seen a junkie in withdrawal? The hospitals will be vastly over-worked. Like many senarios, this will evolve but a peak will be reached and there will be just one more ugly situation to handle(or not). I would not want to work in a pharmacy for example.

I suppose that I must mention all the American money invested in these countries through Mutual Funds. If the fund managers pull out, and they will, these economies will crash. If it is left too late then many investers will get pennies on the dollar.

-- Mike Lang (, May 22, 1999.

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