DETROIT - 'Interconnectedness' is more than a New Age mantra. It's what Y2K is all about.
To executives of a worldwide auto industry racing toward 2000, interconnectedness is a crucial reason for the vulnerability they feel.
Take Donnelly Corp., for example. There seem to be innumerable ways in which even a minor Y2K-related chip failure at some business or other entity in or around Holland, Michigan, the company's headquarters - or elsewhere in the world - could cripple one or more Donnelly plants indefinitely.
Communications alone is a tangle of interdependency. Each of Donnelly's 10 western Michigan facilities, for example, depends on electronic data interchange with its suppliers and with its OEM customers for the movement of purchase orders back and forth - systems based on computers.
In addition, Donnelly employees each day electronically transmit blueprints, CAD drawings and other documents to one another as well as to about 30 other plants worldwide. That's not to mention countless phone calls and faxes.
Supplies come to Donnelly's Michigan plants from all over as well. So a load of formed windows headed for the company on Dec. 31 could be waylaid if the trucking company's global positioning system satellite is knocked out by Y2K.
Similarly, problems with a scheduling computer could waylay a load of electrochromic cells coming by boat from Asia to be installed in Donnelly's dimming mirrors. That's not to mention the corrugated boxes that are trucked in from Wisconsin or the special gloves that regularly arrive to help Donnelly workers handle glass safely.
Donnelly can keep a vigilant eye on its headquarters power supply because a local utility provides that. But Fred Fish, Donnelly's Y2K project manager, believes there is a 50 percent chance that the power company won't have the juice running on Jan. 1.
That does not even address the personal concerns that Donnelly's 2,500 local employees might have -depending on the course of Y2K through their households and communities - and how those might preoccupy their actions instead of the urgency to get to work.
Chris Webster, head of year 2000 services for the Cap Gemini consultancy, warns that 'every business, both private and public sector, should have a continuity plan in place now.' That plan should ruthlessly prioritize the areas that are most crucial to the survival of the organization.
Cap Gemini suggests:
Finding alternative suppliers for vital products and services as a backup.
Bringing in additional staff on site to deal with Y2K-related problems, especially for companies where customer service is vital.
Sharing resources with other organizations.
Identifying and shutting down nonessential services.
Considering the possibility of transport delays and stoppages resulting in staff not getting to work and supplies left undelivered.