EVANSVILLE, (Ind.) - After making its way through some 6,000 computer mainframe programs, about 450 personal computers, a telephone system and loads of software, Atlas Van Lines announces that it is Y2K compliant. "It's been a real challenge for our technical team and for staff members who helped us identify testing needs in their areas," said Dick Arneson, vice president of Atlas' Management Information Systems (MIS). "This was an amazing situation that had to be fixed - and it's been quite a job getting it done."
Arneson and his MIS team spent about 90 percent of their time updating Atlas' computer mainframe. The mainframe was one of the toughest systems to conquer because it was developed in the 1960s and 70s (during which time it was common practice to save expensive disk space by creating date fields without centuries). The mainframe was also one of the most important systems to update because it holds the base information from which almost every department in the company executes its work.
"The mainframe involves many of Atlas' key operations, including shipments, dispatching, claims, revenue accounting, and settlement, which is used to distribute revenues back to Atlas agents," Arneson said. To ensure that all aspects of the system were ready for Jan. 1, the MIS team had personnel from each Atlas department identify the types of business scenarios they encounter on a day-to-day basis. This included everything from the most routine tasks to more specialized operating procedures that might occur just once or twice a year. As testing commenced and reports on those tests became available, the departments were needed again to review the reports and verify whether the results of the tests were correct.
"We've had to make sure that whenever we made a change - and we made literally thousands of them - that the individual system still functioned properly," Arneson said. "We also had to make sure that the changes didn't cross over and adversely affect the workings of some other area. Every change we made had the potential of causing a problem somewhere along the line."
Besides the mainframe, the MIS team updated building systems, environmental systems, software, and the in-house personal computer system. Other existing systems, such as the Corporate Customer Access System (CCAS), the Atlas Intranet, and the company's e-mail system were already engineered to take on the 21st Century.
"Our biggest concern overall has been our goal of implementing all of the changes without disrupting business," said Al Lene´, Y2K project leader for Atlas. "We feel confident that's going to happen when the New Year begins."
Headquartered in Evansville, IN, Atlas Van Lines is a major transporter of household goods and special products through some 600 agents across the U.S. and Canada, and more than 800 worldwide. Atlas is the nation's fourth-largest van line, and ranks as the third-largest carrier of household goods.