FLEMING COS. WINDS ALARM: CLOCK TICKS ON YEAR 2000

PHILADELPHIA -- Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, will launch a marketing campaign designed to raise the level of urgency among independent retailers about the looming year-2000 issue. The campaign is scheduled to kick off by the end of this year."Our retail side began to recognize some time ago that it was going to be extremely difficult to get the independent retailers we deal with to take this thing

PHILADELPHIA -- Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, will launch a marketing campaign designed to raise the level of urgency among independent retailers about the looming year-2000 issue. The campaign is scheduled to kick off by the end of this year.

"Our retail side began to recognize some time ago that it was going to be extremely difficult to get the independent retailers we deal with to take this thing seriously early enough to do something about it," said Mike McCormick, director for Year 2000 at Fleming. "As a result, we are building a whole campaign to go out and spin up the awareness at the retail level."

McCormick spoke at "The Year 2000 Systems Challenge" session at the Productivity Convention & Exposition, held here Oct. 26 to 29. The event was sponsored by the Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., and the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington, as well as 12 other food industry associations.

While details of the campaign are not yet completed, Fleming is considering using newsletters, fliers and web pages, among other communication tools, to make retailers understand that the year-2000 computer issue needs their attention now. This is further underscored by the campaign motto, "Don't Wait, Fix It In 1998."

The year-2000 problem, dubbed the Millennium Bug, resides in computer hardware and software that cannot correctly recognize dates past Dec. 31, 1999.

Fleming is also working on programs with vendors such as IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., and NCR Corp., Dayton, Ohio, to develop a service that will help retailers determine whether their systems, including those for point-of-sale and energy management, are year 2000 compliant.

McCormick urged retailers and wholesalers to allow ample time to upgrade their systems' infrastructure to avoid the Millennium Bug.

Fleming is migrating to a level of the computer language Cobol that is year 2000 compliant, so the wholesaler will be able to run compliant software applications. However, the process is taking more than twice as long to implement as originally estimated. "It's a much bigger chunk than expected," McCormick warned the audience.

The wholesaler is currently working on solving year-2000 issues related to its Fleming Online Operational Distribution Systems, which run the day-to-day operations of its warehouses. Approximately 35 warehouses use the Foods system; six other warehouses use a different system.

Approximately 24 of Fleming's 307 information technology staffers are dedicated to year-2000 issues with the Foods system, along with an outside consulting group, Information Management Resources, Clearwater, Fla. The wholesaler is spending $3 million to $4 million for the outside consulting alone, said McCormick.