Manufacturers Struggle to Keep Pace with Microsoft

The year-old Microsoft Manufacturing User Group (MS-MUG) has urged the software giant to slow down the introduction of new operating system releases so its members can keep pace with upgrades.

Product turnover, or churn, is a major problem because manufacturers can't afford to implement new operating systems or service packs every time Microsoft Corp. releases an upgrade, the 50-member MS-MUG said in its first report.

"If you are a large, multinational manufacturing company and (have) 700 facilities each with 30 to 40 software licenses running machines, it's not like you can shut down operations every three months to do updates," said group spokesman Dennis Daniels, director of business at ARC Advisory Group Inc. in Dedham, Massachusetts.

MS-MUG was created at Microsoft's behest after manufacturing users started buying Windows NT.

Procter & Gamble Co. has been using Microsoft software in its plants for a year and has needed more personnel to handle support and upgrades, said Dave Bauman, technology leader for corporate engineering at the Cincinnati-based company and chairman of MS-MUG.

Ron Sielinski, technology evangelist at Microsoft, said through a spokeswoman that he has received the MS-MUG report and will respond to the members late this month or early next month. He declined to comment further.

Pat Kennedy, president of OSI Software Inc., a Microsoft reseller in San Leandro, California, disagreed that all manufacturing end users are unhappy.

Kennedy said he loves the enhancements Microsoft is making, especially with Windows 2000 and Windows CE 3.0.

"(They're) the best thing to happen to the process industry in years," he said.

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