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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Microsoft Excel does some fuzzy math

Microsoft's Excel 2007 spreadsheet program is going to have to relearn part of its multiplication table.
In a blog post, Microsoft employee David Gainer said that when computer users tried to get Excel 2007 to multiply some pairs of numbers and the result was 65,535, Excel would incorrectly display 100,000 as the answer.

Gainer said Excel makes mistakes multiplying 77.1 by 850, 10.2 by 6,425 and 20.4 by 3,212.5, but the program appears to be able to handle 16,383.75 times 4.

"Further testing showed a similar phenomenon with 65,536 as well," Gainer wrote Tuesday.

He said Excel was actually performing the calculations correctly, but when it comes time to show the answer on the screen, it messes up.

Gainer said the bug is limited to six numbers from 65,534.99999999995 to 65,535, and six numbers from 65,535.99999999995 to 65,536, and that Microsoft is working hard to fix the problem.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Microsoft | Excel | David Gainer

Excel (Electronic) Assemblies Ltd

The Business

Excel Assemblies (EA) was established in 1987 in a small industrial unit, making cable harnesses to customer specifications. The company has a turnover of £3m and employs 95 people. EA has a blue chip customer base within the UK, which covers a range of industry sectors, from vending machines to weighing scales. EA is a customer focussed and quality driven business and this is reflected in its operational culture.

The company's business objectives are to:

Grow its blue chip customer base across the UK;
Expand the business by offering value added services and by providing higher-level assembly facilities;
Improve market intelligence and promotion of the business;
Minimise expensive on-site customer support to resolve minor problems;
Increase exchange of information between customers, such as data transfer of CAD files, and other trading information.

Use of eCommerce

An earlier project, to adopt EDI between EA and one of its major customers had failed, with both partners expressing disappointment. However, the sales and marketing director was benefiting from improved communications with customers through his use of an Internet account.

The company has implemented two ISDN lines for general eMail and using the Net to look for suppliers. EA also created a basic Web site. Experimentation with Internet based video conferencing was unsuccessful, due to lack of bandwidth. A fall-back position was to use a small Web cam, and to send still pictures as attachments to eMail. EA intend to use a digital camera to improve image quality.

One of their major supplies is sending them daily sales and manufacturing forecasts, using eMail with an attached spreadsheet, saving two days of a clerk's time per week, which equates to a saving of £4,600 per annum. The customer has also benefited by reducing EA's stock-holding of looms by 50%. In return EA has become the sole supplier and increased overall turnover by 10%.

Benefits & Issues

Real business benefits, and a clear return on investment in eCommerce, have been won by EA in the areas of operations and logistics. A stonger and more mutually profitable business relationship has also been developed, with one of EA's major customers.

The main areas to address for the future use of eCommerce are:

The use of their web site for marketing and business development;
To resolve the customer service and technical support inefficiencies;
Explore the benefits of eBanking for financial transactions between their customers and suppliers;
To provide Internet access for all employees that use a PC.

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