AT FIRST GLANCE the new name for this magazine, “Controlled Environments,” implies the concept of highly specialized, heavily monitored, and limited access structures. In actuality, controlled environments and contamination control begin far from the final stages of assembly, far from the cleanroom, and increasingly beyond the walls of the final fabrication facility. Companies producing critical products in such areas as microelectronics, medical devices, and aerospace/space exploration recognize the problem; and many of them attempt to control or specify the performance characteristic of incoming product. In fact, there may be advantages to applying the principles of lean manufacturing to cleaning, contamination control, and surface quality and to extending those principles so that they are adopted at companies that precede the final manufacturing facility.
Lean manufacturing is concerned with the value-added (or not added) of a given activity. If a manufacturing task does not add value to the product then it is considered to be waste and unneeded. Steps in which contamination is either prevented or removed are frequently value-added because the consequences of avoiding these steps can lead to manufacturing rework or, even worse, failure in the product after delivery . Even with controlling the environment to prevent or remove contamination, lean principles can be employed. If contamination can be prevented in the first place, then cleaning steps to remove it become unnecessary. It is also possible to over-clean. Contamination removal involves removing unwanted material from a surface. All too often the same process that removes the unwanted material also removes some of the underlying substrate,modifying the surface if not the overall structure.
In order to apply lean principles to specifications for incoming product from suppliers and delivered product to customers, it is imperative to establish communication and cooperation with both the suppliers and customers. In his ground-breaking book, “X-Engineering the Corporation: Reinventing Your Business in the Digital Age,”  James Champy makes the compelling argument that to manufacture competitively in the 21st Century, companies need to cross the boundaries that separate them from their suppliers and customers. One of Champy’s key words is “harmonization,” making rules, regulations, systems, and processes in accord with each other. As such, harmonization includes standardization of processes as well as making processes transparent, allowing suppliers and customers to see and understand your processes. Champy incorporates the concept of customer “pull” as the driver for the process “push,” and he extends this beyond the walls of any single fabrication facility. This concept is important because, as products become increasingly complex in terms of diversity of materials, surface attributes, as well as surface finishes and coatings, companies increasingly depend on the activities of specialized sub-vendors,job-shops, and other outside artisans.
If you as a manufacturer do not know exactly what your customer needs and why they need it that way, you will not be able to design the most efficient process to make and assemble that product. If your suppliers do not know what you need and why, they may spend unneeded steps (at higher cost) to deliver a product to your specification. In contrast, with cooperation between supplier and yourself, either contamination can be avoided before you receive it or a cleaning step can be postponed until it reaches your fabrication facility. With x-engineering and with increased communication between supplier and customer, the end result can be a better product produced at lower cost.
1 E. Kanegsberg. “Lean, Mean, and Green Cleaning,” Presentation 2CT32, CleanTech2005, Chicago, (2005).
2 J. Champy. “X-Engineering the Corporation: Reinventing Your Businessin the Digital Age,” Warner Business Books, (2002).
Barbara Kanegsberg and Ed Kanegsberg are independent consultants in critical and precision cleaning, surface preparation, and contamination control. They are the editors of “Handbook for Critical Cleaning,” CRC Press.Contact them at BFK Solutions LLC., 310-459-3614; email@example.com; www.bfksolutions.com.