How did you learn about cleaning technology? And how do you learn now?
Remember “Telephone,” a game most of us have played at one time or another? It goes like this: a number of children stand in a row. The leader, often a teacher, whispers something to the first child on the end of the row, something like:
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.
That child whispers what she heard to the second child, who whispers what he thought he heard to the third child. On the message goes to the last child in the row, who then states what she thought she’d heard:
Mary had an little lamb
It danced in skips and hops,
It danced into the road one day
And ended up as chops
It may be that this humorous variation on the old nursery rhyme isn’t what would actually have been heard by the last child in line. But anyone hearing the final version would certainly receive a different impression about the relationship between the Mary and her lamb.
I believe verbal, not written, communication is still the primary way technical knowledge is transferred about cleaning technology at any level—gross, precision, or critical. Scientific papers certainly aren’t written to educate, but to inform (or impress) those who already know. The quality of material written for trade publications can vary widely, as may the objectivity of product literature from commercial sources.
In the late 1980s, I was assigned to develop and manage new cleaning technology for a large chemical company. I learned about the technology through conversations with fellow professionals, suppliers, customers, operators, and technicians, anyone who would talk with me. And, of course, I learned by doing. There were no courses, no books, and no magazines. My cohorts agreed that their experience had been the same.
Later, as a consultant providing training in cleaning technology, I found that my clients’ and students’ previous experience had paralleled mine: what they knew about cleaning had come chiefly from verbal contact with suppliers.1
Essentially, this technology transfer had been achieved just as the information about Mary and her lamb had been passed on: by personal contact.
How will future practitioners in industrial cleaning learn? By having them listen to nursery rhymes?
We have great new tools for communication, including the ability to stream wirelessly visual and text content to individuals anywhere and at any time that use phones, tablets, and flat screen TVs. Considering the price of conventional textbooks, their cost is minimal. One minor drawback is that, at least so far, ebooks don’t always “play well” with necessary non text content graphs, tables, equations, models, and the like. But future technology will alleviate that.
The two basic problems are that we lack a curriculum and sponsorship to support the creation and dissemination of timely, accessible, authoritative, and complete information about cleaning technology. Because cleaning technology draws from so many disciplines, its curriculum is necessarily broad and surprisingly deep, including at least the:
- Chemistry and analysis of water, solvents, and detergents
- Physics of ultrasound, fluid impact, and adsorption
- Engineering and control of multiple tank operations
- Biology of microorganisms and their sterilization and removal
- Sciences of adhesion and “wettability”
- Management of safety and environmental affairs
- Legal aspects of environmental regulations and permitting
- Epidemiological concerns about employee exposures
Sponsorship must include value for the sponsor of underwriting the curriculum and its dissemination to students. But it’s not yet clear to me who that sponsor might be or what value they might receive for their support.
We need to know what you think the curriculum should contain—and more significantly, how it should be sponsored, by whom, how, and why. Please respond and contribute at the Critical Cleaning and Validation Group forum on the Controlled Environments page of LinkedIn.2
- Some feel there is something inherently wrong about learning from suppliers. I see the situation as a bargain. On the one hand, suppliers know their technology and the pitfalls of its use better than anyone, and should have the capability to communicate it to users. On the other hand, their point of view isn’t, and shouldn’t be, balanced and open about alternatives. On the third hand, suppliers know applications; from where is one to learn basic theory?
- The URL is www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2157934&trk= myg_ugrp_ovr&goback=.anb_1836983_*2.
John Durkee is the author of the book Management of Industrial Cleaning Technology and Processes, published by Elsevier (ISBN 0- 0804-48887). He is the author of the forthcoming book Solvent Cleaning for the 21st Century, also to be published by Elsevier, and is an independent consultant specializing in critical cleaning. You can contact him at PO Box 847, Hunt, TX 78024 or 122 Ridge Road West, Hunt, TX 78024; 830-238-7610; Fax 612-677-3170; or firstname.lastname@example.org.