One trend of significant concern in building cleanrooms and contamination control facilities is over-design and over-build. As someone in my company who is responsible for these activities, I am constantly assessing such trends in order to plan strategies to meet clients’ needs.
In today’s lean economic climate, available capital is limited and difficult to obtain for many hi-tech companies, particularly startups. Such companies represent a sizable portion of the contamination control facility market. The effects of over-design and over-build on these companies are higher production costs (and therefore a less competitive position in the global marketplace), less available funding for R&D, and numerous other impacts of a funding shortfall.
Until recently, if a project certified significantly better than the client’s requirements, for example the client required a class 10,000 at rest, but the facility certified for class 1,000 at rest, the client felt that the company either got a good deal or the project team had done an exceptional job. Very recently however, there has been a different reaction, almost a backlash by some clients to this situation. There now seems to be an awareness on the part of many companies of the significance of the cost of over-design and over-build and there is an expectation that its requirements will be met but not exceeded. In one instance a client went so far as to incorporate a penalty clause into the design builder’s contract to ensure that his requirements would not be exceeded.
There are a number of factors that have influenced the over-design and over-build trend. At the height of semiconductor production, the semiconductor industry was very conscious of “time to market” because the potential return on investment and the rapid development of semiconductor process equipment made it mandatory that facilities be delivered as quickly as possible. Also very important was that they be designed and built to operate without any margin of error. The additional cost required to accomplish this was insignificant when compared to potential profits. This approach then influenced other industries; but today, under significantly different market factors, this mindset can still be found to influence project solutions despite the lack of economic justification.
Furthermore, some design professionals and design-builders think that over-design and over-build will reduce their exposure to, and minimize their risk for client dissatisfaction, particularly on production or manufacturing related projects. Some clients fail to give their project teams sufficient time to properly analyze and develop a suitable contamination control strategy for the project. Clients will fiddle with the “10/90” rule, attempting to save money on the 10% of the cost typically associated with design and management, with the result of an actual increase on the 90% representing the cost to build. Instead of spending a little more to get the best possible project team and therefore a best-value project, companies continue to squeeze the front end and hire “Bubba.” You get what you pay for.
Finally, some in the contamination control industry fail to evolve and improve, but display an attitude of “let’s stick with what we know will work.” The industry’s knowledge base continues to increase at what seems to be a geometric rate and requires a concerted effort to keep abreast of improvements and changes. This isn’t to say there haven’t been improvements: the use of mini-and micro environments; improved filtration; better cleaning techniques; among other changes. However, these all took longer than they should have to be accepted. There still exists great opportunity in precision air flow management to provide real savings while effectively managing contamination risk.
Accomplishing the task of meeting the client’s requirements without significantly exceeding them, providing a project that represents a best-value solution, and managing your own risk is challenging. The task can be successfully accomplished by utilizing some or all of the following suggestions.
* Don’t comprise the amount of time required to develop a proper contamination control strategy. This together with the process flow is the core on which the entire project will be based.
*The use of risk/benefit analysis in development of the contamination control strategy has proven to be an effective method for assessing the contamination risk of each process activity. It is also effective in presenting the information to the client who can make an informed decision regarding the proposed strategy. You can’t overstate the benefit of open and effective communication when discussing this issue.
*One of the newer approaches to developing an effective project strategy is “lean construction,” which evolved from the practice of “lean manufacturing” and seems to be ideally suited for delivering a contamination control facility or process project. By looking at both the process of contamination control and its requirements as elements of the value stream, one can use mapping techniques to analyze the effective process flow and grouping by common contamination control requirement. The resultant map provides an effective tool to demonstrate the optimization of the process flow and how it pulls value through effective contamination control in each activity. Case studies have indicated significant cost and time-savings with improved quality assurance.
*Contamination control facilities or process projects are best served by a team approach. The need for effective communication between client, designer and builder, and the precise coordination between design and means-and-methods (often called “partnered construction management”) has resulted in team projects with many success stories.
Regardless of approach or technique, what’s important is this: every time a client’s expectation is not met and yet the client’s project requirements are exceeded, the credibility of the contamination control industry is damaged. The professionals in this industry, whether consultant, designer, or builder, must exercise diligence in conceiving, designing, and implementing a project solution that meets the client’s requirements and provides a best-value solution. We have a professional obligation to do so and as leaders of this industry must set standards worth emulating.