Often, we go about our day relatively unaware of the dust and microbes settling in our living and working spaces. However, this should never be the case for cleanrooms, which are highly sensitive workplaces for many electronics industry. Many manufacturing processes done in cleanrooms require strict environmental conditions to safeguard against contamination. And with careful cleanliness, scientists, engineers and cleanroom occupants can control its maintenance, energy cost, and productivity.
Space cleanliness doesn’t come easily, though. It’s important to evaluate and design cleanrooms with factors like people/material flow, space pressurization, filtration requirements, airflow, temperature, and other variables in mind. And depending on customer specifications and products, the level of cleanliness required may vary across facilities.
While most facilities should have a foundation in place for proper cleanroom operations, there are also many pitfalls that aren’t easily accounted for, such as human hair and fragrances, equipment usage emissions, and product particles.
Cleanrooms require a lot of special attention, and they can be a challenge for engineering managers to maintain. Let’s look at some proactive measures that can make for a spotless cleanroom in three key areas:
Training staff in the cleanroom on maintenance procedures and wardrobe guidelines is vital for cleanliness control. No matter who’s operating in the facility, everyone on the production floor should know what they can and can’t wear, entry and exit procedures, and how to maintain their work areas for maximum sanitation and efficiency.
Additionally, if you have vendors working with your engineers, ensure they know how to follow the same procedures. You can offer them several learning options including:
- A video series showing clear processes and key points in sterile processes
- A printed and digital handbook with images for easy reference
- Hands-on training to walk each employee through the workflows
- Visual signage throughout the space to remind people of best practices
Did you know a particle of 0.5 micron, which is 200 times smaller than the human hair, can disrupt an entire cleanroom? When cleanrooms are susceptible to the slightest contamination, staffers should continually monitor the surfaces, airflow, product particles, temperature, humidity, as well as their own movements in the facility.
Properly assessing room conditions involves recording control data on a routine basis. Ensure the system sends alerts to the right people when conditions are outside of normal parameters. It might be helpful to review historical trends quarterly to predict any seasonal changes and make adjustments ahead of time.
To control cleanliness better, the cleanroom space can be segmented into “dirty” and “clean” work areas. For example, toolroom operations should be placed farther from cleaner assembling sites. Anything in the middle should be the easiest place to keep clean. It’s also a good idea to walk slowly and carefully through the facility to minimize air currents that may shift particles to your work area.
Process and prevention
As with any new process or equipment, make sure you understand how it will affect the cleanroom ecosystem and take necessary precautions to prevent any mishaps.
For example, production supplies should be stored in material handling facilities and transported to assembly sites as needed via a closed-loop system. Employees in charge of equipment handling should fit tools of heavy exhaust with pressure-controlled networks. Avoid carpeting, lubricants, or sprays that may release fibers or unwanted chemicals into the air.
Finally, encourage routine preventive steps with all engineers, technicians and staffers on the production plant. Have cleanroom occupants track their own workstations every few hours. Implement air and particle sensor counters at their work areas to gauge contaminant levels.
Keeping cleanroom operations running smoothly isn’t an easy endeavor; it requires a solid plant-wide commitment from leaders, management, engineers, and all staffers. But by following the above practices, everyone in the facility will benefit from cleaner facilities that help maintain compliance and a competitive advantage.