“Defect Engineering” Redefines Contamination Control in Todays World

“Defect Engineering” Redefines Contamination Control in Today`s World

Harold D. Fitch

For the professional working in the contamination control industry, the world has become very dynamic and competitive. To build a successful career, the modern practitioner can no longer afford to be a specialist in one small field. Experts in classical engineering fields–chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering–have to work with emerging fields such as aeronautical engineering and computer sciences.

The classical separation of “pure science”–chemistry, physics and mathematics–from the more practical applications of engineering must be eliminated. The duplication of effort and expense of many people working each in their own separate vacuums cannot be tolerated. By extension, in the contamination control industry, this means that the contamination control engineer must now fulfill a larger role.

Defect Engineering

The term “defect engineering” better describes the reality of today`s complex contamination control process. Defect engineering takes a “systems approach” to engineering projects. The purpose here is not the pursuit of any single discipline, such as room construction, but rather looking at the goal of the project and applying all the disciplines that will help achieve that goal. The role of individual disciplines is secondary to utilizing all available information for the project`s benefit.

Successful contamination control engineers can no longer be specialists in one narrow field, such as garmenting or cleanroom construction; they must expand their expertise and take a systemic approach to provide the protection the end product requires. This means that they must know and understand the total process and product needs and insure that those needs are meet. One way to accomplish this is to apply a systematic approach, such as the “Ten Steps to Technical Systems Management:”

1. Process Outline Flowchart

2. Project Targets

3. Technical Targets

4. Measurement Systems

5. Process Improvements/ Time Lines

6. Yield, Quality, Reliability, Customer Satisfaction, and Market Dynamics

7. Feedback

8. Road map of Future Requirements

9. Implementation Plan

10. Iterative Cycling

This does not mean that experts in the science and engineering disciplines are no longer needed. In fact, they, along with experts in other specialized fields such as quality engineering, materials science, surface and particle physics, and many other disciplines, are needed in combination with the expanded responsibilities of the contamination control, or defect engineer. The difference is that all these people have to work together in an environment of cooperation and sharing. The special contributions of each of the various individuals have to be understood and brought together in an efficient, controlled manner.

The new specialist has to understand how he or she fits into the overall project and work toward project goals. The luxury of working independently on one`s own interests at one`s own pace is largely behind us.

Contamination Control: Using a Broad Interpretation

The definition of “contamination control” varies greatly, depending on whom you ask. In high technology, we use a very broad interpretation. This broad interpretation fits nicely with the concept of defect engineering. It takes into consideration controlling contamination in materials, processes, tools, and the environment, and really implies a continually expanding understanding and control of such things as material science, small particle physics, and surface chemistry. To us, it really means understanding and controlling anything necessary to achieve yields.

In this situation, yields are the measuring device of our success and the measure of the overall value of our activities. The term may include product yield, such as the electrical functioning of semiconductors, the amount of marketable material obtained from a pharmaceutical process, or the number of successful launches into space; but more and more, it includes items like the amount of waste material generated by a process and how this waste material can be utilized or disposed of, and certainly, it could include disposal or recyclability of the primary product as well.

In this approach, the contamination control engineer, who has expanded responsibility, becomes a key contributor to the project`s success and not just a specialist to be called on to handle one small part of the project. This, of course, means that our defect engineer must now understand how his or her contribution fits in. We should embrace this expanded role as an opportunity to make our talents and abilities a part of the mainstream and capitalize on this opportunity for career enhancement.

Becoming a Key Contributor

The unique responsibilities of the contamination control engineer in tracing and solving contamination problems lends itself nicely to the expanded role of defect engineering. We have all been brought in to solve a contamination problem that has turned out to be a process or tooling problem, so we have already been involved in mainstream engineering problems anyway. Defect engineering is simply an approach by which we can acknowledge and build on the problem. Our broad experience in troubleshooting and quality concerns make us ideal candidates to become key contributors and managers of overall projects.

The Ten Step Approach to Defect Engineering (to be examined in more detail next month) not only gives us a systematic method for attacking contamination control problems, but provides us with a method that can be easily expanded into project management. Understanding this and selling it to management are vital steps in our own career enhancement! n

Harold D. Fitch is president of Future Resource Development, a consulting firm in Burlington, VT, specializing in cleanroom education and problem-solving. He conducts international training seminars for CleanRooms` shows and seminars.


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