The tiger still has bite

Myth: “The IEST is a paper tiger. It does not do anything for me.”

Who says? Too many people.

Reality: The IEST may be on the endangered species list, but it still has bite.

Too many people in the cleanroom community think the IEST has no relevance to them. This is reflected in the low number of contamination control members and the weak support of industry related companies. For example, there are approximately 1,300 IEST members from the contamination control/cleanroom community. Conversely, this magazine aptly named CleanRooms enjoys a subscriber list of over 36,000 people from this same community. Another example is the poor corporate support received by the IEST Sustaining Sponsor Program. The IEST is a professional so ciety made up of individual members. Its only direct corporate support comes through this Sustaining Sponsor Program. Currently there are 25 contamination control corporate Sustaining Sponsors providing the IEST with less than $50,000 in direct support. This is peanuts when compared to the size of this industry.

Compare the number of advertisers in this magazine with the number of Sustaining Sponsors. Also bear in mind that these advertisers represent only a portion of the suppliers to the cleanroom community.

What irony.

All members of the cleanroom community benefit from the activities of the few members of the IEST. This is unhealthy for all parties.


The IEST is the only repository of cleanroom standards in North America, and this is further enhanced by its recent world-wide reach, which makes the disparity of numbers shown above even more discouraging.

The U.S. government through the General Services Administration has given the IEST responsibility for writing and keeping current U.S. Federal Standard 209E, “Classes of Air Cleanliness.” In support of this activity, in the early 1980s the IEST created a family of Recommended Practices (RPs) that went beyond the limited scope of Fed-Std-209E to address all aspects of clean space from design to daily operations. In the early 1990s it became apparent that Fed-Std-209E and the IEST RPs could be the foundation for expanded global cleanroom standards.

In 1992, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was asked by petition from the IEST through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to create an ISO Technical Committee to write these global cleanroom standards.

In 1993, Technical Committee ISO/TC209, “Cleanrooms and Associated Controlled Environments” was created. Just to show the importance of this activity, bear in mind that in the 50 years of its existence, ISO has only created 213 technical committees; only nine in the past six years. Justification for an ISO TC is difficult and must be supported by clearly defined industry/government need.

ISO/TC209 is well on its way to creating a strong family of ISO Standards as described earlier in these pages [CleanRooms, May 1999, page 42].

To say that the IEST is irrelevant to you is ludicrous.

The question to ask as a cleanroom community professional is, “How involved with IEST am I?” For those of you who are cleanroom community business leaders, the question is, “How much does my organization support the IEST?”

Based upon the foregoing data, the answer to both questions by the vast majority is “not much!”

This is sad. The ramifications of this poor involvement are many. Here are a few examples:

  • Too few people have a lot of influence over the content of the IEST Contamination Control Recommended Practices (RP). There is poor balance on some of these RP working groups.

  • There has been a lack of end-user participation and influence on the writing of the IEST RPs. These are designed as guidelines for users, yet the users are not well represented.

  • There has been significant difficulty in finding industry volunteers to work on the ISO Standards and, more importantly, to represent the

    U.S. position. This is a slam to the U.S.'s influence on these Standards, which affects how U.S. industry will do business in 1999 and beyond.

  • There is a lack of continuity in the IEST leadership and vision.

  • The IEST is in a weakened financial position. Membership has declined from a high of 4,400 in 1988 to less than 2,400 today. Strange, for this has happened in a decade when the cleanroom community has expanded significantly.

    While the IEST is not a paper tiger, it is certainly a tiger in need of nourishment by the management and professionals in the contamination control community.

    If you are a cleanroom professional – become an IEST member. The dues, currently $80 per year, are much less than most professional societies. One-half of those dues support the Journal of the IEST, the only publisher of peer-reviewed technical articles in the cleanroom community.

    If you are in a leadership position, support your employee's individual membership. Further, support their efforts to create truly representative RPs and standards.

    If you are a corporate officer, have your organization become an IEST Sustaining Sponsor. Annual cost is less than a single placement of a half page ad in a trade journal. The benefits last more than the 10 to 30 seconds it takes someone to read that ad. You also can influence the direction of the IEST. If you do not, your competitor will.

    If you personally, professionally or corporately do not participate, the consequences of today's dynamics may not be favorable to you or your organization.

    By helping the IEST, you nourish your professional capabilities and the influence your employer has in the cleanroom community. You also nourish the technical and financial health of the IEST.

    Click here to enlarge image

    Richard A. Matthews is founder of Filtration Technology Inc. (Greensboro, NC), a cleanroom general contractor and a manufacturer and distributor of industrial filter equipment. He is chairman of the International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee ISO/TC 209 “Cleanrooms and associated clean environments.” He is past president of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, and is vice chairman of the standing committee of the International Confederation of Contamination Control Societies. He is also president of Micron Video International, a producer of training programs for cleanroom personnel. He is on the CleanRooms Editorial Advisory Board.


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