The Cleaning Consultant

OK, I may get into trouble here, but this is a subject that I think needs some discussion.  What about cleaning consultants?

I know many people who are cleaning consultants and, in fact, I was one for a while myself.  There are good reasons for hiring a consultant when it comes to the specification of cleaning processes and cleaning equipment.  Perhaps the most compelling is that the discipline of cleaning is an entity unto itself.  It really doesn’t fall under any specific engineering or manufacturing category.  In most cases, the need for cleaning expertise is sporadic and limited to the occasions when there is a new cleaning requirement or a need arises to upgrade or replace existing cleaning equipment.  In many companies this happens, what, every 10 years or so?  So unless a company is really focused on cleaning or cleaning is a super-critical part of manufacturing (disc drive or medical, for example) that person with cleaning experience and expertise just isn’t needed full time.  Also, cleaning methods and processes are constantly evolving.  Although not as rapidly as they did in the days when cleaning was being converted from vapor degreasing using solvents to water based cleaning, cleaning technologies are still developing at a rather steady pace.  This is especially true in the case of chemistries which are constantly being developed to meet new cleaning requirements while staying within constantly narrowing regulatory guidelines.

As I said above, I know many cleaning consultants and I am sure there are many, many more out there.  In essence, using a consultant allows you to add that person experienced in cleaning to your staff on a temporary basis. Most consultants bring with them a storehouse of knowledge gleaned from experiences with other projects they’ve worked on.

What to look for in a cleaning consultant?  First, if possible, look for someone who has had experience in your field.  Familiarity with a particular industry can save the time that will otherwise be required for bringing a consultant up to speed with what you do.  There is a bit of “culture” in any industry that is best grasped by an insider.  Next, try to avoid hiring someone who is aligned with a specific chemical or equipment supplier.  This is a bit of a wobbly peg as familiarity with particular lines can be beneficial in some instances.  But unless there are specific suppliers who specialize in your industry, I’d go with someone as independent as possible but who still specializes in cleaning.

Try to determine up front what you need.  Do you want a consultant to just help in the selection of process and equipment or do you want someone who will see the project through build, installation and start-up.  There is a decided benefit to having someone to act as your representative with both the chemical and equipment supplier throughout the life of the project as the challenges that arise along the way are often as difficult as those encountered in the initial decisions.  Should there be a problem, knowing the history makes things a lot easier.

Finally, it is important to recognize that any thorough analysis of cleaning should encompass the entire process, not just the cleaning stage.  The consultant should be given access to the entire manufacturing process from start to finish.  It is surprising how many times small adjustments in a earlier process can have a major effect on later cleaning requirements.

– FJF  –

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