'Experiment and test, test and test again'

Published on by Systems Assembly. The reading time is approximately 7 minutes.

Mustafa started at NTS as a cleaner and subsequently progressed to cell leader and eventually to Team Lead Cleaning. In his role, he is responsible for the thorough cleaning of parts and objects that are used in high-tech products and modules so that they meet the required cleanliness standards. This requires quite a lot of creativity, eagerness to learn and perseverance. Especially when you strive for continuous optimization. "You don't learn this profession from a book. It's a matter of experimenting and testing, testing and testing again. "

"Parts and products arrive at NTS's warehouse, after which they are transported to us so that we can clean the objects," Mustafa explains. “We do this in a cleaning street that includes soap baths, rinsing baths and ovens. When the objects have been cleaned, the production employees assemble the parts in the cleanroom. ”

Stricter cleanliness requirements lead to greater demand for cleaners

“With the increasing cleanliness requirements of the high-tech industry, the 'cleanroom world' has grown in recent years. I more or less coincidentally came into contact with the field after I had finished the Graphic Lyceum. I love activities such as drawing and screen printing but working in the printing industry was not really what appealed to me.”

Coincidentally ended up in the field

“I started as a cleaner via an employment agency and somehow I ended up in the cleaning world. I liked it so much that I continued. After I had worked in cleaning at about four different companies, I was actively approached by several companies with a job offer. Then I noticed how huge the demand for cleaners and the cleaning market actually is.”

Cleaning requires creativity and solution-oriented thinking

“My educational background certainly comes in handy in this type of work. I continuously apply the creativity that graphic design requires in my current environment. This work requires creativity and solution-oriented thinking. For example, I actively think along with the engineers to ensure that objects comply with their cleanliness requirements and I continuously work on improving processes and making work more efficient.”

Steam machine example of innovation

“An example of a recent innovation is the purchase of a steam machine for cleaning blind holes in an object. I saw cleaners working with a cotton swab and alcohol to clean those holes and thought that it could be done in a different, faster and better way. After we had done some research, we found a steam machine. It quickly saves us about 100,000 euros per year.”

A closer look at the total cleaning process

“I am currently implementing these kinds of improvements. Initially, I did this together with a manufacturing engineer. We have examined various aspects of the cleaning process and mapped actions with the aim of convincing people to work according to the established guidelines and ultimately make everything more efficient. Part of that process is a code sheet that contains codes per product or object so that everyone knows how to clean a product. These codes have been established in consultation with the engineers involved. In the sheet we also define the material type and the complexity and method of cleaning.”

Experiment and test, test, test

"The fact that we work with many different materials is also one of the aspects that makes our work interesting and challenging," Mustafa continues. “You can clean steel and aluminium automatically, for example, but you have to deal with copper, gold and brass very differently. The type of material determines how you should handle it and which cleaning treatment is required. You get to know what the best and most efficient way of cleaning materials is by doing. It is a matter of experimenting and testing, testing and testing.”

Clean in every nook and cranny

“In addition to the material, the complexity is mainly in the way you place the object. It all sounds so easy ... after all it is ‘just’ cleaning, but we have to be 100 percent sure that it is clean and that we have cleaned an object completely, every nook and cranny. That it is completely clean. We also check for that. By testing it we make sure that it meets the cleanliness requirements.”

Cleaning isn’t something you learn from a book

“When I started at NTS, the current cleaning street was only just there. I brought the expertise I had gained as a cleaner at the other companies with me. What I know about cleaning isn’t something you learn from a book. You learn this profession in practice, you become wiser from experimenting and by talking to the customer about their requirements.”

An average day is very diverse

“I start an average day by drinking a cup of coffee and then I start managing the team. I make sure that everything is ready the day before so that the cleaners can start immediately. I also spend the necessary time brainstorming with our customers' engineers. Then I start working on the improvement processes. I am currently busy with improving efficiency by making sure that objects and components from the warehouse are delivered at our department in the best possible way.”

Improvement by introduction code system

“As cleaners, we spend a lot of time sorting the components, parts and products. This comprises about 1,000 objects in total. When we already receive these objects from the warehouse in an orderly manner, that is a huge improvement. A precleaning operation could also be performed in the warehouse. Were parts or objects dirty when suppliers delivered them? Then take a cloth and clean the parts so that they do not go into the baths filthy. That's what the code system I mentioned earlier is for. Drawing up unambiguous guidelines to ensure that everything goes smoothly. For me, that means recording our procedures, for example by taking photos of the best position to clean an object or product.”

Perseverance and curiosity get you far

“At NTS I receive support to do my work as good as possible. The demand for cleaners is great and because of my experience I was promoted to cell leader and accordingly to team lead fairly quickly. Our department is directly under the management, so lines are short. Perseverance and curiosity in particular are competences that you need to be successful within NTS. The high-tech industry is constantly changing, so you need to be curious to keep up with it. You have to keep looking around and constantly wonder why things happen as they do.”

Ambitions are high

“The combination of that ‘eager to learn’ attitude and my ambitions and those of NTS ensures that I will be perfectly happy at NTS in the coming years. NTS has great ambitions in the field of cleaning. Our cleaning street on the new campus will be five to six times the size of the current cleaning street. As stated, our aim is to be able to work more efficiently. Ultimately, that means doing more with fewer people. So that offers me more than enough challenge.”

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