ISO Grade 7 cleanroom solution optimizes production flow

With its current production nearing the end of its operational lifespan, and a long shutdown for renovations not an option, the client decided to build a new, ISO Grade 7 cleanroom with mechanical areas in a new building. In doing so, it also wanted to expand production capacity, improve production efficiency, and improve working environment for its personnel. 

The cleanroom installation includes support systems such as HVAC, compressed air, vacuum and medical gases. It also includes equipment installation, automation and integration with the building, as well as building monitoring and environmental monitoring systems. KeyPlants’ role extended from concept, through detailed design and installation, to commissioning and qualification.  

One of the reasons the company chose KeyPlants was that it needed a partner who could deliver the whole conventional construction project on turnkey basis because, as a small company of about 70 employees, it didn’t have the in-house resources to do it themselves. It also chose KeyPlants for its reputation for delivering high-quality projects, which was business-critical for them. 

“They didn’t have the resources to go to one company and carry out the design, another company for the integration, another company for the cleanroom installation, another for the electrical work and so on. They had to get one company that could do the whole thing, including integration and procurement of equipment and materials,” recalls Carl Carlsson, the KeyPlants Design Manager who helped supervise the effort. “And they needed something that was extremely cost-effective and time-effective.” 

 

Complex building site 

KeyPlants joined the project while the building was being planned, with some of the details to be finalized during construction. This meant working closely with subcontractors hired by the construction company. 

“In that sense, it was a very complex building site,” Carl says. “Lots of people from different companies and disciplines, sometimes with different priorities, had to get along in this small area and deliver on time and on budget. 

From a project management point of view, another challenge was being one of the last parties on the scene. “Many things had to be done before we could work, so we were impacted by other parties’ delays,” Carl says. 

When the construction company finished its work in the ventilation shafts, for example, they were ready to close the shafts. But KeyPlants sometimes had more work to do before that could take place. 

Optimizing production flow 

Another challenge was to design the workflow in the 500-square-meter production area. KeyPlants worked with the client to optimize the production flow, arranging the process steps and equipment in the most logical way, within the given constraints. 

Anders Sjödin, the KeyPlants process architect responsible for the concept and basic design phases and who has designed several hundred facilities over the years, explains: “First, you have to learn about the process from the client. So, we started with looking at how they work today, then we listened to their employees about shortcomings with their current design and how it might be improved. 

“We didn’t get into the details of every step of the process, of course. That was their business, and they didn’t ask for help with that. Nor did we deal with their special equipment. We focused on the overall flow, how to use the total area, how to place equipment and operations in different rooms to get good process flows, given the size and shape of the space.” 

 

Customized service bolsters customer’s experience 

Essentially, KeyPlants offered a customized service aimed at solving the client’s challenges, working with them where they lacked experience, expertise and resources. “We were able to show them that we knew how to handle things,” Anders says. “It’s a situation we are in a lot.” 

The space itself created its own challenges. To take one example, the space above the cleanroom for the HVAC system was cramped, with just 60 centimeters between the ceiling and the concrete slab of the floor above. That left barely enough space for all the cooling water piping, ventilation ducts, etc.  

 

Natural light streaming in 

One of the boldest ideas was to create an external viewing area around the cleanroom, which the client together with KeyPlants designed in a way that also allowed natural light to stream in from outside. It was a big – and unusual – upgrade in working conditions for employees. “With most cleanrooms, you have corridors and airlocks and things around it, so you have the clean area in the middle of the building without any windows,” Anders says. 

The building is also in a residential area, so it was designed to fit in with a somewhat triangular shape. It wasn’t built to make the installation of the cleanroom easy. “Everything the client needed had to be fitted into a building that was not designed by us in any way,” Anders says. “But I think it was a good layout in the end, even if the building was a little unusual.” 

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