How Barbara Became “The Cleaning Lady”
(and started to work with “The Rocket Scientist”)
Long, long ago, if someone had told me I would work with manufacturers to improve their industrial product cleaning, I would have questioned their sanity. I planned to become a biochemist and teacher, My undergraduate degree is in biology from Bryn Mawr College, with concentrations in economics and English literature. I’ve always been enamored of the power of words; back “in the day,” economics combined with biology was the best way to learn scientific ecology. My masters degree is from Rutgers in biological chemistry; I was attracted to the field because what happens at the molecular level, especially at surfaces, impacts the way living things function. I started as a biochemist, then became a clinical chemist, designing medical tests.
In the mid-1980’s, I moved to a large aerospace conglomerate where I was ‘volunteered’ to become “The Freon Lady.” A more accurate title would probably be “The Lady Who Has the Nerve to Invoke Disaster by Even Suggesting that We Consider Replacing all our Favorite Ozone Depleting Chemicals.” They told me I could work the project in my spare time. I didn’t run away fast enough. I’m glad I didn’t run away because, in fact, disaster didn’t happen; we found solutions; manufacturing processes improved. Working on solving the upper ozone problems turned out to be a great opportunity because the fields we now call industrial cleaning, defluxing, contamination control, precision cleaning, and critical cleaning began to emerge. My EPA Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award stemmed from these efforts.
In 1994, I founded BFK Solutions; and, to this day, it has been fun and challenging to be “The Cleaning Lady.” From aerospace, to medical, to metal stamping, to nanotechnology, manufacturers face more and more cleaning challenges; the problems of the 1990’s were only the beginning. Because cleaning involves lots of variables and interaction with surfaces, my “interdepartmental” background turns out to be useful – and I’m not afraid to tackle thorny projects. I know I can’t do it all, which is why it is productive to collaborate with with Ed Kanegsberg, “The Rocket Scientist.”
I particularly enjoy it when I help clients with a variety of tough cleaning problems and find solutions that are trouble-free, that they are comfortable with. I think analysis is important; meetings are important, too. The important thing is to avoid paralysis by analysis. Even an incisive analysis or report is not an end of itself; a successful project moves forward, even if moving forward is a decision to end the project. Manufacturing has to move forward. You can find examples of our projects and case studies on this website.
I enjoy and respect the power of words, of teaching, of communication – hence the “Handbook for Critical Cleaning,” the seminars, the technical columns. I’m particularly pleased when a client or student (of either gender) says they want to become a ‘cleaning lady.’ They really get it – the right surface quality is the future of manufacturing.