Ten members of the Janitorial Services Group at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology today were honored with one of Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Awards for creating and implementing a solid solution to the problem of high-cost cleanup and maintenance of ultrapure laboratory rooms. It is estimated that the team's effort saves NIST and the federal government more than $100,000 annually.
"I applaud the members of NIST's Clean Room Team for their dedication and 'can do' attitude which not only resulted in better services at lower cost but also is helping NIST perform some of the world's most exacting scientific research," said Commerce Secretary William M. Daley.
The Hammer Award is presented to teams of federal employees who have made significant contributions in support of reinventing government principles.
The path to the Hammer Award began in 1997 when the NIST team was searching for ways to improve janitorial services for researchers in NIST's Measurement and Standards Laboratories. One commonly reported complaint came from scientists who use NIST's clean rooms--laboratory workspaces where sensitive research requires that the environment must be nearly free of pollutants, dust and other particulate matter (no more than 10 particles of five micrometers in diameter or approximately 1/20 the diameter of a human hair allowed in a cubic foot of space). They wanted an alternative to hiring expensive contractors to maintain these areas.
"The Clean Room Team challenged themselves to find a way to delight their customers. By analyzing the situation, talking to the experts, and getting the training, the team was able to meet the challenge," said Morley Winograd, senior policy advisor to Vice President Gore and Director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. "This is an outstanding example of how government workers, through self-initiative and creative problem-solving, make a huge difference."
In response to the researchers' need, the team decided to create an in-house clean room services squad. First, they interviewed clean room users at NIST and external clean room equipment vendors to learn what skills and equipment were necessary for the job. Group members then took and completed training and certification courses in clean room management. By increasing efficiency in other areas of the Janitorial Services operations, the team realized enough savings in funds and staff-hours to cover not only the training, but also the equipment needed to begin working in the clean rooms.
Today, the in-house Clean Room Team handles the upkeep of an ever-growing number of NIST clean rooms. It is estimated that in the first year-and-a-half of its existence, the team has saved nearly $200,000.
A unique aspect of the award-winning team is that three of its members are developmentally delayed or physically challenged individuals.
Receiving the Hammer Award are Maria Alvarez, Beltsville, Md.; Richard Delisi, Silver Spring, Md.; Michael George, Gaithersburg, Md.; Tyrone Gibson (Group Leader), Springfield, Va.; Joseph Herron, Gaithersburg, Md.; Joszef Kocsis, New Carrolton, Md.; Marie Liason, Gaithersburg, Md.; Preston Mason, Gaithersburg, Md.; Ernest Matthews, Beltsville, Md.; and Jerome Orye, Brunswick, Md.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST strengthens the U.S. economy and improves the quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards through four partnerships: the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Baldrige National Quality Program.
The National Partnership for Reinventing Government is the Clinton-Gore Administration's initiative to reform the way the federal government works. Its mission is to create a government that "works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about." Begun in the early days of the Administration, with Vice President Al Gore at its helm, the task force is the longest-running reform effort in U.S. history.