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High-Technology Equipment Decommissioning: How to Get it Right

16th November 2022

Before you can move or pack high-technology equipment for relocation, you first need to decommission it. 

But for sensitive semiconductor, pharmaceutical and print equipment, there’s often little to no margin for error. Which is why it’s so important to get it right. 

We’ve been decommissioning, shipping and commissioning complex, business-critical equipment since 1991. And in that time, we’ve worked with some of the biggest semiconductor and high-technology manufacturing companies in the world. 

So, from our experience, here are six key considerations for decommissioning high-technology and business-critical equipment—from disconnecting and disassembling the equipment correctly to factoring in its unique characteristics. 

1. Shut Down Equipment Correctly Before Starting

You wouldn’t just walk into a manufacturing facility and turn the equipment off. You might not be familiar with the facility's layout—there could be gas lines, water lines running hundreds of yards or other challenges below the surface.

Instead, you should work with the facility department and allow them to take the lead in removing the facilities.

It’s also important to consider that, occasionally, certain facilities will need to be left on the equipment for you to decommission it. For example, there may be a robot that needs to be positioned in a certain way so it’s safe to remove from the enclosure. 

Once you’ve completed any tasks which require facilities and you’ve backed up the software, you can then shut down and disconnect the equipment.

2. Disassemble the Right Parts at the Right Time

Equipment installations often come in modules—so, most of the time, you can’t move a complete piece of equipment in one.

Instead, you’ll need to disassemble it according to the OEM’s guide.

Typically, this involves first removing the enclosure to reveal the main modules of the equipment. You can then start disassembling and dewiring the equipment module by module. It’s important to disassemble the right parts at the right time to avoid damaging the equipment or harming your team. 

You can then secure any freestanding modules. Also, remember that modules might have moving parts on them—so you’ll need to tie those up to negate any movement. 

We're the only supplier globally that can handle your entire equipment relocation project entirely in-house. Learn more here.

3. The Less You Disassemble, the Easier It Will Be To Reassemble

The less you have to remove from the equipment or module, the easier it will be to put it back together at its destination site. You’ll also reduce your chances of losing or breaking loose parts during transit. 

To determine what and how much you need to dismantle, consider the objective of the move. Are you relocating the equipment internally? Are you shipping it overseas? Are you simply taking it out for scrap? Are you selling it? Are you putting it into storage?

This should influence how you choose to dismantle the equipment, as well as the method statement you’ll produce during the planning stage. 

For example, if you’re moving a piece of equipment ten yards in a straight line to a different part of your manufacturing facility, try to take apart as little as possible. Instead, try to lift and move as much of the assembled equipment as you safely can. This will save you time and energy putting it back together later.

4. Experienced Engineers Make the Right Calls

There are many benefits of working with experienced an equipment mover (such as IES) to decommission your equipment—from assuring impeccable safety procedures to getting the best technical expertise and on-site capabilities.

For example, an inexperienced team might opt to take everything off a piece of equipment during decommissioning—which can make it very difficult and time-consuming to reassemble, as we outlined above. 

While an experienced team will know exactly how much to remove and what to leave to make the project run as seamlessly as possible. 

An experienced team can also make the right decisions around packing items depending on their destination. For example, whether you can lift modules without packing them if you’re just moving them internally or whether just a wooden base is required if they’re just going down the road.

Looking for an expert mover to handle your entire equipment move project? Find out more about how we can help here.

5. Don't Forget Decontamination

Decontamination is a crucial part of decommissioning if you’re moving contaminated semiconductor equipment like ion implanters.

It involves removing toxic chemical residue (including dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, phosphorus and boron) both internally and externally, as these chemicals are serious health hazards. So, before you start, you should list every toxin present for risk assessment.

As they’re about to step into a particularly toxic and hazardous environment, your decontamination team will need the right protective gear—including hazmat suits and breathing apparatuses.

Start by checking that the toxic lines have been purged before your teams start the cleaning process. Also, leave on the exhaust or extract during the cleaning process to provide maximum air filtration.

The decontamination process will end with swab testing around the chamber. You can then send these samples for lab analysis to confirm all toxin residue has been removed. 

6. Factor in Equipment Characteristics Before Transport

How you transport a piece of equipment will depend on its characteristics and requirements. 

If it’s a simple tool, you might only need road freight with a crane on it. But a complex tool going into a semiconductor fab, for example, would be an entirely different matter.

It’s also important to factor in the environmental requirements of each tool. For example, some pieces of equipment are temperature controlled and must be kept at a constant temperature in a special transport container.

This is another reason why working with an experienced equipment mover is so important—the more experience they have, the better they can judge what’s required. If your team of movers don’t have this experience, they should contact the OEM to understand its requirements. 

Move Complex Equipment with Total Confidence

We’ve been decommissioning, moving and installing complex, business-critical equipment for some of the world’s most prestigious semiconductor, pharma and clean manufacturing companies since 1991.

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help.

 

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