The processes are as important as the tools.

With so many tools and techniques available, attention often focuses on the technology of ESD control; management issues don’t receive as much attention. Yet, the procedures we use to implement and manage an ESD program are just as critical to its success.

ANSI/ESD S20.20: Standard for the Development of an Electrostatic Discharge Control Program can be referred to for recommendations concerning essential elements that comprise any ESD program: program plan, training plan, verification plan and technical requirements. And ESD Handbook TR20.20 provides guidance to assist in developing an ESD program. Each facility must develop its own specific procedures to implement the plan successfully, however, and several factors come into play.

Identify and establish ESD teams. ESD problems and solutions are both multi-disciplinary and multi-departmental – crossing various functions, departments, divisions, customers, and suppliers. As such, a team approach to program development and implementation is a must. Team composition includes line employees, the ESD control program manager and department heads or other management personnel. ESD teams help assure a variety of viewpoints, the availability of the needed expertise, and a commitment to success. It is important for company management to empower the team and provide the necessary resources so that they can implement, manage and maintain the plan.

Identify your losses. With a team in place, the next step is to determine the extent of company losses to ESD. These losses may be reflected in receiving reports, quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) records, customer returns, in-plant yields, failure analysis reports, and other data gathered over time. This information not only identifies the magnitude of the problem, but helps to pinpoint and prioritize areas that need attention. In the long-term, documentation of losses not only helps identify problems, but provides the reporting necessary to modify the program and to calculate return on investment. Sometimes the information about losses is not readily available, and the requirement for an ESD program is driven by customer requirements. The customer may want assurance that it is not going to receive product that has been exposed to electrostatic influences during handling or manufacturing operations. 

Identify sensitive items. Items that are sensitive to ESD (components, assemblies, and finished products) and the level of their sensitivity should be identified. Items can be tested in-house, use data from suppliers, or rely on previously published data. Sometimes it is necessary to establish a baseline or set a level of your own based on evaluation of your processes. 

Evaluate your facility and processes. Look for areas and procedures that may be contributing to defined ESD problems, such as static-generating materials and personnel handling procedures for ESD-sensitive items. Process assessment involves measuring the levels of static electricity within your processes to help define the level of risk for damage to susceptible parts handled within those processes.

Establish and implement procedures. Next, begin to develop and implement the appropriate procedures that will help solve ESD problems identified. ANSI/ESD S20.20 can be used as the basis for a program plan. Prepare and distribute written procedures and specifications so that each employee has a clear understanding of what procedures must be followed. Fully documented procedures will assist in achieving ISO 9000 and S20.20 certifications.

Train personnel. Train and retrain personnel in ESD control procedures. Proper training for line personnel is especially important, as they are often the ones to implement program procedures on a day-to-day basis. A thorough understanding of what ESD controls are in use, and why they are needed, will have a significant and positive impact on proper long-term implementation of the ESD control program. Again, training plan guidance is in ESD Handbook TR20.20.

Evaluate, adjust and provide feedback. Conduct periodic evaluations of the ESD program and audits of the facility to verify that the program plan implemented is working. Such evaluations can demonstrate whether the program is successful and validate the company’s expected return on investment. Weaknesses in the program can be identified and corrected. As areas that need work are found, make the necessary adjustments to keep the program on track.

Remember to provide both reporting and feedback to management, the ESD team, and other employees. Management will want to know that the investment in time and money is yielding a return in terms of quality, reliability and profits. Team members should be recognized and rewarded for a job well done and kept informed of future ESD control program plans. Other facility employees will want to know that the procedures implemented are indeed worthwhile.
An effective ESD program consists of much more than wrist straps and shielding bags. Effective management and implementation procedures provide a solid foundation on which to build your ESD control program.

This column is written by The ESD Association (;

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