Food processors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are constantly working to improve hygienic design while maintaining–and improving–operational efficiency. Here are 12 questions that often come up, along with answers from key OEM and sanitation thought leaders.
How can OEMs and food processors work together to improve sanitation and product safety?
It all starts with perspective!
OEMs should take a moment to look at sanitation and product safety from a food processor’s point of view, and food processors should look at the same issues from the OEM’s viewpoint.
By changing their perspective, both parties will better understand the challenges and opportunities the other faces in their particular processes and facilities. Hopefully, this can open a two-way dialogue, as well as future collaboration opportunities where they can help the other achieve their sanitation and product safety goals together. Remember, OEMs and food processors usually have decades of experience in their respective fields. That’s a wealth of knowledge to tap into.
But to get to that point, the OEM must develop a role beyond just building and selling equipment, and the processor has to do more than just process food. In addition, Both should look hygienic and sanitary design as insurance and brand protection to help their organization stay strong!
The result will be good partners who understand, complement and help each other succeed, which will ultimately help the entire industry.
What is the number one principle for a safe food processing environment?
From the process to the equipment, the simpler the design, the easier it will be to ensure a safe food processing environment.
Workers are more likely to follow and complete simple processes over extremely hard, intricate ones. The same for the machines. If equipment is designed for easier access and cleaning, the workers will be more likely to clean them properly.
If the sanitation team can’t see it or access it, it can’t clean it. So, access always needs to be considered in design.
This affects more than sanitation, too. It will help mitigate downtime because workers and machines will spend more time producing and less time in sanitation.
What are ways OEMs and food processors can evaluate if they are aligned with current best practices?
The best way for OEMs and food processors to evaluate if they are aligned with best practices is by educating themselves.
Ask questions like: What are the other organization’s pain points? What problem are the organizations trying to solve? Gather the data and see what story it tells. Think of it in terms of food science meeting engineering.
Both types of organizations can do also educate themselves better by speaking with industry experts and groups around the globe. There are industry groups that have a huge wealth of information on best practices. Tap into that! Ask questions and collaborate with them.
What are other organization’s pain points? What problem is the OEM trying to solve?
When OEMs and food processors are looking for experts to speak with, they need to look globally as well. Different regions have different strengths. Plus, when something is happening or has happened in one region of the world, it impacts other regions as well. So, you’ll be receiving information and insight from experts who might have already experienced and overcome issues that will affect you shortly, as well as unique insights from a huge bank of expert knowledge.
Remember, food safety and sanitation aren’t proprietary. Everybody eats, and therefore everyone has an obligation to participate in ways and discussions to make food safer.
Are there any simple things that can be done in the short term to address retrofitting equipment for increased accessibility?
The best way to begin addressing any changes–whether that’s processes or equipment–in an organization is by starting a conversation.
Whether you want to hold a continuous improvement event or something similar, you need to get the right people in the room and get them talking. Talk to the front-line sanitation crew, sanitation manager, maintenance manager, etc. These are the people who will have ideas on what processes or equipment pose the greatest risk, take the longest to sanitize and are the biggest obstacles to productivity and food safety. Then, management can really start looking at the best way to approach the opportunities.
And remember, you don’t have to retrofit the entire line to make big progress. If you can just update 25% of your equipment, and that translates to a 10% improvement–that in itself is probably worth the effort!
And always focus on moving the organization of prevention and prediction, rather than corrective.
What does the future of food sanitation look like?
Manufacturing labor shortages, combined with the pandemic and ongoing health safety concerns, are driving the need for increased creativity, which is resulting in more automation.
Previously, it was unheard of for robots to be in a food processing environment at all, let alone in the sanitation part. But, technology is changing! And those changes bring about the opportunity to automate sanitation.
Also, as we become more aware of the processes, sanitation becomes a more integral, critical part of the environment, rather than just a necessary evil. Organizations will need to look at sanitation with a continuous improvement mindset. Along with that awareness and change in mindset will come more opportunities for improvements and refinements.
What are some examples of small things that can be done to improve accessibility?
OEMs can design equipment so it can be accessed with simple, non-specialized tools or, even better, without any tools. This will help reduce the amount of time it takes to access and clean equipment, which in turn will reduce downtime and improve overall sanitation.
In addition, OEMs can use their designs to mitigate risks. One example of this is angled bars. It seems like such a simple change, but it was huge for food processors. Now, instead of a flat bar that allows standing water, the bars are angled to promote runoff.
This is another great example of how food processors and OEMs can work together to improve designs and processes.
How much of an impact does hygienic design have on operational efficiency? Is it always a tradeoff?
Hygienic design, when done right, will almost always improve operational efficiency exponentially. This is because good hygienic design lends itself to better sanitation and functionality, which results in better production and less downtime.
As mentioned before, organizations must look at hygienic design as a way to protect their brand. Just as operations, safety, quality and engineering improve operational efficiencies, sanitation is a critical piece as well for helping a company remain strong and productive.
Does hygienic equipment cost more? How do you get upper management onboard with investing in hygienic equipment?
Hygienically designed equipment can cost more, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As mentioned before, the better it’s designed, the more operational efficiency the equipment brings to the food processing facility. So, while it may cost more due to its materials, design and operation, it will probably result in a great ROI by reducing sanitation, downtime and waste costs.
For management, the question shouldn’t be “Why does this cost so much?” It should be “What’s my ROI on this? How much will my processes and product improve with this better-designed equipment?” Once you start looking at it from that viewpoint, you’ll quickly realize that while hygienically designed equipment might cost more, it will be better for the organization.
It comes down to risk assessment. A crisis tends to open checkbooks–but with good hygienic design, organizations can mitigate those crises and predict and prevent future issues. Maintenance has always had a process and system in place to support operational efficiencies by minimizing downtime and optimizing asset life. Hygienic design is one of the critical sanitation processes that plays a similar role. It supports and ensures product brand protection, food safety regulation compliance, operational efficiencies and optimal asset utilization.
Should OEMs provide end-users information about how to clean their equipment?
OEMs, e.g., EnSight Solutions, would love to provide food processors detailed information regarding how to clean their equipment.
But, OEMs aren’t involved in the daily process of processing food. They’re rarely food science or chemical experts. Plus, every food product and process is unique.
To help as much as possible, OEMs use industry standards and approved checklists to build equipment. They can provide general information regarding how to disassemble the equipment and the various parts the processor should be aware of. But they’re not a regulating body, so they can’t really advise the processor on what chemicals to use, how often to clean the equipment, etc. Those sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs) fall to the processor, with support from the OEM, to detail.
Is there a downside to hygienic design?
No. As mentioned above, good hygienic design almost always results in better sanitation, less downtime and higher productivity.
The only downside really results in the instance of misapplied hygienic design. This can be a machine that was designed to be hygienic above all other things, forgoing functionality and worker safety.
When does hygienic design innovation become the standard?
It happens all the time. It’s not necessarily obvious because it’s not happening across every piece of equipment and every industry all the time. Plus, it takes time–sometimes more than others.
Every food processor, along with its products and processes, is unique and defines sanitary design differently. Unfortunately, this has resulted in hygienic design being a rare process that only a select few processors are interested in investing in or partnering with OEMs on implementing.
But, as operational efficiency and regulatory compliance benefits become more recognized, more processors will start to look to hygienic design more. It’s much like automobiles–backup cameras and automatic braking were considering “high tech” and “innovative” when they were introduced, but they’re now common.
In a nutshell, a hygienic design innovation generally becomes the standard when it solves the root cause of a problem. When the recalls and positive swabs stop, you have arrived at the new standard.
Interested in learning more about hygienic design and how EnSight Solutions is dedicated to it in every piece of machinery we build? Click here to locate and contact your sales specialist for more information.