By Tricia Clark, Vice President of Operations, EnSight Solutions
After 25 years in food processing, I’ve learned some valuable lessons on sanitation practices and the realities of cleaning equipment.
Lesson No. 1: Each product and process has unique sanitation challenges.
You learn a lot at 2:00 a.m. when there’s product blowing through the roof, and the equipment needs to be cleaned and operational before the next shift.
From a food manufacturing standpoint, I’ve seen a lot and none of it surprises me. Four years on third shift as Operations/Sanitation Supervisor taught me a lot about what happens on the front lines and how to respond when things don’t go as expected.
Working in six different manufacturing facilities across the U.S. allowed me to have responsibility for a variety of different products. Each product was unique with a specific set of sanitation and production procedures. It’s vitally important to understand every critical aspect of the product you’re manufacturing and what’s required from a processing and sanitation perspective.
Lesson No. 2: If you can’t see it, you can’t clean it.
Simplicity is the key to sanitary design. It’s what ensures the shop floor crew can do the job in a way that meets your company’s sanitation standards and procedures.
If a piece of equipment is difficult to clean or requires extra tools, it’s likely not going to get done. Consistency, rigor, and discipline are absolutely essential parts of a safety and sanitation program, but cleaning plant equipment must be clear-cut and convenient.
An expert on sanitary equipment design once said shop floor crew should be able to clean equipment with a toothbrush and a flashlight. That’s the mentality we take at EnSight. It’s why we emphasize visibility, accessibility, and sterilization when we design, engineer, and manufacture equipment for companies like yours.
Lesson No. 3: There are always opportunities for improvement.
Sure, your sanitation protocols are standardized and your processes repetitive, but there’s always room to improve.
Most original equipment manufacturers follow a sanitary design checklist. Your equipment should be corrosion-resistant and nonabsorbent. Plastics must remain intact, and surfaces should keep liquid from pooling and allowing microorganisms to multiply and wreak havoc.
Having deeper discussions with supervisors and shop floor crews is really where the magic happens. These people are cleaning the equipment every day and know the design flaws better than anyone. Be sure to include these perceptive problem solvers. You’ll be glad you did.
And here’s the good news for the executive team: many of the sanitation struggles on the line are nothing more than a nuisance. More often than not, the issue making it difficult to clean equipment is like having a rock in your shoe. The fix is often straightforward and relatively inexpensive.
We’re here to help you get to the bottom of whatever’s causing those headaches and see if we can retrofit an older piece of equipment or employ some innovative modifications to knock out those pain points.
Lesson No. 4: Sanitary design is an insurance policy to protect your customers and your brand.
For so many years, food production was about detection and repair. Can we detect an issue, can we repair it? More recently, though, there’s been a shift to the “prevention-and-prediction” model. How do we predict failures and then prevent them?
We all buy insurance hoping we don’t need it. Sanitary design is really a form of insurance. Think of it as brand protection, because your brand is all you have. You need an insurance policy in the form of top-notch equipment from a trusted partner. At EnSight, we view ourselves as that trusted partner.
Our sales managers take a true interest in your processes and seek to understand exactly where those liabilities and risk areas are lurking in your plants. Our engineers attend mandatory sanitary design and hygienic design training. We’re educating our team on how to identify those common (and not-so-common) sanitation issues that should be addressed sooner than later—for your brand’s sake.
Lesson No. 5: Find a partner who’s committed and competent.
Regardless of the size of your sanitation concerns, it’s nice to have a partner to help you analyze the best fix for your budget. EnSight fills that role for many processors. We’re committed to understanding your hurdles and helping you clear them in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.
We know there’s equipment doing jobs it was never intended to do. And we know complacency can set in with standardized processes, but there’s no room for complacency when it comes to sanitation.
Be careful and don’t get lost by focusing only on other operational metrics like throughput, capacity, and line speed. Food manufacturers have a lot invested in sanitation, and it’s important to keep making those investments—even in the most routine of processes.
If you’re looking for a committed and competent partner for sanitary equipment design, EnSight is a great choice. We’re excited to learn about your operation and how we can help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.