Cleaning first, production later
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Cleaning first, production later

  • 02 January 2018
  • By: René Bakker

Both from a food safety perspective and in view of the current  financial crisis, food processing companies are paying increasing  attention to the cleaning process. How can they save costs without  jeopardising the safety of their food products? By considering the  cleaning aspect before setting up the production line, it is possible to  get a step ahead.

More and more companies in the food processing industry are realising  that cleaning is inextricably linked with food safety. Whereas the  motto used to be ‘Production first, cleaning later’, this has generally  evolved into ‘Cleaning first, production later’. The cleaning plan is no  longer the last thing on the manufacturing overhead budget. Processing  companies and cleaning companies who are not only aware of this fact but  also have the necessary in-house expertise to be able to create the  right preconditions can benefit in terms of quality, operations and  finance by taking the next step: by starting with the right approach to  the cleaning process.

Cleaning plan

HACCP and FSSC22000 provide the basis for a thorough risk analysis to  safeguard food safety. Additional criteria from AIB, IFS and BRC result  in a list of minimum requirements for the cleaning process. The extent  to which a batch of potatoes must be sand-free after being cleaned at a  fries manufacturer, for example, is a matter of choice. Nevertheless, it  is a decision that is included in a cleaning plan – a document  outlining what, why, when and how equipment must be cleaned, and to what  standard. It is definitely a case of ‘Cobbler, stick to your last,’  because cleaning is a skill in its own right! There are even different specialisms within the cleaning sector: an operator of intestine  cleaning equipment in a slaughterhouse would probably not feel at home  in a high-care packaging environment for dried milk powder, for example.

The Sinner Circle: the parameters of time, chemicals, mechanics and temperature must be perfectly balanced.

Optimal parameters

To answer the ‘how’ part of the cleaning question, i.e. the best way of  removing dirt or impurities from a particular surface, it is necessary  to understand the production process and to apply the ‘Sinner Circle’  (see image): time, chemicals, mechanics and temperature. If one element  is reduced, one or more of the others must be increased to compensate.  This equilibrium can be affected by many factors, such as the stability  of the high-pressure pumps in the case of several users, the pressure  level, the type and degree of contamination, the ambient temperature  possible within the company, the availability of water for cleaning, and  the correct chemical composition. All of these aspects must be taken  into consideration.

People make all the difference

Nevertheless, this does not guarantee successful cleaning and  disinfection. The activity of cleaning and disinfecting a production line is time consuming and often done manually – i.e. by people.  Well-trained and motivated employees, combined with the right management  and supervision, make all the difference. Moreover, it is possible to  considerably raise the motivation of cleaning personnel by involving  them in optimising the cleaning process, such as by allowing them to  participate in improvement programmes and be part of improvement teams.  Intensive collaboration can deliver significant cost savings, thus  reducing the cost price of the end product.

Technical improvements

It is also possible to achieve impressive results by switching from  high-pressure to medium-pressure cleaning and disinfecting. The benefits  of this approach include a drastic reduction in airborne  (microbiological) spread of contamination, damage to equipment and  energy consumption. Other innovations include the relatively unknown  technology of dry-ice blasting. Luckily, when it comes to quality  assurance and ‘making things easier for people’, technology is advancing  all the time. Industrial cleaning and disinfecting is becoming  ever-more automated, and smart solutions are making cleaning in the food  industry ‘sexy’ again.

Different and better

Cleaning and disinfection are essential to guarantee safe food products,  and production line design plays an important role. The equipment  guidelines include the criteria for cleaning a machine. Unfortunately,  due to a lack of space or money, different (i.e. wrong) choices are  often made: a machine might be installed too close to another line  leaving insufficient space for effective cleaning, perhaps suboptimal  materials are used, or certain parts of the machine are difficult to  reach. The EHEDG guidelines are an indispensable tool for hygienic  design. Following these guidelines when building machines enables many  hygiene-related risks to be eliminated. Adapting a production line after  it has been installed can be expensive and does not necessarily reduce  the cleaning time significantly, so it makes sense to think about  optimal cleaning while still at the machine design stage. Even if that  makes the production line more expensive, the extra investment will soon  pay off, not only in terms of lower overhead costs for cleaning but  also with safer food products.  

Hago Food & Industry
Hago Food & Industry is a business unit of Hago which is dedicated  to the cleaning of industrial environments. Hago Food & Industry  combines the robustness of a nationwide organisation and strong back  office with 70 years of specialist knowledge and experience in the food  industry, the chemical industry and in high-tech production  environments. Hago Food & Industry puts its expertise to good use on  a daily basis on behalf of leading industry names. Hago Food &  Industry is part of Vebego, a prime example of a family-run company that  makes highly skilled employees one of its top priorities.

Source: Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2014