You have a robust cleaning and sanitation program that includes documented procedures, employee training, regular monitoring and verification, and best-in-class chemistry and clean-in-place technologies. Yet you are struggling to meet your production efficiency targets due to a slow and sometimes labor-intensive sanitation regimen.
The problem may lie in the design of your facility or processing equipment.
Sanitary or hygienic design refers to the application of design techniques that allow for efficient and effective cleaning of manufacturing equipment and related infrastructure in food and beverage processing facilities. Not only does sanitary design minimize the risk of product contamination, protecting your consumers, brand and reputation, it helps to drive operational efficiencies, potentially helping you to improve sanitation turnaround time and pre-operational swab results.
Making a point
Consider this example. During a sanitary design workshop, I hand attendees a wipe and a bolt dipped in chocolate. I challenge participants to clean the bolt as fast as possible, with no chocolate or haze remaining.
As the group cleans, I describe why the exercise is so difficult. Chocolate is surprisingly hard to remove. With sharp edges, threads that come to a point, and no internal radius, the design of the object also makes it tough to clean. In fact, even after cleaning vigorously for 10-15 minutes, no one is close to meeting my cleanliness standards.
My point? If you are spending too much time, energy or resources on cleaning and you still are not meeting your standards for cleanliness and sanitation, it is time to think about sanitary design.
A complete program
Thorough cleaning and sanitizing in a food and beverage facility is as critical as the products produced. As you can see from the example above, that task becomes much more difficult and ineffective when consideration is not given to equipment or facility design.
A complete sanitary design program should include the involvement of a cross-functional team, standards and principles, a review process, controls to manage gaps, and a plan to make modifications and repairs as needed. While I can’t cover all that here, understanding some key sanitary design principles will help you begin to identify where bacteria might be taking up residence in your facility, causing contamination concerns.
Standards vs. principles
You can think about sanitary design in terms of principles or standards, but they are not interchangeable. Principles are general underlying guidelines for designing something. Anyone can apply the principles whether or not their specific industry or piece of equipment has design standards. Principles offer a good starting point early on your journey toward sanitary design.
Standards are much more exact and typically involve specific engineering specifications when building or constructing equipment or facilities. They may include details such as what materials and finish to use.
Where to begin
While principles can vary by industry or facility (many of the best companies will create their own modified or improved versions) these six are often core to effective sanitary design programs.
You should eliminate harborage or niche areas, which cannot effectively be cleaned and sanitized in a reasonable amount time with normal tools and supplies. They are hot spots for microbial and allergen hazards.
Ecolab can support you through the validation process by helping you to confirm you are using the right chemistry for the equipment, soils and surfaces in your facility.
A holistic program
Food and beverage facilities have their cleaning and sanitation challenges, but a good sanitary design program combined with the right chemical and system solutions can help to ensure your equipment and facility are visually, chemically and microbiologically clean. While not all-inclusive, the six principles discussed provide a good starting point regardless of your industry.