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Efficacy and efficiency of cleaning programme

Since most of us have grown up with the belief that ‘Cleanliness in next to Godliness’, it is not surprising that we expect clean and hygienic food to consume in our daily lives. More often than not, we do not bother about the way the food is prepared – the process, the utensils/equipment, the facility, the people involved, etc. – especially if the food looks clean, presentable and appealing.

The truth however is outrageous, since most of the food is prepared with little or no control over the cleaning systems. The sanitation challenges for food processors are many – from biofilms, microbes and allergens, to cleaning agent & sanitizer selection and scheduling, application of sanitary design principles, use of cleaning technology and more – but so are the solutions, say industry experts.

While the efficacy of the cleaning programme is one crucial aspect that will determine the process and product quality, the efficiency of the programme is another aspect that will ensure feasibility, economic viability, better manpower utilisation (which today is a huge cost) and resource planning. Equally important aspects would include effectively combining sanitation initiatives and innovation with industry standards, regulations and sanitary facility/equipment design to boot the overall productivity.

The food processor himself invests in a way that he can maximise the consumption of his finished products and operate in a way that he can up the bottom line with full optimisation of his capacities. In order to achieve this, the food processor has to work with a high level of efficiency.

The operations in a typical food processing industry include the preparation of the equipment, making available suitable raw materials, preparing & packaging of food items, formulations or recipes required to make these products with the right way of storage and transportation of the finished products to assure long shelf life.

  • How can hygiene standards contribute to the efficient working of a food processing facility?
  • Does cleaning efficacy lead to better efficiency?

Hygiene standard is part of the process of preparation of equipment to be used for food preparation and processing. When we talk about clean equipment, we mean that it is clean enough for preparation of the food. However, a clean and sanitized equipment should be one which can complete the desired process and do the same, efficiently as well. We shall see the same in two particular cases.

An automatic fryer in a potato chip making factory does the same job as a manual vessel used for frying the chips. However, with higher capacities and necessities of economies of scale, automatic fryers need to be used for longer period without stopping and minimal human intervention.

These fryers require to be cleaned on a regular basis due to the deposition of soils from potatoes and oil. It is very important that the cleaning is carried out in a manner which removes all the oil and solid deposits from the fryer. The most obvious effects of inadequate cleaning are product rejections due to contamination, failure of the consistent tastes, etc. However, what does not get measured in many cases is the loss of energy and time or in fact the saving thereof resulting due to an effective cleaning of the equipment.

A well designed cleaning programme could deliver better cleaning in a shorter period of time thereby leading to significant savings in energy (used for heating), water (used for rinsing) and of course time, which can be utilised for production, thereby increasing the asset utilisation. Hence, the cleaning protocol in terms of the products used, the time, the temperature and frequency of cleaning becomes very important to achieve the efficacy of cleaning that will lead to a higher efficiency.

In case of a dairy, there are many areas which demonstrate that cleaning efficacy enhances the overall operational efficiency. Let’s consider one such case where a better cleaning efficacy has led to higher efficiency in that operation. Typically, a milk filling facility has a crate washing application which includes a crate washer. Crates used for storing and transporting milk pouches are washed in this automated crate washers using jets, which spray caustic and cleaning additive solution which are rinsed off further by more jets.

The cleaning efficacy of the crates is determined by visual checks for milk deposits and the pH of the crates. Imagine having a pouch of milk with a slimy surface and some milk deposits from the previous lot being delivered to your doorstep. In such cases, cleaning efficacy of the crates determines if the crates need to be washed again or whether they can be used after one clean. In case the efficacy is not up to the mark, the crate is passed through the washer again and not only does it consume over twice the amount of chemical, but it also consumes that much more energy and results in much more loss in time that could have been used for cleaning more crates.

For example, if the crate washer is designed for a capacity of approximately 400 crates per hour and it is required to rewash 40 crates on an average due to lower efficacy of cleaning, it leads to a straight 10% loss in efficiency only of the capacity utilisation of the line. Further, the extra caustic carryover and the extra energy consumption are additional losses in the overall operational efficiency.

We need to minutely consider and look at the savings that a proper cleaning efficacy could lead to in terms of lowering of rejects, minimising reworking, getting higher “right first time” percentages, better manpower utilisation and strive for operational efficiency through better efficacy and peace of mind.

Better cleaning need not necessarily mean a higher cost but in fact could lead to significant savings as well.

Vishal Sharma, Regional Director, JohnsonDiversey India Pvt. Ltd

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