Food Processing Sanitation

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The food industry has very stringent cleanliness requirements that can only be met by taking vital equipment out of production. The down time for cleaning can vary from a couple of hours each day to several days at a time. Many companies shut down entire lines, even entire plants, to accommodate routine sanitation requirements.

It is not unusual for a company to improve equipment and labor productivity by 10% or more by implementing a shiftwork solution tailored to optimize production and sanitation requirements. There are two major manufacturing issues associated with sanitation:

  1. The downtime results in a tremendous drop in potential equipment availability.
  2. Staffing and skill requirements differ greatly between the sanitation and production modes.

This discussion will focus on some of the practices that can be used to manage these two problems.

Maximizing Equipment Availability

  • Avoid convenient time frames.

    Make the schedule match the operating requirements instead of making the operating requirements conform to the schedule. All too often, we see companies whose sanitation requirements are suspiciously convenient in duration and cycle. It is unlikely that the perfect amount of sanitation is equal to one 8-hour time period following 16 hours of production. Similarly, a major sanitation of 24 hours every Saturday looks just a little too convenient.

  • Identify limiting operations.

    If sanitation periods are viewed as blocks of time when production comes to a halt, it makes sense to minimize the time it takes to complete them. The endpoint or shortest sanitation period can usually be linked to a specific operation. For example, a freezer needs to be thawed and then refrozen using an automatic operation that takes five hours to complete. This may be the limiting factor that controls the time frame needed to accomplish the work.

  • Never let manpower shortages be a source of longer sanitation periods.

    It is not unusual to find companies with sanitation periods twice as long as they could be, simply because they have half as many people working as they need. This is a simple scheduling problem. Once again, the shift schedule is the master, not the tool. It is possible to schedule the optimum number of people to cover any time frame. The faster you get the work done, the sooner production can resume.

  • Take advantage of all down time to perform work requiring idle equipment.

    If you are down for sanitation, maybe you can take advantage of the opportunity to do some maintenance as well (or visa versa).

Matching the People to the Workload

  • Cross training usually reduces costs and always increases flexibility.

    The traditional sanitation model uses a workforce that leaves when production stops, and uses a different crew to perform sanitation. Changing crews has a tendency to lock the sanitation duration and cycle into a pattern that matches a particular shift schedule (i.e. 16 hours of production followed by 8 hours of sanitation). Ideally, a production line will operate right up to the point where sanitation must occur. At that time, workers simply change tasks and become the sanitation crew. Extra employees are assigned to training, other departments or a variety of discretionary tasks.

  • A shift schedule can be developed to match just about any sanitation period.

    It is not just an 8-hour period (or multiples of 8-hour periods) that must be set aside. Variable shift lengths, overlapping shifts, overtime, voluntary short-shifting and temporary employees are a few of the techniques for matching the number of employees to the work at hand. Remember, the faster you get through the sanitation tasks, the sooner your equipment is up and running again.

Lower Your Costs by Increasing Productivity

Suppose you were running 10 production lines, seven days a week, and you needed to increase production by 10%. You could go out and purchase an additional line, or you could optimize your shift schedule and sanitation requirements to boost your productivity.

Shiftwork Solutions can help you make your shift schedule work for you, so you don’t have to work for it. Contact us today.