When we think about the life cycle of process equipment for a food plant, we put a lot of effort into the sanitary requirements of the design. However, we often overlook key items that keep the design sanitary as we install and maintain the process equipment. Maintaining sanitary design throughout installation and maintenance is critical to providing quality products to consumers.


The ‘secret sauce’ is the installation

Once equipment has been chosen to meet operational and sanitary requirements, it is time to install the equipment. There are many things to think about.

Do the installers understand the sanitary requirements of the design? Have they been trained and are they aware of the impact they have on sanitary design?

Most equipment is designed to be self-draining when installed. Understanding the product and cleaning flow will help produce a better installation.

Field connections should be smooth and tight. Field welds should be inspected and meet AWS D-18.

Initial cleaning and passivation should be properly completed, and elastomers should be checked/replaced.

Utilities and overheads should be installed so they do not drip or drain onto product/equipment. Harborage points should be minimized by utilizing sanitary installation methods; threaded fasteners also should be minimized.

Exhaust ducts should be located to prevent product/equipment contamination.

Check steam-emitting equipment. Exhausts are designed to remove water vapor, and any condensate that may form in the duct should not run back into product zone. The discharge of the exhaust should be away from building fresh air intakes.

Water-emitting equipment should allow for discharge of water without running across floor.

Complete rigorous factory acceptance and plant acceptance tests, including induced failure tests, should be conducted to ensure the equipment design is sanitary in operation and that breakdowns or failures do not result in insanitary conditions.


Maintaining sanitary design

Food plant maintenance employees should understand that all aspects of the maintenance process are necessary to continue a smooth-running operation and to keep the sanitary design of the equipment.

The maintenance person also needs to be trained about the basics of sanitary design, as well as learn the specific design requirements of the equipment. Along with reviewing the specific equipment documentation, the maintenance staff also should review the design standards so they are aware of design requirements they could otherwise unknowingly undo.  Does the maintenance person understand the need for practicing proper personal Good Manufacturing Practices, as well as keeping tools clean?

Maintenance involves the use of many different materials, including adhesives, lubricants and solvents. Proper use of these materials is critical to maintaining sanitary and safe food-making operations.

Maintenance can introduce many physical hazards into a food production area. The act of maintenance can loosen or break free metal, rubber and plastic fragments, as well as nuts, bolts, blades or even over-processed product. Having a process to mitigate the risk of physical hazards during maintenance is critical.

Are the right repair parts used with the same specifications as the originally installed ones? Does the repair part carry a 3-A Sanitary Standards certificate? Have the repair parts been appropriately cleaned, sanitized and passivated?

More on this can be found in Process Integration for Hygienic Design at www.3-a.org in the Knowledge Center under “Annual Meeting Presentations.”