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 Special Report

False economies in food production cleaning

Despite the hygiene standards demanded of the food sector, it is possible to spend toomuch on cleaning. As something that simply has to be done correctly to satisfy legal requirements, an effective cleaning regime can represent a significant investment - but poorly-planned schedules and false economies can raise costs unnecessarily. Steve Bailey, managing director of contract cleaning specialist Hygiene Group, looks at the areas where savings can be made - and how costs can spiral if corners are cut in an attempt to save.

Improperlymaintained equipment is a major contributor to unnecessary extra cleaning. For example, a leakage of highly toxic oils or hydraulic fluidsmust be com- pletely removed fromthe food handling en- vironment before the equipment can start being used again. Postponingmaintenance and repairs can at first appear to be a cost saving, but in actuality can easily result in production downtime as well as scrapped batches - and extra work for cleaners. Another common and costlymistake

when planning cleaning is failing to take into account the nature of the ingredients used, and how they behave when deposited on equipment as a residue. For example, once congealed, thickening agents such as lecithin and other common ingredients such asmalt, syrup and honey are very time-consuming to remove, even with so- phisticated cleaning agents. If present from the start of a shift and not wiped away im- mediately by production operatives, clean- ers can expect a lengthy task to restore the affected equipment to a clean, usable con- dition, andmay also need to use greater quantities of cleaning products, further in- creasing the cost of cleaning. Building an hourly surface check and wipe-over into the daily schedule would simplify the end-of- shift clean, reducing costs for bothman- power and the amount of detergents used. Additionally, cleaning up spills or growing deposits while themachinery is in opera- tion would help to determine if substances are collecting due to inadequately function- ingmachinery, and help engineers to solve maintenance issues before they impact upon production. Waste is also created indirectly when in-

gredients or even completed items are not cleared away and correctly stored at the end of a shift. In some large-scale bak- eries, for example, it is common for trays of loaves or pies to be left to cool in ovens or on open trays. But as soon as these prod- ucts come into contact with any cleaning products sprayed in the room, or even just water, they have to be discarded. Such a level of waste is so easily preventable that it is surprising howmany companies will ac- cept this practice as normal, when trans- ferring products to another area before cleanersmove in could result in consider- able savings. As well as enhanced production

processes, companies can domore to en- sure the cleaning process itself works opti- mally. Itmay be surprising to learn that in

18 l C&M l NOVEMBER 2014 l

Steve Bailey, managing director of Hygiene Group.

some food processing environments which are cleaned overnight, the available hot water typically only lasts until 1 or 2am. In fact,many factories do not provide suffi- cient hot water to last for the whole clean- ing cycle - production facilities have grown but investment in water heating equipment has not always kept pace. Raising the tem- perature of water used for cleaning by 10°C can asmuch as halve the required cleaning time, which admittedly comes at a cost, but this is invariably lower than the extra time needed to clean with colder water. Cleaning operatives often cite a lack of

resources as amajor factor in increasing the time it takes to complete both end-of- run and deep cleans. A crewmay be despatched with a single set of equipment such as hoses,mops and scrapers,mean- ing that teammembers often stand idle waiting for a piece of kit to become avail- able. Itmight be cheaper to purchase fewer pieces of equipment, but investing in addi- tional essential items will prevent wasted time andmay cut the duration of a cleaning job by a considerable amount. Properlymaintaining the equipment used

for cleaning will also help reduce cleaning time. For example, it is common to find ‘pressure-pot’ foamgenerators with only one wheel, broken pressure gauges, and leaking hoses and lances. In addition, the valve creating the foamis commonly stuck.

Themachine is therefore almost impossi- ble tomove, the leaking chemicalsmake it unpleasant and possibly risky to use, and the foamproduced is either so thick that it cannot wet the surface or be rinsed away, or so thin that it hardly clings at all. This wastes time and delivers poor results - and all for the sake of preventativemainte- nance. Fully functioning equipment, there- fore, saves both time andmoney. Similarly, incorrect dosing - using deter-

gents and other cleaning products at a lower or higher dilution than prescribed - is again wasteful of both time and product, as the wrong strength ofmix will invariably impact negatively on cleaning effectiveness as each product is designed to work best at the specified concentration. It is amyth that using a strongermix will clean better ormore quickly, as a certain amount of water is needed to suspend removedmate- rial, while too weak amix will not get the job done. Taking simplemeasures to en- sure the correct proportions - whether throughmanual ormechanicalmeasure- ment - will save both time andmoney in the long run. Properly planned routines willmake best

use of the available equipment, the particu- lar skills and training of the operatives (for example when working at height or in con- fined spaces), and optimise the windows in production that allow for cleaning and maintenance to be carried out. A well- planned schedule will prevent crews stand- ing idle waiting tomove fromone production area to the next, and will also deliver considerable cost savings on un- necessary cleans. Traditional sequential methods of cleaning, where lines are cleaned in stages fromstart to end, are ideal for factories which shut down processes consecutively as the product moves through the system. However, where various areas of the production line may not be in constant use, operativesmay find themselves having to clean equipment when it hasn’t been used since the last clean, simply because it is on their sched- ule. Taking an event cleaning approach would allow for the fact that not all areas are in constant use and do not need the type of regular cleaningmade necessary by high volumes of activity on othermachin- ery. The event cleaning approach is based on detailed risk assessments and the judgement of skilled operatives, and aims to cut down on unnecessary cleaning. While cleaning is a necessity, its cost can

be reduced if companies take proactive steps in terms ofmanaging both produc- tion and cleaning -minimising cleaning time and resources used, reducing wastage of ingredients and end product, and im- pacting positively on the bottomline. Con- tract cleaning specialists are ideally placed to advise on themost appropriate cleaning methods and scheduling for each area of production, and also invest heavily in up-to- date training ensuring themost effective and efficient clean possible.

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