(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the August/September 2017 issue.)
The food industry cannot be lax about hygiene and safety at any point. Numerous food manufacturing facilities are churning out processed and pre-packaged foods using various pieces of equipment. This makes it extremely critical to ensure that the production is completely safe, hygienic, and efficient to protect the health of the consumers.
You can achieve this by having well-maintained equipment in your facility. When equipment is well-maintained, the safety standards of the food being processed will be high. On the contrary, ill-maintained equipment will break down more often during manufacturing and processing, thus compromising the integrity of the production processes and the food being produced. Due to this reason, following the below preventive maintenance practices is critical.
- Take inventory of equipment. The first and foremost step is to take inventory of all the equipment used for food production. Check what you have, how much you have, and what you need. At the same time, assess the risk that each equipment poses. Use asset management software to prioritize more important equipment, like the machinery that will have a higher potential impact on the safety of food, and those critical to food production in general. Different types of equipment pose different hazards and you must understand how to maintain each of them properly.
- Create maintenance schedule based on operations. Follow the manufacturer’s guide on how to maintain different equipment to the T and you won’t face too many maintenance issues. This guide is generally broken down into daily, monthly, and annual maintenance categories. Go through them carefully and create a master schedule, which will allow you to track important maintenance dates. You must also consider how maintenance will fit into your operational schedule in the best manner possible—is shutting down the production one day prior to maintenance a good idea or should you work on them on a rotation?
- Document every procedure. Apart from executing maintenance tasks efficiently, you must document all the procedures diligently. Computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) ensures in keeping these documents in one location and being accessible to the staff. Every document must contain detailed descriptions of how each machine must be maintained and serviced. This will come in handy when someone new takes over the job or some query is raised regarding the procedures.
- Choose a leader. Make someone accountable and responsible for conducting all the maintenance programs. If you do not assign authority to someone, the staff may be tempted to skip certain maintenance procedures at times to get the job done faster due to no supervision. Ensure that you give authority to someone who is responsible, has knowledge of food safety, and is dedicated towards the same.
- Keep supplies handy. You need tools to service and maintain various equipment. These specific tools may include spare parts, various types of lubricants required to service different parts of food production equipment, etc. It is recommended to have some supplies ready, especially if they are hard to find. Ensure that you store such spare parts properly and keep track of expenses at every stage. Prioritize the supplies based on the most necessary and hardest-to find-materials to the least critical ones with the help of work order software.
- Keep detailed maintenance records. Maintain detailed records of equipment maintenance. These records act as an evidence whenever your facility is inspected or audited for safety standards. They also come in handy to understand what went wrong with an instrument, in case it breaks down suddenly. Traceability is critical in the food industry and maintenance records help achieve it.
Forget the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” if you want to achieve food safety. Rather, aim to fix it before any equipment has a chance to break. Preventive maintenance software can help keep the equipment’s functioning up to standards.