In March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security designated food and agriculture production one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors. This was a significant recognition, as it allowed food processing plants to continue their activity during the pandemic. Even with the pandemic mostly in our rearview mirror, this designation shelters the sector from future disruptions.
The classification also comes with additional compliance and regulatory issues. While health and safety are the top concerns in these industries, production efficiency and business operations are not to be neglected. With a more and more unstable geopolitical climate, a lot rests on the shoulders of food processing facilities.
Video monitoring can help take some of that burden off your shoulders. It can improve processes and compliance, and help streamline processes. When you hear “video monitoring,” security is often the first thing that springs to mind. Granted, enhanced security is not a small feat, but video monitoring in food processing plants can help with a lot more. Here are five advantages to using this technology in your food facility.
1. Ease FDA Inspections
Thanks to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), FDA’s regulatory requirements with regard to food processing has increased significantly.
FDA inspections aren’t always easy to pass. Everything is under scrutiny, from your processes to the equipment you use. While using the right food processing equipment to avoid contamination is a fairly straightforward guideline, when it comes to procedures and the way they are implemented, things can get murkier. This is where the right surveillance equipment can assist.
Video surveillance can help you prove your point, especially through the technology’s physical security component: You can prove that your processing plant was not contaminated by unauthorized personnel or intruders by showing footage of who had access inside. Moreover, video monitoring can help prove that you’ve thoroughly secured the storage and use of toxic chemicals. When combined with access control systems, video surveillance can be your best ally during an FDA inspection.
2. Identify and Resolve Equipment Failure via Video Monitoring
When essential equipment is down, your entire plant may have to stop working. Depending on how long it takes to get to the root of the problem, you can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars due to activity disruptions. According to a 2015 study from research firm Aberdeen Strategy and Research, a food processing plant can lose up to 20% of its capacity because of downtime.
Through intelligent video surveillance systems, you can see all the activities that led to an equipment’s failure in real time, and you can identify the sequence of events at fault and solve the issue quickly. More importantly, you can prevent downtime from happening altogether. While some equipment malfunctions are easily missed by workers in a noisy plant area, they often can be easily spotted by an operator in a remote location who may be viewing from a different perspective.
3. Streamline Operations and Prevent Losses
Real-time monitoring can help identify staff effectiveness, as well as faulty processes that may lead to losses. The traditional way of identifying process faults—through human inspectors monitoring the lines—can’t be as comprehensive as video surveillance. Moreover, the latter comes with a hard-to-beat advantage: the bird’s-eye-view perspective, which is impossible to achieve using human eyes alone.
This is why 93% of companies that use video systems for cross-functional benefits report a positive impact on operations, according to 2013 research from the Loss Prevention Research Council.
4. Expand New Employee Training
Video monitoring can help pinpoint common knowledge gaps for your new training—before they become serious issues.
5. Improve Health and Safety
Employee health and product safety are the biggest concerns at food processing plants, and they can be aided by video monitoring. In complex food supply chains, there are far more chances for food to become contaminated are increased by each additional step. Each new stage has its own risks. Video surveillance can help identify the riskiest stages and address each problem before they escalate.
Choosing a Video Monitoring System
Every plant manager knows that choosing the right food processing equipment for their facility is crucial. Video surveillance systems should be treated the same way. While off-the-shelf cameras are definitely more affordable, they are also more likely to contribute to food contamination because they are not made of bacteria-resistant materials. Furthermore, store-bought solutions don’t have the longevity and endurance you need in harsh environments such as food processing plants. Extreme temperatures and extreme temperature variations, humidity, noise, and steam are just a few of the things that impact a cameras’ lifespan.
Dedicated cameras meet the Stainless AISI 316 standard, which means they are compliant with FDA regulations. It’s not just the equipment used in food processing directly that can contaminate the food; it’s also the additional devices and tools. This is why it’s important to use video monitoring systems that don’t increase your contamination risks.
Dedicated food processing facility cameras also have a long life advantage. They are built to withstand humidity, noise, extreme temperature, temperature changes, and high vibration levels. This means that the investment in specialized cameras is protected for a longer period of time. Additionally, food processing managers can rest assured knowing that their monitoring feed won’t be interrupted by yet another camera failure due to the harsh environment to which it has been exposed.
Schmidt is a global sales manager at Opticom Tech. Reach her at [email protected].
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