Foodborne illness is a common and costly—yet preventable—public health problem. CDC estimates that one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated foods or beverages each year, with 3,000 deaths. USDA estimates that foodborne pathogens impose over $15 billion in economic burden annually. Food and beverage manufacturers have set effective sanitation practices as a top priority to prevent foodborne illnesses and protect public health, along with complying with FDA regulations. However, due to day-to-day customer demands, equipment reliability issues, personnel issues, and quality concerns among many others, there is very little time to focus on ensuring each sanitation cycle is effective and efficient.
Ineffective sanitation practices are a result of inadequate cleaning methods, lack of standard cleaning tasks, lack of an understanding of how to execute the job, and personnel lacking the right materials or tools to perform the job. Inefficient sanitation often occurs when the sanitation cycle takes longer than planned, resulting in reduced productivity and low utilization of an organization’s assets due to rework (known in the industry as a re-clean) to swab and test equipment again because it didn’t pass post-operation sampling. With repeated instances of ineffective sanitation practices, it is only a matter of time before a food safety risk detonates into a reality.
Myriad reasons contribute to ineffective and inefficient sanitation practices, including:
- Employees spending large amounts of time looking for tools and materials;
- A lack of a streamlined and well-defined process, resulting in poorly coordinated execution; and
- Employees having to wait for equipment to shut down or for other employees to finish their tasks before starting sanitation procedures.
Fine-Tuning the Process
The following three guidelines provide a basis for building the foundational elements to optimize a sanitation program that fully leverages time and resources and ensures that equipment is performing at maximum capacity.
I. Use SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) Principles to Streamline and Optimize the Process. SMED is a lean technique where the premise is equal to the Formula-1 racing pit stop mentality. The objective is to get the car back to racing as safely and quickly as possible. This mentality should be the equivalent of the time it takes to perform sanitation and get a production line up and running in the safest, most effective, and most efficient manner.
Using SMED principles will make each sanitation cycle more structured, repeatable, and easier.
SMED consists of seven steps, which can be applied to any sanitation process.
1. Measure the process. First, you must have a clear understanding of all cleaning requirements, such as which assets must be cleaned and what exactly must be done to ensure each asset is thoroughly cleaned. When measuring, you must start by observing the process and documenting assets or areas to be sanitized, who performs each task, steps to perform each task, and the time it takes to complete each task. A Gantt chart should be used to perform this first step and should be used as a baseline to start implementing your improvement efforts.
2. Determine and separate the internal and external steps. Internal steps are those that can be done only with the equipment stopped. External steps can be done while the equipment is working. In the Gantt chart, next to each task, indicate whether it is internal or external. Once you have identified all external and internal activities, the process will need to be refined with the objective of performing all external activities before shutdown. Some of these activities include staging cleaning carts, ensuring all cleaning supplies are readily available, ensuring water temperature is adequate, and preparing standard cleaning cards for personnel involved in the sanitation process.