Clean Bills of Health
The critical importance of maintaining strict sanitation standards and regime at manufacturing and packaging operations
While it may have taken a global health crisis of truly epic proportions to scare the general public into adopting stringent rules for personal hygiene and cleanliness, following strict sanitation rules and procedures is nothing new for companies in the pharmaceutical, food-and-beverage and other fast-moving goods industries.
But with such systems ultimately being only as effective as the people operating and using them, human error or oversight can be the proverbial Achilles Heel for any well-intended system that can’t cope with this highly unpredictable element.
For companies looking to acquire the proverbial peace-of-mind in respect to product and employee safety, the cost of installing a centrally-controlled, automatic sanitation system that literally forces all facility staff and visitors to complete a stringent hygiene process prior to entering and/or exiting a production area is quickly becoming the cost of doing business—especially in today’s climate of fear and uncertainty.
With this in mind, Canadian Packaging magazine has recently reached out to Nigel Turnpenny, president of Oakville, Ont.-headquartered product inspection and industrial sanitation systems distributor Shawpak Systems Ltd., to explain the benefits of the company’s Hygiene Filter systems solution approach to industrial sanitation.
Given the current business climate and the overriding fear of coming into contact with COVID-19 virus, to what extent are manufacturing companies ramping up their sanitation systems?
We are definitely seeing a higher demand for customers wanting Shawpak to go into their facilities and develop a true ‘Hygiene Filter’ system that our company specializes in. In fact, since the outbreak of the coronavirus we’re seeing a huge spike in demand for quotations, with customers looking at systems in all sorts of different configurations.
We are also seeing a high level interest not just from the traditional industries that we worked with— pharmaceutical, food-and-beverage and chemical—but also from general industrial operations like dry-goods warehouses, parts distribution centers, and even the agricultural sector.
Basically any industrial business that has a high volume of a of staff coming in and out the facility on regular basis.
With the recent outbreak now, we’re trying to educate our customers that just putting a hand sanitizer dispenser at the entrance and a washbasin near the production floor is not really a true sanitation solution—they need to have full central control of all the sanitization and hand-washing stations.
For all that, these systems are not really a solution for containing the spread of the coronavirus in themselves, are they?
They’re not going to be able to detect that virus, but at least you are doing everything you practically can do to prevent the risks of cross contamination within your plant from a droplet virus.
At the very least, you will know that every one of your employees going into the production area or other parts of the facility has actually had full sanitization and hygiene procedures properly completed prior to going into that production area—reducing the risk of cross contamination.
And this stage, alas, there’s nothing more practical that can be done in respect to COVID-19, but there’s a lot to be said for business owner, a plant manager or an operations manager having that peace of mind in knowing that every single operator or staff member that’s working within that production area has completed a proper true hygiene cycle prior to entering that room.
And it’s not just about protecting the workers, it’s also about protection for the business and brand reputation.
Over the years, we have all seen many major businesses take a hit with salmonella outbreaks, e-coli, listeria other horrendous contaminations, and it is essential for these businesses to be proactive by preventing these events by ensuring that they have the right solutions in place.
A lot of these businesses also happen to have a high level of staff turnover, or they rely heavily on temporary or seasonal workers, some of them having never worked in a food plant before, so no matter how much training you do with your teams or how many GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) you have in place, there is no substitute for putting a true Hygiene Filter for eliminating the risk of contamination.
Being fully-automatic, the systems will not allow anyone who has not completed the prescribed sanitation cycle correctly to enter the facility.
So at the very least, installing such systems indicates that the business is doing the most reasonably practical things they can do to prevent cross contamination, while protecting their staff and their products.
What are some of the key factors to consider when designing a proper system for these different facilities?
One of the biggest weaknesses within the industry is when a customers put in a hygiene solution and discover that they don’t have enough of the equipment installed, so you become vulnerable to some of the staff bypassing it, or it becomes a time constraint when there are too many people waiting to complete the hygiene cycle.
What we do is design a true Hygiene Filter that basically controls the flow of people in and out of the facility in a way that all the correct hygiene functions have been completed correctly and, just as important, that it does not hinder or restrict their actual production.
By analyzing the layout of the building, it’s important to account for any kind of emergency situations, where the staff could be required to exit the building quickly and safely.
It can be a camera-based system that keeps track of people at point of entry; it can incorporate lights, voice guidance or drawings to complete certain functions; and it can also capture data that can be used for later analysis of how well your sanitation procedures are being followed, Everything is electronically controlled: the technology behind the equipment is very sophisticated.
What determines the size and the layout of a particular hygiene filter system installation?
Much of it is determined by the type of industry the customer is working within. In a chocolate facility, for example, the customer would want a low-boot or a shoe-sole cleaning system as well as hand hygiene.
If we’re working in a seafood or red meat facility where the staff are typically wearing high boots, there’s a lot of debris that can collect on those boots, so you would need high-boot drying stations, which makes the system physically longer and bigger to ensure a correct cleaning cycle.
We would also want to know the number of breaks over an eight-hour shift; the breaks and lunch schedule; if the staff are wearing any special protective clothing, and so on and so forth.
It is essential to design a Hygiene Filer correctly from the outset, so that it does not create a backlog or a hindrance for people trying to get in and out of the actual production area.
So basically the design of the systems is designed specifically around the customer’s requirements, which is in turn determined by the nature of the product handled in that facility.
You can’t just buy a piece of equipment, bolt it to the wall, and assume that is sufficient to make sure that people will use it as well as they should.
Take us through some of these steps that facility staff must go through with your Hygiene Filter?
Generally, before entering the food manufacturing production area, for example, you would enter into a designated room and through a wash station that would clean the soles of the shoes or work boots.
You would then proceed to the automatic hand-washing stations that would have special drawings showing staff all the required steps.
And then you would also put your hands into an automatic hand-sanitizing station that delivers the correct dose of the solution.
And until you do all those things right, the automatic turnstile at the end will not let you into the plant.
Plants may put out cleaning mats with special chemicals and map out their floors to walk their employees along, but it is human nature to step over those chemical mats from time to time, intentionally or not.
The benefit of having a fully central-controlled Hygiene Filter is that it forces employees to perform all the correct steps prior to being allowed to step into the actual manufacturing area of the plant.
In addition, the Hygiene Filter design also ensures that there is the right amount of steps in place and the right amount of equipment to accommodate the volume and the frequency of people coming in and out of that manufacturing facility.
Production time is key, so we don’t want to create a hygiene filter that’s going to have any hindrance or downtime in production.
Tell us about your company’s level of expertise with designing industrial sanitation systems.
Shawpak Systems is a very technical group that doesn’t just sell equipment out of a catalog. There are many companies out there that supply and sell hygiene equipment through catalogs, but we pride ourselves on providing full design and service support services for these customers to ensure they get the right solution by building a relationship with them.
That’s what businesses are looking for these days, and we have full design services to allow our customers to see exactly how a proposed system would be implemented within their facility.
We would then supply them with a true integrated Hygienic Filter solution that would control the people’s flow within the facility to ensure they wear the right protective clothing; make them put on their boots at the correct place; lead them through the sanitization stations; design the proper sink; control the amount of chemicals used on the sole and boot cleaning mats; install automatic sanitizer turnstiles to prevent forced entry … all the things that the customer may not be aware that they need.
Once we have all the relevant information required from the customer, about their facility, layout, staffing, etc., we can generally have a proposal ready for them to look at within three to five days.
Not being a manufacturer of these systems yourselves, what can you tell us about the equipment that Shawpak Systems works with?
There are a lot of hygiene solutions out there in the marketplace, but it is the design and the quality of the equipment that makes a critical difference.
We work with very high-end manufacturers that have been in business for many years, supplying their equipment globally and, in my opinion, setting a ‘golden standard’ for industrial sanitization systems.
They have been in business for over 30 years developing and pioneering their systems, which we (Shawpak) distribute not only across Canada but also throughout North America.
All their equipment—made at a modern new manufacturing facility in Unna, Germany, with state-of-the-art robotics—obviously meets all the North American requirements for electrical certification.
It’s all robotically-welded stainless steel with high-quality repeatable welds, no surface traps for dirt or water to accumulate, fully-automatic operations, advanced electronics, ergonomic shelving and racking, all world-class stuff.
There is no room for error in sanitation: a sanitation system that is not suitable for the working environment or not properly designed can actually present more of a risk to the business with the potential for cross-contamination.
We have already installed over 1,000 different system solutions across North America, including multiple single-site installations, and we are looking at installing many more up ahead.
What do you think will be the legacy impact of the current coronavirus on the industrial sanitization market?
The COVID-19 crisis is going to create further awareness across many business sectors about the need for having a true Hygiene Filter solution, with mandatory enforced cleanliness for all the operators and the staff, in the future.
Even as we eventually come out of this crisis, the will be an even greater focus on prevention of E-coli salmonella and all other types of bacteria that often cause many food production facilities to close for a long time.
Food recalls are a huge expense to those businesses: not just the costs of the recall, but also from the company and brand reputation perspectives.
For all intents and purposes, any facility that uses a metal detector, let’s say, or another type of product inspection system to ensure product safety is almost by definition a prime candidate for having a properly designed, properly integrated, and properly functioning automatic sanitization and hygienic system in place.