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Plant Operations

Every food plant or distribution center, designed and properly implemented

ood safety is the principal responsibility of any food Consider the manufacturers recommendations, equipment hismanufacturer. Without programs that guarantee safety tory, and past experiences. Tasks could include inspecting, moniof the food manufactured, companies could not survive. toring, lubricating, and replacing parts. A comprehensive program Total food safety can be achieved by various plant programs includes condition monitoring (actions that detect failures) and including sanitation, pest control, chemical control, preventive predictive maintenance (actions that prevent failures). Condition maintenance, etc. Every food monitoring should include the plant or distribution center, equipment, facilities, structure, regardless of size or age, reand grounds. Monitoring can be Information gathered through Preventive quires a well designed and propcompleted by critical scheduling erly implemented Preventive protocols, daily work orders, Maintenance Programs should be analyzed Maintenance Program. Poorly and employee observations. to determine the cause of the issue and maintained equipment and Predictive maintenance looks facilities contribute to product at the recognized condition of prevent failures. This enables the facility to contamination or hinder the the equipment and determines ability to efficiently produce failure based on the information plan and schedule downtime for repairs and safe quality products. The goal gathered. replacements. of the Preventive Maintenance Next, determine the freProgram is to maintain the quency of each task. There process environment to optiare several factors that affect mize production and minimize food safety risks and equipment frequency, including manufacturer recommendations, how often failures. The program has to be very aggressive in order to meet the equipment is used, criticality of the equipment, and how the that goal. equipment impacts food safety and quality. KEY STEPS. Before you develop the program, you should rst establish a clear and concise denition of preventive maintenance. This denition should be embraced by personnel to ensure it is understood and helps them recognize and reach established goals. The rst step in developing a Preventive Maintenance Program is to gather data and create a master list of equipment in the plant. This list should include all equipment used for food handling, storage, processing, packaging, as well as any equipment not directly in the processing or packaging areas, such as air-handling units, HVAC, compressors, boilers, storage silos, temperature and humidity controls, and water backow preventers. Structural items such as doors, windows, dock levelers, and dock pads also should be included. The next step is to identify maintenance tasks for each item.

ROLE OF RECORDKEEPING. Records are required to manage the Preventive Maintenance Program. Several software programs have been specically developed for this purpose. Once the data has been entered, the software programs are reasonably easy to manage. Routine work orders can be printed and given to the mechanics and the completed orders can be retained for the required period. Software automation makes it easier to monitor work

regardless of size or age, requires a well preventive maintenance program.

orders; however manual programs are just as effective. They can be managed through spreadsheets, checklists, forms, etc. Whether using a computerized or manual program, documentation must be monitored to ensure tasks are completed at the specied frequencies. The plant also should have a record retention policy that determines the retention period and storage method and assigns responsibility. The retention period could be dependent on regulatory requirements, product shelf life, and the companys internal policies. Information gathered through the Preventive Maintenance Programs should be analyzed to determine the cause of the issue and prevent failures. This enables the facility to plan and schedule downtime for repairs and replacements. Scheduled downtime allows the facility to assess the need for additional repairs and effectively control maintenance costs. One of the activities often forgotten when Preventive Maintenance Programs are developed is the policy on temporary repairs. Temporary repair materials, such as duct tape, wire, string, cardboard, etc., should only be in place until a permanent repair can be made. They are not suitable in areas where they could directly contact food or food-contact surfaces. Some plants decide not to allow any temporary repairs. If they are allowed, clear guidelines must be established. The policy should dene the type of material allowed, where it can be used, and how the repair should be identied. The purpose of a temporary repair is to keep production running until a timely permanent repair can be completed. Lubrication is a critical element of any Preventive Maintenance Program. Greases, oils, and sprays are used for lubrication in food manufacturing facilities. There are various types of lubricants; but it is critical to distinguish food grade and non-food grade products. When determining the type of lubricant to use, select those that are approved by regulatory agencies for incidental food contact. Physical contamination is another lubrication concern. To prevent physical contamination, relocate bearings, gearboxes, and drive chains out of product zones. If this is not practical, catch pans should be installed to catch lubricants in the event of a leak. They should be routinely cleaned. Bearings should be regularly wiped clean to protect the product. To prevent incorrect usage, store food grade and non-food grade lubricants separately and

By Ahmed Vavda and Penny Hancock

clearly identify storage locations. Grease guns and other containers should also be clearly labeled. Inventory control is another important part of the Preventive Maintenance Program. You have to ensure that required parts are available at all times. As parts are used, the records should be updated. Minimum and maximum amounts should be set and the stocks should be replenished as needed. FINAL STEPS. A post-maintenance inspection is important for food safety. Once the preventive maintenance or emergency repair is complete, the production area should be cleared of tools, parts, and other debris. The tools and parts should be reconciled and signed off. If the equipment needs to be cleaned and sanitized, this should be formally communicated to the appropriate personnel. The post-maintenance inspection should be carried out by trained personnel and records should be maintained. Finally, no program is complete without fully developed and implemented training. Maintenance personnel should be qualied to perform maintenance tasks. They should also receive regular training on the plants food safety, GMP, and HACCP programs. Like any other program, the Preventive Maintenance Program should be regularly audited to verify compliance to policies and procedures. AIB

The authors are Food Safety Auditors at AIB International.