How Well Does Your Food Sanitation Chemical Company Know Your Business?
You were assured lower food sanitation chemical spend, intensified focus on safety, and probably a whole host of other intangible promises.
But as a plant or QA manager, how do you know if your food sanitation chemical company really understands your business needs? Are those promises really making your life simpler and improving efficiency in your plant?
This is the name of today’s game, and it’s so critical to keep food manufacturing safe and affordable -- for both seller and consumer. And there’s a level of scrutiny on food processors these days that exceeds anything we’ve ever seen. There are entire Twitter accounts dedicated to food recalls.
How can your food plant sanitation solutions provider help you make products safer while driving operational efficiency? It’s a fine line, and it starts with your partner truly understanding your facility and its people.
What to Quiz Your Food Sanitation Chemical Company On
Whether you’ve known your food safety and sanitation program supplier for 4 minutes or 4 years, you should be talking frequently. Beyond the day-to-day discussions, here are some big-picture questions your supplier should be able to answer:
Q: ‘Do you understand our culture?’
This isn’t a yogurt pun; it’s a serious problem at many food plants. All the well-laid plans in the world won’t matter if your employees don’t bother to follow them.
The FDA’s food safety regulations barely touch on company buy-in. Instead, your sanitation program provider (with your help) should be leading the way. By understanding the current culture, your supplier can better facilitate change.
Q: ‘How well do you understand our plant’s process?’
How well do your food factory cleaning services understand the inner workings of your plant operations? Your chemical supplier needs to make “process improvements” a priority. It’s not a one-time thing; it’s an every-day thing.
It’s just not enough to lower sanitation chemical prices or even chemical concentrations in an effort to cut overall spend. The real savings come from:
- Using the appropriate chemicals
- Reducing water use
- Reducing energy waste
- Streamlining labor costs
- Increasing production output
This process begins well before you order the first gallon of chemical. Your food plant sanitation program supplier should evaluate your operation from start to finish. This starts with an evaluation of your unique sanitation process:
- How the employees dispense chemicals
- How they clean
- What type of chemistry they apply for each application and environment
- Cycle times and temperatures in continuous-improvement applications
Q: ‘How ingrained are your reps in our operations?’
As you evaluate your current food safety and sanitation supplier, or consider a new supplier, ask it to explain its action plan for process improvements.
Ask whether your food plant sanitation company’s field-based reps can:
- Identify process improvements
- Provide solutions and execute them properly
- Improve chemical handling safety
- Track JPI (Joint Process Improvement) progress
Bonus points if your food factory sanitation partner has team members with prior food operations job experience!
Either way, your supplier’s reps should be part of a multilayered, field-based support system.
Q: ‘Have you seen a situation like ours before?’
Anyone selling food plant sanitation chemicals should have proven mastery in optimizing a variety of unique setups and situations.
Let’s take a look at a recent, real-life example: a large, multilocation manufacturer that produces icing, cake batter, and cookies. In an alternate universe, if this company hired the wrong food plant sanitation services, it would have gotten an inexperienced and under capable “partner.” Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
The baking goods manufacturer hired a supplier with exhaustive experience and a full range of supporting services. Because the food sanitation chemical company had experience with other clients in similar situations, it quickly identified JPIs before even being awarded a contract.
Once the two sides agreed to a deal, it took less than 2 months to see substantial results -- all because the supplier understood its customer. Together, they achieved:
- Annual water savings > 1 million gallons by adjusting a CIP (clean-in-place) procedure
- Chemicals savings of more than 20%
- Additional savings in labor thanks to other changes in procedure
As a result, the CIP system runs much smoother today, it’s simpler to manage, and the customer benefitted from reducing operational spend by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Q: ‘Are we wasting time somewhere?’
A supplier that doesn’t fully understand your business will only make surface-level suggestions and remain reactive in dealing with issues. A true partner in plant sanitation for food processing is proactive -- initiating frequent talks about how your facility can be more tour- and audit-ready.
Let’s take another real-life example from the baking industry, where the latter was the case. The company’s chemical sanitation vendor found a clever way to make more out of less.
The manufacturer was struggling with productivity due to a cumbersome sanitation process. Its food plant sanitation and hygiene partner was able to reduce the time it takes to clean and sanitize the plant, resulting in added production time.
How? By actually adding a step to the sanitation process. This step allowed the customer to reduce the number of times it needed to break down the equipment for cleaning. This change is a classic example of operational savings without compromising performance.
Are Your Sanitation Procedures for Food Manufacturing Going Far Enough?
These examples are just a couple of many successful food processing QA programs. Servicing a food plant customer with proper cleaning chemicals is about consistency:
If you’re not getting healthy doses of all four, reconsider your relationship. Switching sanitation chemical suppliers can be a significant disruption to your operation, but one that'll give you ROI and a good night’s sleep sooner than you might think.