Richelieu FoodsFor most food processing plant owners, one the areas where Miron, as a contractor, can have the greatest impact on their facility is to make things easier to clean. Often, the best way to plan for and build “cleanability” into a project is to ensure the details are right from the onset. Proper design and material choices are two of the most critical elements when it comes to a food processing plant’s sanitation processes.

The following are a few best practices Miron utilizes when working with design partners and food clients to build facilities that enhance the efficiency and quality of their sanitation methods.

Mock-Ups

Mock-ups allow project team members the ability to visualize the minute details of various areas of the building and equipment to better understand quality expectations before finished products are put in place. The cost associated with mock-ups is minimal compared to replacing work for an unsatisfied client. Consider the use of mock-ups for EVERY piece of the project. Mock-ups should be of appropriate size and scale. For some items, a small mock-up is enough to convey all of the necessary information while other items require more. Mock-ups should be built prior to pre-bid meetings for scope of work in instances where quality levels are hard to verbally communicate, such as concrete curbs. Photos are also useful in describing desired quality levels.  We suggest involving as many trades as possible so the team can review the entire assembly. Finally, keep the mock-ups on site as a reference and quality standard until the work is completed.

Cleanability: A Few Design & Material Considerations

Most areas of food processing plants receive a thorough cleaning on a regular basis. With that in mind, it’s important to consider how cleaning will occur while the project is in the design and early construction phases.

  • Horizontal surfaces should be minimized in all wash down areas. If they are required, they should be sloped so that water can freely run off of them. All materials should stand off from walls and ceilings, not only to allow for thorough cleaning, but also to minimize opportunities for pathogen/microbe harborage.
  • Ceilings – Many food processing facilities use drop-ceiling tiles because of their utility and reasonable cost; however, these absorbent, porous materials are impossible to clean. Plastic, non-absorbent panels or food-grade aluminum/stainless steel are better choices.
  • Drain Sanitation – Floor drains are an integral part of most food plants due to the cleaning required. Many drains are carbon steel or mixed metal composition, which can make proper cleaning solution usage a challenge. Consider the chemicals that will be used during the cleanup process to determine what materials the drain and trap should be made of. Also, consider how many solids could potentially pass through the drain to determine if a strainer will be required. Finally, if the floor drain is located in an area that is often wet, consider using an abrasive finish on the drain cover such as “slip-not.” This will help to prevent slips and falls more common with straight machined finish.

A Case Study

Recently, one of our food processing clients was looking to increase production efficiency by decreasing clean cycle time in the plant addition we were constructing.  We were able to help accomplish this by installing higher quality finishes to eliminate crevices, creating innovative curb design, and modifying utility design details. Multiple mock-ups were also used throughout the process to demonstrate detail improvements and verify quality expectations with the owner.  The facility also utilizes robotic systems and allows “no touch” processing from the initial raw food stage through the finished product. The result? Sanitation time was cut in half. Due to engineering processes, the facility processing time was reduced by 50% compared to conventional manufacturing and requires half of the employees normally required to operate such a facility.

To learn more about Miron’s food plant best practices, please contact Dan Voss, vice president of food & beverage. He can be reached at daniel.voss@miron-construction.com or 920.969.7062.