Hygiene managers have one of the most demanding roles in the food industry.

Overseeing washdowns and general hygiene standards; recruiting staff; training new recruits; liaising with chemical companies; auditing for third party and customer audits – these are some of the most common responsibilities assigned to hygiene managers.

They are also faced with the pressure to balance thorough cleaning with speed and efficiency, so that food production can resume as quickly as possible.

A hygiene manager's role ranges from vigorous team training to everyday manual cleaning

For hygiene managers, catering to these ever-shortening hygiene windows is made more difficult by challenges like equipment malfunction and staff shortages.

This is based on some of the common responsibilities, challenges, and frustrations we see in our daily interactions with hygiene managers in food production sites across the UK.

In response, we compiled this article outlining lesser-known solutions to help hygiene managers achieve breakthroughs within their daily challenges.

Paired with the five most typical responsibilities of hygiene managers, these solutions are proven to save hours of time, drive compliance standards, and tangibly improve audit results.

1. Encourage first-rate hygiene standards

The clue is in the name. Hygiene managers are, first and foremost, responsible for the cleanliness, upkeep, and hygienic standards of food production sites.

During a typical shift, this may include stripping down machines, foaming equipment, and a deep clean. Hygiene managers may also oversee routine tidying and cleaning during production shifts, sometimes known as ‘Clean as you go’.

Most hygiene managers are skilled at maintaining compliant standards in their factory. But these standards can always be raised through innovative, fresh approaches.

An example is the use of a shadow board system to provide a dedicated home for cleaning equipment, small utensils, and mobile tools.

Why is this a solution for ensuring hygiene standards?

Having the correct cleaning tools to hand is fundamental to achieving adequate hygiene performance.  In addition, tools should be stored in a compliant manner depending on their use, which often means colour segregation.

What’s more, according to a leading audit body, 60% of non-conformance issues relate to poor housekeeping of small manufacturing and production utensils. Misplaced equipment slows down production, with factory workers unable to find and use the necessary tools in time.

A disordered work environment signifies a lack of professionalism to both auditors and customers. It also leaves hygiene managers prone to costly non-conformances.

Tracking, storing, and keeping hundreds of utensils visible is no mean feat – but utilising shadow boards can facilitate logical organisation.

A particularly nifty feature to look out for is magnetic mounting. This type of shadow board takes up minimal space on factory walls, can be easily relocated during washdowns, and does not have the built-in crevices and cracks which provide hotspots for harmful microbiological organisms.

In the last decade, shadow boards have become increasingly popular, used by household names including Arla, Hovis, Coca Cola, Cranswick, and Morrisons. To learn more, read this useful guide to shadow boards written by our team.

Shadow boards

Shadow board Inspiration Guide

Want to learn more about shadow boards? From engineering tool boards and storage for your spill kits to PPE bases and change part stations, there are over 70 shadow board designs to explore in our Inspiration Guide.

2. Highlight the importance of sustainable practice

Food production has a significant impact on the environment. Not only does agriculture require large amounts of fresh water and land use, but it is an industry responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Pressure to limit this environmental damage has become another challenge for hygiene managers to contend with during washdowns. Sustainable cleaning practice is no longer optional – food sector businesses are pivoting towards Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) requirements to meet growing public activism and government regulation.

Food production accounts for more than 1/4 of the world's greenhouse gas emissions

Given the current importance of this topic, our team decided to assemble a panel of experts in the third webinar of our three-part ‘Culture in Hygiene’ series. This webinar provided tangible advice on topics such as transportation, robotics, and circular economies.

Advice on sustainable cleaning practice includes:

  • Identify wasted labour utilisation that can be reduced/eliminated/redirected
  • Decrease energy and water wastage by targeting inefficiencies
  • Conduct regular waste audits
  • Limit single-use plastics (e.g. replace standard plastic equipment covers and segregation screens with longer-lasting, non-plastic alternatives)
  • Choose suppliers who share the same sustainability values
  • Prioritise ergonomic design and longevity in equipment choice
  • Assist operatives with automated procedures where relevant (e.g. repetitive, low-skilled, or dangerous tasks)
Inadequate plastic covers are a common cause of unsustainable and costly cleaning practice

It is also important for hygiene managers to recognise that, while prioritising sustainability is important for ESG, it also comes with cost savings on energy and materials. These savings can significantly add up over time.

For a full breakdown of that sustainable cleaning practice webinar, click below.

3. Consider the challenge of minimised hygiene windows

Of the many responsibilities lumped on hygiene managers, shortened windows to carry out factory washdowns is perhaps the most imperative – and the most pressurised.

With rising food costs, manufacturers are under increased pressure to produce food in even shorter timeframes. Consequently, production teams are known to rush their colleagues in the hygiene team to complete washdowns in as little time as possible so that production can resume.

Thoroughness of cleaning should never be compromised for any reason. However, there are several ways to boost cleaning efficiency.

In the world of food production, downtime is lost time

Identifying inefficiencies is a pivotal first step.

One of the most common inefficiencies is missing equipment – unsurprising, given that 60% of non-conformance issues relate to poor housekeeping of small production utensils.

Other barriers to cleaning efficiency include poor scheduling of hygiene and production windows, hard-to-clean machinery, and a lack of effective segregation.

For an in-depth discussion of these barriers, and various other ways to operate within minimised hygiene windows, feel free to check out the second webinar in our ‘Culture in Hygiene’ series below.

4. Hygiene Managers often face tightly stretched budgets

Budgets assigned to hygiene managers are often notoriously tight. Nonetheless, they are expected to stretch across a wide range of purchases, from chemicals to PPE.

To meet this challenge, hygiene managers must make smart, informed choices when it comes to product choices. Equipment failure causes a stop in production, yes, but more importantly it puts operatives at risk of accidents and injuries.

Budget savings should never come at the expense of employee safety

Studies have found that equipment failure regularly accounts for more than 35% of such incidents in the manufacturing industry. Making a tight budget stretch cannot come at the expense of worker safety – but, fortunately, there is an approach which addresses both challenges.

Longevity.

Yes, the upfront costs of long-term equipment choices tend to be marginally more expensive. After all, these equipment types are higher quality. But their overall value for money lies in a reduced need for replacement.

Regularly repurchasing lower-grade or low-cost equipment adds up in direct cost, and also in unplanned downtime. If spending slightly more results in an additional two, three, or even four years of usage, then the long-term savings more than justify the upfront cost.

Clear and visual colour-coding segregation at Queensland Bakery

To take one of our own partners as an example, Queensland Bakery recognised the opportunity to invest in better equipment during their move to a new production site in 2022.

Implementing bespoke shadow boards ensured all equipment was stored cleanly and correctly. It also helped to reinforce and simplify Queensland Bakery’s colour-coding policy, driving compliance.

We understand that the reality of balancing longevity and cost-cutting is that hygiene managers simply cannot always buy higher-quality equipment. Sometimes settling for a cheaper option is necessary – but our advice is to never let it become your main approach.

5. Help your Hygiene Managers with recruitment and training

One of hygiene manager’s most time-consuming responsibilities is recruiting and training a complete team.

Due to staff shortages across the food industry, from manufacturers to hospitality, many food businesses are having to recruit through agencies. This can be a lengthy, unreliable, and costly process – some recruitment agencies take 10-30% of the employee’s base salary.

In an environment which requires as much attention to detail as food production hygiene, attracting and retaining the highest calibre of staff is essential.

Another of our expert-led webinars breaks this down into five steps. This ranges from protecting your team and equipment choice (mentioned above), to continual process refinement through a culture which encourages workers to challenge the status quo.

Offering ongoing training is also a compelling way to entice the best operatives, who tend to be interested in the prospect of self-development. Visual management is another key driver of employee engagement, as it makes daily tasks easier by avoiding confusion and miscommunication.

The full webinar breakdown is available below.

Successfully running a hygiene team comes down to the hard work, determination, and adaptive thinking of its manager. To assist with this complicated task, this article has outlined five of the main responsibilities and challenges hygiene managers face on a daily basis, and offered tangible, lesser-known solutions.

If you have any further questions, our team are happy to help. You can contact us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com. Alternatively, you can use the form below to arrange a consultation

You can also view our abovementioned webinars in the ‘Culture in Hygiene’ series here.

If you would like further guidance relating to this topic, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below.