In this article, we will discuss the process of maintaining and replacing the production equipment at your site.

When it comes to the replacement of production equipment, it is impossible to provide a specific time frame that is applicable to all sites. This is because there are so many factors to consider such as the frequency of use, the volume of production, the type of application, along with the culture at your factory.

However, it is possible to closely monitor your production equipment, taking the proper precautions to ensure your team never have to work with utensils that are damaged or degraded to the point of being a foreign body hazard.

By addressing the five points covered in this article, you will be able to drive standards of food safety across the board and take a step closer to that all important audit compliance. In this guide, you will also find guidance on extending the lifespan of your equipment.

Risk Assessments & Production Equipment

To understand what control measures need to be in place in relation to the suitability of your production equipment, you will need to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment.

The first step is to establish the potential hazard. In this instance, it will be the possibility of foreign material making its way into your product. Next, you need to decide how likely it is that the hazard will occur. Depending on your site’s preferred approach to risk assessment, this will typically be graded high, medium, and low.

Finally, you need to consider the severity of the consequences that could play out should the hazard go unchecked. This could relate to customer perception or perhaps the reaction of a disappointed retailer who has received multiple complaints. In terms of food safety, this could be anything from a choking hazard to a fatality.

Training and Awareness

The next step is to ensure everyone at your site understands what ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ production equipment looks like. This message should be spread company wide, even to operatives who are not directly involved with the use or replacement of equipment. After all, you want to have as many fail-safes in place as possible when it comes to the prevention of foreign body incidents.

Having said this, there will of course be key teams to target. Depending on the size and scale of your operation, this will include the operatives who are handling production equipment throughout the day, especially those working under a Clean As You Go (CAYG) policy.

You may also have a dedicated hygiene team cleaning throughout the day or perhaps a team that cleans outside of working hours.

If the out-of-hours cleaning falls to a contract team, it is unlikely they will be responsible for checking the integrity of each item. As a result, this task will need to be allocated to an internal figure or group who can carry out the necessary checks before production picks back up.

As well as adding detailed descriptions and accompanying photographs to your site’s Cleaning Instruction Cards, you should also consider the introduction of Visual Management Solutions that clearly highlight the difference between ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ equipment. This should help to keep the distinction at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It should also help to instil confidence in any visiting auditors or customers.

If you move forward with this idea, we would also recommend highlighting the appearance of equipment that is nearing the end of its lifespan – that way your team will be encouraged to take preventative measures instead of waiting for the equipment to become a major risk to food safety.

Integrity Checks and Documentation

Depending on the outcome of your risk assessment, integrity checks of production equipment will typically take place before and after each use. This level of frequency will allow your team to establish an accurate timeline should a hazard be identified. Instead of multiple batches of your product being called into question, your team will be able to clearly identify the impacted batch.

Integrity checks exist as an opportunity for your team to identify anything that sits outside of the expected wear and tear – using the Visual Management tools mentioned above as a guide. This task is all about highlighting potential foreign body hazards such as loose parts and chipped edges. Your operatives should also consider the feel of the equipment, as an unusual texture is often the sign of over-exposure to cleaning chemicals.

As with any of the important processes that take place at your site, it is essential that you keep a record of each integrity check. This will prove invaluable should a foreign body incident occur and you have to carry out an investigation. It will also make life easier when it comes to your audit inspections, as you will have documented proof of the control measures in place.

Although some sites still rely on paper checklists for this kind of task, many have made the switch to a cloud-based quality management system. As you can imagine, this eliminates the possibility of human error and saves your team from unnecessary paperwork.

You can also use reporting software to get a top-level snapshot of the activity at your site or to drill down into an individual location or time period. In addition to this, a cloud-based quality management system will provide real time assurance of the processes taking place at your site – allowing your senior management team to oversee activities at any time and from any location.

Problem Solving and Creative Solutions

The reports produced by a cloud-based quality management system could help you to identify patterns or even anomalies in relation to the lifespan of your production equipment.

If you notice the equipment at your site isn’t lasting as long as you would expect, it’s important that you investigate accordingly. We would recommend starting with the following questions:

  • Is the equipment being used for the correct application?
  • Is the equipment being stored correctly?
  • Is the equipment being cleaned correctly? (if the concentration of your cleaning chemicals is too high, this could result in degradation)
  • Is the equipment being used alongside the correct utensils or could another tool be the issue?
  • Has the volume of production increased and could this be causing more wear and tear?

Once you have worked your way through these questions, you should also speak to the department heads of each team at your site – encouraging them to come forward with any creative solutions for extending the lifespan of your equipment.

Of course, any solutions will have to pass a risk assessment and be in line with food safety requirements, but it may be possible to think of some.

For example, some sites get their engineering teams to file down their chopping boards once an unacceptable level of wear and tear starts to show. Alternatively, other sites place their chopping boards within each work surface – giving production the option of simply turning over the boards to essentially double their lifespan.

Replacing Your Production Equipment

When the time finally comes to replace the production equipment at your site, it’s important that your team is aware of the correct procedure – namely: when to dispose of the equipment, how to dispose of the equipment, who to inform of the decision, and where to source a suitable replacement.

This is especially important if your site has sustainability goals to meet and the equipment in question is part of a circular economy.

The replacement process will be made a lot easier if your site has spare production equipment available. For smaller items such as production knives, chopping boards, scoops, and buckets, this should be easy to arrange.

Just remember to keep a record of any replacements, so you can replenish your stock when necessary. This will ensure unsuitable equipment can be replaced immediately without any disruption to production.

Another way to simplify the process is to source shadow boards with product QR codes, as this will make it easier than ever for your team to order new items.

That brings us to the end of our guide to maintaining and, eventually, replacing the production equipment at your food factory.

If you have any questions relating to the information shared in this article,  you can contact us directly on 01473461800 or Alternatively, you can fill out the contact form below and one of our friendly team members will be in touch. 

It is also worth noting that we have produced a similar guide for the management of Hygiene Equipment at your site. You can access this article using the link below:

If you would like further guidance relating to Production Equipment, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.