The flow of the production process and how it is integrated with employee movement is critical for the design of an efficient and productive food plant. Food facilities also have the unique requirement of having to balance productivity needs with food safety and sanitation requirements. A well-developed workflow plan will address the following goals:
Creating an ergonomic work flow and utilizing automated food processing equipment where appropriate. Food processing tends to be labor intensive. When work areas are designed for easy labor movement and integrated with some automated processing equipment, efficiency and food safety can be improved.
Providing a safe path of travel for employees to and from their work place is a must. Designated travel paths, such as corridors, can be utilized with designated pedestrian and fork truck paths to allow for safe and efficient movement between departments.
This is done by creating zones according to the different levels of sanitation needed. By segregating certain operations, sanitation efforts can be streamlined to focus on the specific requirements of each area.
Product should maintain a linear flow from one process to another if possible. Non-linear flows can create inefficiencies from extra time, rework, scrap or energy being consumed and should be removed from the production process. In addition, linear product flow will improve food safety by eliminating possible cross contamination between raw and ready-to-eat product, and between allergenic and non-allergenic foods and ingredients.
Efforts should be made to streamline and plan employee traffic flow so it does not cross production flow. Reducing personnel backtracking and travel time will save labor costs, but controlling personnel flow has an added benefit: cleaner personnel and, thus, better food safety. A properly designed facility allows for employee access to vestibules for hygiene prior to entry into production areas, especially critical areas with exposed ready-to-eat product.
Assign the role of SQF Practitioner to a competent staff person. Wash areas should be placed in strategic locations to reduce travel time, thereby increasing efficiency. By positioning equipment washing areas where clean vats, racks, totes, and trucks are less likely to be exposed to contamination, food safety is improved. If necessary, hire a SQF Consultant; someone always needs to be in charge.
Limit access of “dirty” materials, such as boxes, pallets, etc. from exposed product areas. Locate these items close to where they are used and where they cannot contaminate the food. Separating the case packing/box making areas from exposed product areas is one method used to reduce the risk of food product contamination.
Incorporate trash areas to preclude the flow of trash through production areas. Locate trash areas as close as possible to the areas that generate the most and the “dirtiest” trash. Using more than one trash area may reduce the movement of trash through critical areas.