Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Food Manufacturing
As food processors add new equipment, implement detection technologies to existing production lines and replace equipment components, they do so with two significant factors in mind: sanitation and food safety.
We recently surveyed Food Manufacturing readers from across all segments of the industry on various trends, topics and considerations when it comes to purchasing plant equipment, and how equipment acquisition meshes with sanitation efforts and existing food safety plans at their facilities.
Slightly more than half of survey respondents (50.28 percent) said when making an equipment purchase, they evaluate food safety, food defense and HACCP plans and choose equipment that will fit existing plans. The remaining 49.72 percent of respondents said that when making equipment purchases, they choose equipment that best suits their needs, and that they adjust food safety plans accordingly.
The majority of respondents (85.96 percent) said they consult with equipment vendors about food safety concerns. Just more than 14 percent indicated they do not.
When asked if equipment vendors help review food safety plans prior to, or after, an acquisition to help with integration of their equipment into their food safety system, 58.52 percent said yes.
Survey respondents said internal quality assurance/quality control team members most often consult with equipment vendors (60.23 percent), regulators (44.89 percent) and paid consultants (38.07 percent) when integrating equipment into their facilities. Respondents also reported consulting with customers (24.43 percent) and universities (14.77 percent).
When asked what equipment characteristics are especially appealing from a food safety perspective, more than 92 percent cited stainless steel. Clean-in-place technology (69.66 percent), seam-free design (67.98 percent) and washdown ready (66.29 percent) were also mentioned significantly.
More than 56 percent of those surveyed said that food safety concerns have prevented them from purchasing refurbished equipment, rather than new equipment, in the past. More than 43 percent said food safety concerns have not prevented them from purchasing refurbished equipment.
More than 44 percent said the location of an equipment vendor does not impact purchasing decisions. Meanwhile, 27.93 percent of respondents said they prefer to work with an equipment vendor in their state or region.
The vast majority (83.62 percent) of respondents said their equipment vendors are knowledgeable about the unique sanitary challenges faced by food processors, with just more than 16 percent answering no.
When it comes to training employees on new equipment, more than 70 percent said that training occurs immediately. Just more than 28 percent said training occurs as the need arises.
More than 58 percent of those surveyed said their facility has not chosen to replace an existing piece of equipment in the past 24 months specifically because of food safety concerns. A significant percentage (41.95), however, said their facility has replaced equipment due to food safety concerns. When asked if their facility had chosen to replace an existing piece of equipment in the past 24 months specifically due to food safety regulations, more than 75 percent said no.
More than 57 percent of respondents said their facility has added detection equipment — x-ray, vision sensors, metal detectors — to an existing processing line in the past 24 months in order to improve food safety. More than 42 percent of those polled said their facility has not added that type of equipment in the last two years.
Two-thirds of respondents said their facility has, over the past two years, replaced components — from standard to washdown, from plastic to stainless steel, etc. — in order to improve overall food safety. More than 32 percent said their facility has not replaced components in that time frame.