Regardless if you are involved in greenfield or brownfield development projects, the work of engineers can greatly affect the food safety aspects of production plants. So how can we ensure that hygienic engineering guidelines are effectively implemented? EHEDG Connects posed this and more questions to Deputy Director Jeroen van den Boezem and Senior Project Engineer Christian Hospers, who both work at Iv-Industrie, an engineering agency specialized in hygienic engineering.
How would you define good hygienic engineering?
Jeroen van den Boezem: “Good hygienic engineering incorporates food safety considerations in all engineering design aspects of a food production site, from the buildings down to the supporting facilities and process lines, and thus permeates all development levels. Good hygienic engineering is only feasible if the engineering agency has a thorough understanding of all the specific requirements and local food processing circumstances. Whether it concerns new constructions or upgrades for factories, warehouses, utilities and process installations - this understanding is always the foundation on which we base our engineering and consultancy services. We then provide all necessary expertise on hygienic engineering and design, food and process safety, production logistics, hygiene zoning, laws, regulations, standards and guidelines. By hygienic engineering, we enable food manufacturers to pragmatically develop effective and hygienic processes and applications.”
How exactly do you determine these hygienic requirements?
Christian Hospers: “Oftentimes, clients approach us with an assignment to engineer a hygienic solution. The first thing we do then is to define what they mean by hygienic design. When they say it has to be easily cleanable, we keep on asking questions, because essentially, every installation is cleanable if you have enough time and resources. Together with the client, we determine their exact needs and requirements, until we have a measurable goal, like for example: this specific part of the process line needs to be cleanable within a time frame of two hours, after which there may only be a maximum number of microbes per square centimeter. Now that is a goal that can be validated, and a clear starting point for our services.”
> Jeroen van den Boezem, Deputy Director Iv-Industrie
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What’s the best way to select a suitable engineering agency for a HD-project?
Van den Boezem: “Food and pharma companies are advised to first have a critical look at their own organization and situation, to determine the boundaries of their own expertise and the level of involvement they want in a specific project. Do you expect your engineering agency to primarily execute engineering work while following up on your own hygienic engineering and design standards? Or are you looking for an engineering partner that can challenge you to find new and better solutions that might have been previously unknown to you? It’s crucial to be clear about functional requirements right from the start, and to also define hygiene requirements in measurable terms. Having a baseline measurement will help to do this, and of course an early mapping of logistic challenges will limit the impact of a project on ongoing production processes.”
> Christian Hospers, Senior Project Engineer Iv_industrie
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What do your engineers need to create the best hygienic design?
Hospers: “Good hygienic engineering starts off with a thorough assessment of all the clients’ needs and functional requirements, because to create the best possible engineering design, we need to have a comprehensive overview of all related aspects. We don’t need to know every specific technical detail of the food process itself. Our main task however is to translate functional production requirements into a hygienic building and installation design that serves all functional and food safety goals. So the first thing that a good engineering agency will do is to ask the right questions, and to explain what specific information they need in order to develop the best possible engineering design. It’s why we invest extra time and effort in creating effective project teams in the pre-engineering phase. The type of project determines how we do that. In a brownfield-situation, we start with carefully mapping the existing situation. At this stage, we don’t analyze anything yet - we initially only collect information. We map the existing situation to know our spatial, functional and logistical boundaries.”
How do you implement hygienic design guidelines in your engineering?
Van den Boezem: “Since many hygiene-determining aspects influence each other, many single engineering design choices together determine the final food safety performance of a plant. We often approach engineering projects from a building design level. Zoning is extremely important, and so are logistics and product and people flows. Zooming in on the different process line areas follows up after that. We always strive to minimize food safety risks in the early engineering design phases, for example by adapting the piping routes to optimize cleanability, and by performing maintenance work away from the production areas. And we consistently validate each engineering process step by applying a validation model. In this V-model, the first stage is the most important one, because it determines the requirements which are critical, e.g. which cannot be compromised upon.”
What’s your best advice to engineering agencies and their clients?
Hospers: “Hygienic engineering is more than a procedure that you can apply just by adopting EHEDG guidelines. To realize effective hygienic engineering results, everyone in the project team must understand the implications of each engineering decision for the hygiene and cleanability of the total solution. It requires a right mindset, based on experience and up-to-date knowledge. That mindset is not something that young engineers learn at their education institutes yet, so by enrolling them in EHEDG training courses, one can ensure that every engineer adopts this hygienic engineering mindset right from the beginning.”