There are auditors who understand that one of the ways to obtain a quick understanding of a food producing facility’s commitment to quality and food safety is to conduct a “lean against the wall” audit of the maintenance department. Following maintenance personnel during regular, emergency repairs or when “shut down” preventive maintenance is conducted on equipment or the building for a personal look at equipment and checking actual activities against procedures or to refine procedures.
The auditor needs to completely understand the audit “check sheet” questions and how the questions are interrelated among each other. How can the failure of one audit element allow other related audit elements to be successful if they are inter-related? You need to look much closer at these questions if they are related to a failed audit question.
Once the auditor obtains a living knowledge of the audit questions and the ability to link the purpose of the questions to actual and potential failures, the auditor will gain greater visibility to actual root causes in processes through observation. “Leaning against a wall” can greatly help you understand the actual level of engagement in quality and food safety. Reviewing the process check sheets in real time in areas where maintenance personnel interacts is much more valuable than post document review a month or two later. What actually happened during the stoppage versus what was documented on the check sheet?
But, “leaning against the wall” is a very one sided approach to maximizing the true potential for improvement. Obviously, maintenance personnel is extremely talented with the ability to identify root causes of equipment failures then quickly implement corrective and preventive measures.
The actual inclusion of maintenance personnel in the food safety and quality training courses in addition to their direct involvement in the audit process can reap huge insight into unseen or unknown issues.
The maintenance personnel also have historical knowledge of where and how valves can fail to allow product backups into other pipes. They know where the sanitation process is not thoroughly cleaning the inside of the equipment. During Infrastructure repairs, they could find pockets of insect or rodent infestation that have not been identified through the normal pest control program.
Maintenance personnel will see equipment stress, “metal to metal” contact, worn gaskets or o rings that may cause foreign material. Perhaps adding a food safety comment section on the repair report to be completed by the maintenance personnel would give further insight to potential failures. How would these maintenance food safety comments be captured and addressed in your food safety plan? Usually, you have a quality person conduct a pre-operational inspection for equipment condition prior to production start-up, which is great but covers only what they can see by walking the line.
An analysis of historical repair records should provide a better understanding of the origin of foreign material. Actively involving maintenance personnel in the evaluation of customer complaints about foreign material could yield greater insight into enhanced preventive maintenance practices. You could create a “shadow box” of customer found foreign material in the maintenance department as a continuous reference.
Including maintenance personnel in the hazard analysis and risk assessment process would also help with the enhancement of the food safety program. Don’t just stop with the improvement in preventive controls, extend improvements to over looked prerequisite programs.
What additional “tools” could we provide the maintenance department to take the next step and become leaders of food safety and quality in a food processing facility?
How do you improve food safety and quality?
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