With an increased focus on traceability and hygiene arguably likely to follow the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring consumers that your processes are contaminant-free could (and should) become more top of mind than ever.
Whether handling milk powder, cheese powder or powdered material in the pharmaceutical industry, we know that powder materials have always presented their own unique challenges in the world of ingredient handling. For example, those that are high in fat content are particularly difficult to convey. Friable and abrasive materials also benefit from unique settings or specific system setups. It’s easy to see how draining it really can be to juggle all of these concerns as a manufacturer who handles powder material. The last thing those who handle powders need to be unsure of is their hygienic status.
That is partially why there are the current goods manufacturing practices (cGMP). These regulations offer a set of clean standards for a variety of ingredient handlers to implement for best practices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with publishing these standards to essentially explain how manufacturing environments should operate in the United States (while other organizations like the World Health Organization or the European Union handle other parts of the globe).
So how do you face the future of ingredient handling with confidence knowing that your facility is well equipped to ensure hygienic practices and abide by these cGMP guidelines? There are more than a few things to do in order to accomplish cGMP adherence, but every action made to ensure that capital equipment is regularly cleaned represents a serious step in the right direction. With the FDA and other organizations reporting that food recalls were up by 10% between 2013 and 2018, it’s not overkill to check every nook and cranny of the machines you’ll be conveying your product through before such product reaches consumers. The problem is that a lot of this equipment isn’t built to make such routine inspections easy.
A huge difference between conveying systems that get cleaned regularly and systems that typically don’t are the design elements of the capital equipment involved. For example, if small bits are left in the crevice of a piece of equipment, that can present a potential bacteriophage incident. Worst-case-scenario, those bits can lead to an entire product recall. The fact of the matter is that certain pieces of equipment are designed inherently for operators and workers to remove these bits routinely (and with ease). Two specific features that make it less challenging for workers to regularly and routinely clean these pieces of equipment include extraction rails and ground-flush weld treatments.
Ultimately, these characteristics can promote cGMP adherence from within your organization. AZO knows that other equipment providers also include some of these features in their machines as well. Wherever and whenever you as a powder material handler choose to look into incorporating these features in your next capital equipment purchase, we hope to help you understand why these features are so beneficial below:
Ground-flush weld treatments ensure more protection
Low-, medium- and high-care areas all carry varying amounts of responsibility to keep an area clean in accordance with cGMP standards. Different weld treatments will adhere to different standards in this respect.
AZO has some specific nomenclature for our varying degrees of weld treatments, but essentially, welds that haven’t been ground flush can offer places for small contaminants to abide. If you were to zoom into any welds that haven’t been ground flush you would see rigid and bumpy pockets that wouldn’t allow for brushes and vacuum wands to retrieve all material from the surface.
More precise weld treatments (that have been ground-smooth instead of just brush-cleaned) offer less opportunity for material to get hung up in spaces where you definitely don’t want it. When you apply a vacuum wand to ground-flush welds, it is much easier for excess material to be cleaned off of the surface of the equipment. It is still incumbent upon workers to routinely clean the equipment in question.
Extraction rails offer more access to the interior of devices
Extraction rails increase the likelihood of a piece of equipment being cleaned consistently. This is simply because operators have easier access to the interior of the device in question. There are additional ergonomic benefits related to extraction rails.
Take, for instance, a heavy rotary valve — operators may be hesitant to remove the end bell, or it may just require two workers to accomplish this specific task. With extraction rails, the task is greatly simplified and takes only one worker to accomplish.
The device’s weight is fully supported and it can be inspected routinely with ease. This can make processes more efficient as well as reduce the time it takes to accomplish inspections. The difference may not be overwhelming, but undoing bolts, taking the end bell off, figuring out where it should be placed and making sure it is not dropped — all of this does take time.
Ergonomic is a word that good manufacturing processes take into account for operators’ and workers’ sake. High-hygienic equipment has become a standard in many places partially because it makes an overall system easier to clean. That which is easier is accomplished more frequently. Full-access to the interior of a machine means that bits aren’t ignored and cleanliness can be fully achieved, leading to cGMP adherence.
Specifically, AZO offers our DA screener equipped with easy-to-use quick clamps for easy access to the screen cage, which can simply be cleaned efficiently and routinely. Extraction rails then keep the dosing screw supported and eliminate the need to set pieces of the screener itself on a table or onto the floor at any point during inspection.
To hear more about capital equipment that includes ergonomically sound features that assist in cGMP adherence, don’t hesitate to contact our sales team. AZO has more than seven decades of experience in handling raw materials and shaping ingredient automation along the way. Feel free to talk to our dedicated team for any other questions related to helping your plant and processes run smoothly.