Food Production: Combine Building Design and Machinery for a Safer Factory

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As you step into the world of food production, you're walking into a battleground where hygiene is the frontline defense

The stakes are high: the consequences of contamination are not just a temporary setback but can be a disaster for customer health and threaten the survival of your business.


So, why should you, as a key player in the food and beverage industry, focus on bringing together the design of your building and your machinery

It's not just about placing equipment within a building—it's about creating a spaces that naturally support hygiene and cleanliness from the outset. Often, cleanliness is only thought about later, leading to expensive changes later on. And it's not just old buildings that have this problem; new ones can too.

In this article, we talk to Wouter Burggraaf, an expert in Hygienic Design and owner of the hygienic design consultancy, Burggraaf & Partners, about the right way to design a modern-day food production site to keep up with the hygiene demands and standards.


Designing for Hygiene is Challenging

You may not see them, but the threat from microbes is everywhere in food production, always ready to contaminate.

The layout of your facility can directly impact how safe your food is. If machinery and the building’s design are not aligned, especially regarding water drainage, the result is a playground for microbes.

Imagine, you're tasked with making sure complex machinery with the building itself works together to handle water properly and stop microbes from growing. It's a tricky balance where every inch of flooring, every wall, and even the position of equipment can affect the cleanliness of your production facility. As Burggraaf points out: 

The biggest obstacle is that we don't have enough time [in the design phase]. I often see management teams not investing enough in thinking ahead with the building design. When marketing is asking for something new, the first thing they say is ‘we need to make a building’. Even when we don’t know exactly what process the building is for, we must build it. This results in a building often not functional for the process, and we have to retrofit hygienic solutions to a completely new building.”


Making Hygienic Changes Later is Costly and Not Ideal 

Retrofitting hygiene comes with a lot of problems.

It’s expensive, it disrupts operations, and it often doesn’t bring the hygienic results you want, because your possibilities are limited by the existing building design. For example, a drain in the wrong spot can turn into a microbial haven, and fixing it after the production line is in place is both costly and complex.

To highlight the seriousness of these challenges, let’s consider water management—one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a clean environment. 

Water is a necessity in processing, but not managing the water flow efficiently is one of the primary causes of contamination. Effective drainage systems are the key here, but designing with cleanliness in mind means thinking about everything. Left as an afterthought, your drainage systems can be insufficient and lead to standing water and, consequently, microbial growth.

To design a hygienic food production facility, I need drain points. And when I need drain points, I need to know the details on, how to clean and the exact position of the machines. I don’t want to have drain points below my equipment,” Burggraaf explains and lists the questions that need answering:

“I need to know if this is a dry activity or is it a wet activity? And how about the zoning? Are people entering the building from the left to the right? Where is the gowning? What to do with repairs and maintenance? Are there special corridors?”

In other words, designing with hygiene in mind requires knowing—understanding the flow of your operations and how each component from flooring to equipment contributes to a hygienic environment. 

It's about keeping hygiene as top-of-mind as any other operational requirement in your production facility, and not as a late after-thought.




The Solution: A Comprehensive Approach to Hygienic Design in New Food Production Sites

When you’re building a new food production site, efficiency, quality, and safety is not just about where the machines are placed. It's about planning for every drop of water and every possible contaminant's path into your product.

According to Burggraaf, integrating equipment means making sure machines and the building enhance each other's cleanliness.

This means considering the flow of operations from the outset, where even the walls and floors play a crucial role in maintaining a sterile environment. It’s about moving away from the traditional afterthought of ‘where can we fit this?’ to a proactive ‘how can we design this space to improve cleanliness?’

Burggraaf urges us to think differently about food factory design:

Why clean everything? Why make everything dirty? If you make things dirty, you have to clean then, he says and continues:

When we integrate something into the wall, we can’t make it dirty. […] But in a factory, everything is visible. Wires, piping, everything. So, everything becomes dirty, and you have to clean it all. Let’s stop making factories like we do nowadays and enter the future.”


Planning for the Future of Your Food Factory

Thinking ahead can save you a lot of trouble and money later on. For example, installing plumbing and drains with future expansions in mind can avoid expensive retrofitting later. It's about being smart with your initial investments to prevent bigger expenses down the line.

Retrofitting plumbing is an expensive endeavour, and in dry zones, it can be a logistical nightmare. By thinking ahead, you're not only safeguarding the hygiene of your facility but also protecting you from bigger expenses down the line.

To do this, consider this

  • Create sewage and drainage systems even in packaging zones, where they are currently unnecessary. Often these zones are the first places to look, when you need to expand your production line, and with sewage already in place, this becomes a lot easier.

  • Integrate machine feet directly into the flooring. This removes the risk of microbial growth by the machine feet, and makes cleaning much easier. 

  • Install easy-to-clean drainage systems for minimizing water usage in the cleaning process. This saves money in operations and is to the benefit of the environment.

  • Establish cleaning rooms outside the production floor, where components can be cleaned without water hosing down the entire factory. This mean that you avoid the risk of unintentionally spraying microbes all over.

Hygiene in food production is always evolving. By integrating cleanliness into every part of your facility's design, you show a commitment to leading the industry and ensuring consumer safety.


Demands for Hygiene will Increase – Be Ready

As customers become more concerned with food safety and regulations get stricter, it is critical to embed hygiene into your production facilities from the beginning. In the future, demand for cleanliness will only increase.

By embedding hygiene early, you set a new industry standard. One that prioritizes the health of consumers and the efficiency of your operations. Envision the long-term benefits as you take this path: fewer contamination risks, reduced operational costs, and a reputation as a trailblazer in food safety. 

Integrating hygienic design from the beginning isn't just a strategy; it's an investment in your company's future and a commitment to the well-being of your consumers. 


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See Full Interview with Wouter Burggraaf (Part 1)


Mr. Burggraaf is an expert in hygienic design and owner of the hygienic design consultancy, Burggraaf & Partners.




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