Save Water and Improve Hygiene in Your Food Factory

Thumbnail 1 - Save Water and Improve Hygiene in Your Food Factory

In food production, water is a key element for maintaining stringent hygienic standards. While this is obvious, it seems less obvious that minimizing the water usage in your cleaning process can actually lead to better hygiene. To do so, you need to look at your water management and on when and where you use water for cleaning.

In this article, we ask the renowned industry expert, Wouter Burggraaf, how smarter water use not only boosts hygiene but also reduces operational costs and helps conserve natural resources.

With a new focus and attention to your water management, you can push your food factory to the top of the market.


A Fresh Perspective on Cleaning

Water is the lifeblood in hygienic food production. It’s absolutely indispensable for cleaning and maintaining hygiene. In an era where food safety is a global concern, industrious cleaning processes become the license to play, which is only good and fair.

However, the heavy reliance on water in the cleaning process brings to light significant environmental considerations. High water usage not only raises concerns about resource depletion but also contributes to a larger ecological footprint of the food production process. According to Burggraaf, the challenge lies in achieving a healthy balance between upholding stringent hygienic standards while minimizing environmental impact.

In other words, the industry faces a tough challenge, if they keep to traditional, nightly water-hose cleaning processes, without giving thought to optimizing water flow, effective drainage, and even minimizing the water-heavy cleaning processes.

The situation calls for a new approach. Or rather, as Burggraaf says, an approach that has been around for decades but has yet to conquer the mindsets of food production managers.

The goal is to create systems and processes that are both environmentally conscious and uncompromising in hygiene standards – a task that requires innovative thinking and strategic planning.


Innovative Water Management Strategies for Food Factories

In response to the pressing need for balancing water usage with hygiene, innovative strategies have emerged at the forefront of the food production industry.

The innovations are designed to minimize water consumption without compromising the stringent hygiene standards crucial for food safety. Innovations that will —according to Burggraaf— soon become standards and enablers in the food production industry.

Let’s look at some of the initiatives that will reduce water usage without sacrificing hygienic standards.


Dry-Zones and Dedicated Washing Areas

Dry zones are not a new phenomenon in food production. But traditionally factories with dry zones have been reserved for moisture-sensitive products like powdered milk, flour, or spices.

With better attention to hygienic machine design, closed conveyer systems and floor layout, dry zones —or “nearly-dry zones”— may be a possibility for a larger segment of the industry. This is especially true if factories implement separate washing rooms for cleaning dirty equipment and parts.

The nearly-dry zones will lower water usage and heighten hygiene as they introduce a controlled environment where water (which is the primary cause of microbial growth) is not used on a regular basis, but rather on special occasions. In other words, the zones do not rule out wet cleaning of your production halls altogether but will limit the need significantly.

By integrating dry zones and washing areas, food producers would gain better monitoring and control over water usage while also raising the hygienic bar. And combine that with the innovative solutions in hygienic components and drainage systems, your resources spent on water will drop significantly.


Immediate Cleaning with No or Little Use of Water

Another approach to saving water would be simply to clean without water, but instead remove spillages with a tissue, like you would in your personal kitchen. Again, this does not rule out water entirely, but limits your use:

“If you need water, you need water. But we explain [people] not to play with water. Like, if we have one green pea on the ground, and then I see a water hose, because that is the way you are used to clean. […] Instead, first clean away the particles and use a plastic shovel to carry it away,” Burggraaf explains.

“Then afterwards, if it’s still necessary, bring out the water.”

This is the essence of over-usage of water in cleaning; dry cleaning works wonders for cleaning larger particles from the floor. And if you clean immediately, when you see a spillage, you can really limit the amount of water and still clean thoroughly.

“But it is a complete change in attitude, and [explaining this is] still necessary in different areas of the industry. It’s still the old fashioned technique we see, where a lot of water is used.” 


Upgrade Your Factory with Hygienic Components

One of the key areas of advancement within hygienic manufacturing is in the development of materials and designs that inherently reduce the need for extensive cleaning and water usage.

Innovators and designers are working with all-inclusive approaches to building design and integrate hygiene and sustainability from the ground up. With the current advances in hygienic technologies, upgrading your factory with water-saving solutions include everything from self-cleaning surfaces to more efficient drainage and waste management systems, reducing both water use and the potential for contamination.

Just implementing an efficient drainage system can reduce your water usage with up to 95 %.

It all comes down to how willing you are to invest in the future cleanliness and resource consumption of your production facilities.

“If you apply hygienic design in time, you can save yourself a lot of money, and you can run a factory with less people and still be clean all the time,” Burggraaf argues.


Intelligent Cleaning with AI and IoT

Lastly, the rise of digital technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in monitoring and managing food production processes presents an opportunity for more precise and efficient use of resources.

These technologies can help you to optimize your water usage and cleaning efficiency. AI and IoT can comprehensively inform you of what and where cleaning is necessary as well as predict how often something should have a deep-cleaning in the wet-room.

By embracing these innovative solutions, food production facilities not only contribute to environmental conservation but also pave the way for more sustainable industry practices.

These efforts emphasize the industry's commitment to finding the balance between environmental responsibility and the non-negotiable demand for hygiene in food production.


The Future of Sustainable Hygiene in Food Production

As we look towards the future of food production, the journey towards sustainability and hygiene will be marked by continuous innovation and adaptation.

The focus is not only on the development of new technologies but also on a shift in regulatory frameworks and industry standards. These changes will encourage a all-encompassing approach where sustainable practices are not just alternatives but the norm in food production.

With elevated awareness of environmental issues and public health, regulations are likely to become more stringent, pushing manufacturers towards more sustainable practices. This includes not only water management but also broader considerations such as energy efficiency and waste reduction.

In conclusion, the future of food production hygiene lies in a balanced integration of advanced technologies, innovative design, and responsible regulatory practices.

As we move forward, it is crucial for industry players, from equipment manufacturers to food production facilities, to embrace these advancements. By adopting water-efficient practices and supporting sustainable initiatives, the industry can contribute significantly to environmental conservation and public health.

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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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