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Food Engineer S

Food safety wisdom from the maintenance department

Food Engineer LSome food safety tips from an engineer, one with years and years of experience in the trenches of food companies. Good advice from Pieter de Waal, a contributor to, SA’s new go-to website for all issues around compliance.

Hygiene issues and ideas from a technical perspective:

Us engineering ‘types’ do not look at the world the same way most other people do. Whether that is good or bad depends on your perspective. According to us engineers, it is the only way to look at the world.

As we get older, most of us mellow a bit and try to have a more balanced view. That is a good thing for all the different ‘types’ of people to do, too.

Our world is mostly very visible and we can even put a spanner to it. We can see, hear, measure or feel what is wrong with it. We can then fix it. Success is when it purrs like a kitten again. Once fixed the job is done for us.

Cleaning up is something our mothers did after we left. It will not really improve the smooth running or durability of the machine. (It is like paperwork, we hate it.)

It is rather difficult for us to really appreciate the problem that the hygiene and food safety guys have.

They keep on talking about bugs that are mostly too small for the naked eye to see. They must grow cultures to find out whether the bug was there or not.

This doesn’t work for us. But we need to try and understand their problem too – some of these bugs can be deadly or at the very least make someone horribly ill. Some of the bugs cause our food products to deteriorate to the point where we cannot sell them. Milk becomes sour and meat ‘goes off’.

I think as engineers and maintenance guys, we should have more sympathy for these hygiene and food safety guys and girls. Just think how frustrated you would have been if that was your job.

We have to listen to what they have to say and help them by finding practical solutions to these problems. If it is not practical, it just becomes your problem again anyway.

Remember you are supposed to be the practical guy, so make it easy for yourself and the hygiene team to comply with the requirement. Both of you must keep working at it till you find a workable solution that can satisfy both sides.

Also remember that sometimes, requirements from both sides may have to be compromised a bit. KEEP IT PRACTICAL AND SIMPLE!

To the hygiene and food safety guys and girls:

Tell us more about these bugs and problems. If you can engage our interest to want to understand what makes these things grow and spread and how they become killers, you may get a surprising response.

Engineering guys always want good reasons. Tell us how to kill them or prevent them. Give us reasons and not orders. Try and create a culture of understanding and care.

This team work approach is worth much more than any amount of forms and disciplinary actions. We write with a monkey wrench. Paperwork to us is a huge frustration and does not add value in getting a plant running quickly and efficiently.

Very important, if it is not practical, it is not going to work and you are not going to get the results you need. If you do not get the maintenance team on your side they will do what you say even though they know that it will not give the required results.

Maintenance can be a great ally if you can change your attitude:

Lastly, make sure you really understand what the food safety and hygiene requirements are and what the intended results should be.

The maintenance team would not specify how you do your bug tests as they are not technically competent in that area. In the same vein make sure you listen to the technical experts when it comes to engineering issues. Together we will make a great team – especially if we include the production team too!

Does this sound like someone you would like to do business with?
About Pieter de Waal’s company:

Geesmo provides a hygienic toolbox designed for the food industry. This extremely practical toolbox has an ‘open’ design that cleans up the corners, hinges, locking mechanisms, handles and catches that cause contamination problems.

This innovative way of thinking is available for technical consultation, R&D and small projects for those difficult little problems we run into in the food industry.



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