Operators of processing facilities might encounter any number of reasons for not tackling the sanitation shift in-house. Whether the reasons stem from environmental issues, microbiological, staffing, leadership or otherwise, the benefits of outsourcing sanitation services are many.
Kieler, Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) provides contract sanitation services to processing plants facing issues which keep them from using in-house staff or hiring for sanitation purposes, and a recent rebranding campaign suggests a trend in the industry that has positioned PSSI as a multi-dimensional food safety partner rather than just a sanitation contractor.
PSSI employs many different teams to handle and monitor any given situation. These teams transcend simple sanitation crews tasked to clean facilities.
Regarding the brand relaunch, Timm Miller, director of corporate accounts, says, “Along with that, we’ve bolstered our teams. So, we have a dedicated food safety team with microbiologists. A dedicated safety team that believes in our company culture of safety not being a trade secret.”
PSSI conducts webinars and publishes thought pieces concerning safety in the workplace intended to benefit the industry as a whole, not just the company and its subsidiaries.
“We also have an open safety summit every year where we bring in industry experts from outside PSSI as well as internal people and provide a very robust program around building safety programs at a facility,” Miller says.
Most recently, PSSI launched Realtime Performance Metrics (RPM). The tablet-based program provides real-time data on key metrics related to sanitation.
“Maybe you lose water pressure during the course of the evening,” Miller says. “We’re able to track that and send updates to the facility via tablets and say, ‘we’re having water pressure issues.’ We’re able to correlate all these metrics at the end of the shift back to the problem and suggest strategies to alleviate those problems on the next sanitation cycle or the next day or night. It’s a unique tool to the industry.”
PSSI’s Field Audit Support Team (FAST) is another value-added service outside of the company’s deployment of sanitation crews. The FAST team focuses on regulatory issues, which sometimes change daily and make it difficult for processors to stay up to date on. The FAST team will micro sample and analyze around what the nature of sanitation is at any given facility and guide the sanitation crews for that facility.
“And the FAST team is deployed to customer locations to help provide mitigation strategies if a problem does occur,” Miller says.
Every processing facility will differ from another in some way. Even facilities owned by the same company, processing the same products from the same species using the same equipment will vary. The age of the building, the size of the building or weather factors can potentially change from one facility to the next.
“Whether it be a microbiological issue or an environmental sanitation issue, or it could be related to labor problems or leadership problems,” Miller says. “Every facility you walk into is going to be a little bit different from the last.”
Additional variables dictate customized programs for each customer and situation. A plant might lack enough hot water or have no hot water at all. It might not create enough water pressure to fulfill the sanitation needs. There could also be an issue of time management within the time available to clean. Miller says so many factors go into putting together a program that customization is the only way.
“There really isn’t a menu,” he says. “The program that we offer is very comprehensive in that we’re providing the labor, materials and management dedicated to each facility. So, they are there on a daily or nightly basis.”
The roadmap to a solid sanitation strategy for any processing plant starts with an understanding of the plant’s needs and goals. It’s important for plant operators to be a part of creating that roadmap. Plant operations lay out the directives they want PSSI to accomplish, such as areas to look at and areas to leave out.
“We develop a plan based on how much labor we’re going to need, how much supervision we’re going to need, the type of tools and chemistry we’re going to need to get the job done safely with high integrity and correctly,” Miller says.
Once plant operations and PSSI collaborate on a plan, PSSI sends in a team of experts in multiple disciplines to assess the overall cleaning/sanitation situation of potential customers’ plants. The team will spend one to three days on the assessment, maybe more depending on the size and scope of the project. The average team would consist of operations people who have experience in the implementation of programs, technical services personnel and food and worker safety experts.
“These all fall under what we call our technical services management,” Miller says.
All personnel are PSSI employees. The company does not use sub-contractors.
“We have in-house safety experts, food safety experts, microbiologists, continuous improvement management, or continuous improvement representatives, and we also bring in chemical representatives,” Miller adds.
PSSI’s ability to tackle the multitude of different problems usually occurring in processing facilities is linked to its experience-based preparedness. The company has cleaned and sanitized plants since 1972 and currently services over 500 facilities in the US and Canada with approximately 17,000 employees. Along the way, it’s obtained and developed departments and teams to address issues encountered over the years.
“We are pretty well equipped,” Miller says. “We have our chemical manufacturer, which is wholly owned by PSSI and we have an engineering group that designs and builds equipment to fit the needs of the facility. So, if they need additional high pressure, or we’ll just say additional water pressure, we’re able to bring in the equipment or build the equipment to solve that issue.”
While an in-house chemical supply and engineering and fabrication team can’t help in situations that call for the cutting of concrete or the relocation of drains, it’s still and advantage when addressing those issues. Those types of constraints at a facility need a different type of contractor, but the resources PSSI brings to the table do allow options.
“Those are the sort of things you run into,” Miller says. “To provide solutions around that, we have to get creative. If we’re having trouble with water, for example, drains taking water to the wastewater system or drains flooding or collapsed drains, the first mitigation step is reducing water use and finding ways to reduce water use. The second is trying to contain or working to contain the water so it eventually does drain and doesn’t flood a facility.”
The company has pumped water from a non-functioning drain to a functioning one. There are also situations, especially in older facilities, that simply require a repair or rebuild from a specialized contractor.
“We work around it. We do make those recommendations, absolutely. But we do work around it,” Miller says. “I’ve been in a number of facilities where drain work, that type of work is required. For example, when you get into some of these older facilities there might be a wall that has gaps in it that can harbor microbiological growth. We make recommendations to fix those areas, but in the interim we find novel ways of cleaning to make sure that we can keep the issues at bay or mitigate.”