7 Best Practices for Designing a Clean-in-Place System

A clean-in-place (CIP) system is a cost-effective and time-saving tool that rinses and washes the inside surfaces of food processing piping and equipment without mechanical disassembly. When designed well, a CIP system improves sanitation and enhances food safety while both simplifying the cleaning process for plant operators and reducing downtime. It automates what has traditionally been a laborious and time-consuming manual process of disassembling the piping, hand-cleaning each component and reassembling equipment.

In addition to lost revenue from halted production, improperly cleaned equipment can spread foodborne contaminants from batch to batch, which is dangerous to consumers and can lead to recalls that directly impact a company’s bottom line and reputation.

If you’re considering investing in a CIP system for your facility, it’s important to ensure you’re getting a design that is reliable and up-to-date. Your process design team should consider the overall needs of your operation, including changeover efficiency, water conservation and how the design will affect the complexity of the system.

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Food Plant Safety: Lockout/Tagout Best Practices

It’s no secret that working in a food processing plant can be quite dangerous. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has listed the food manufacturing industry as one of the most hazardous. A big contributor to workplace accidents is improper lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures. 

When production in a food processing plant is halted for the installation, servicing or maintenance of machinery and heavy equipment, there must be a LOTO procedure in place to prevent the machine from turning back on and injuring a worker. 

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Choosing the Best Flooring Material for Food & Beverage Processing Areas

The flooring systems in food and beverage processing areas are an essential component of the facility’s daily operation. Whether you’re evaluating flooring in a food production, storage or welfare space, the floor’s cleanability, resilience, durability and surface characteristics are integral to the space’s sanitation and safety. 

Selecting the appropriate flooring system for each area is an important and nuanced operational and budgetary decision, especially in a highly regulated industry like food processing. The decision requires careful consideration in the earliest stages of the design and construction process.

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How Ergonomics Affect Employee Wellness (and What Manufacturers Can Do to Improve it)

Americans have been quitting their jobs in record numbers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called Great Resignation is significantly impacting the food and beverage industry. In response, many industry leaders are focusing on ergonomics strategies to improve employee comfort and safety, and in turn, retention. 

“If the workplace is designed to meet peoples’ needs, it demonstrates the employer’s commitment and enables employees to be fully engaged in the workplace,” says Jeff Sanford, an ergonomics expert at VelocityEHS, a provider of environmental health and safety (EHS) solutions.

Sanford recently spoke at a webinar hosted by Food Processing magazine, in which he shared best practices for improving ergonomics and employee safety within the food and beverage industry.

The goal of ergonomics is to prevent soft-tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion and bad posture. This is especially important in the U.S. food and beverage industry, which has the highest lost-workday incidence (LWDI) across all industries with a rate of 6.5 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers, compared to the standard of 3.3.

These numbers especially matter in today’s competitive labor market. A recent study on ergonomics cited in the webinar found employee turnover dropped anywhere from 23% to 49% within companies that employed an ergonomics strategy. Meanwhile, the same study found absenteeism dropped between 42% and 116%. These statistics could help some processing facilities justify the cost of implementing ergonomic changes. 

What can facility owners and plant managers do to improve employee ergonomics? Below are some common issues and solutions shared during the webinar.

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Cyberattacks, Hacking and Phishing Scams: the Food Processing Industry’s Multimillion-Dollar Problem

Food processing facilities have come a long way since pre-industrial days. Each year, food and beverage companies rely more heavily on automation, high-tech building management systems, remotely accessible machine sensors, modern data collection and the latest technology. While these innovations can help facilities run more smoothly, they can also leave them vulnerable to data breaches and cyberattacks. 

In 2020, the average cost of a cyberattack was approximately $3.86 million, according to the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI). When computer intrusions happen, cybercriminals are typically seeking out a company’s intellectual property or customer and client data that can be exchanged for digital currencies, like passwords, protected health information, personal identity information and credit card information. 

Every company will be targeted by a malware or ransomware attack at some point. It’s just a matter of when, so it’s vital to have a robust cybersecurity plan that protects your assets and information.

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4 Strategies for Mitigating Supply Chain Disruptions in Your Next Construction Project

Construction firms are fighting an uphill battle to maintain project budgets and schedules as the industry grapples with global supply chain disruptions. 

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported that material prices for nonresidential construction soared 21% from February 2021 to February 2022, and analysts predict costs will continue going up. Additionally, logistical bottlenecks such as overseas shipping delays and shortages in the transportation sector are drastically impacting project lead times. 

Stellar’s industry veterans are discovering there are ways to mitigate supply chain disruptions and their effects on construction projects — but only if construction firms are willing to shift their paradigm and use a different approach when working with their clients. 

Here are four ways our teams are navigating the waters.

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Food Safety: 7 Pest Hotspots to Monitor

It’s no secret that food processing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers must maintain high standards to ensure food safety. If pests infiltrate a workspace, every area of production is at risk. Not only can pests carry diseases that threaten health and safety, an infestation could also lead to product loss, product recall, reputation damage, product liability lawsuits and a facility’s shutdown.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne diseases every year, while thousands more are hospitalized or even die from them. 

Understanding the threats, developing a robust pest prevention strategy and recognizing when it’s time to call for help are vital to protecting your operations, staff and customers.

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17 Common Ammonia Safety Issues Your Refrigeration Personnel Can Control (and Correct)

It’s always a good time to check up on your facility’s safety — but now the stakes are even higher when it comes to safety violations.

Employers across the U.S. have been facing higher penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this year. In January 2021, the federal agency announced it was increasing the maximum penalty for serious and other than serious citations to $13,653 and the maximum for repeat and willful violations to $136,532. 

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Remote Work Solutions We’re Making Routine Even After the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to improvise as the sudden shift to remote working disrupted “business as usual” for a lot of employees. At Stellar, we had emergency plans in place to allow for an easy shift to remote work — and it was so successful that the company adopted a full-time work-from-home model for the majority of its workforce.

With restrictions easing and vaccines more readily available, we’re slowly returning to some sense of normalcy. And while there are plenty of things we won’t miss about pandemic life, there are tools and strategies that flourished over the past year that yielded more efficient, predictable and accurate project results for our clients. Let’s look at a few that are here to stay:

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What Is Your Maintenance Program (or Lack of One) Costing You?

For many manufacturers — especially in the food and beverage space — the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in new challenges and increased demand, all at the same time. This has many corporate leaders under the gun and pushing production to the max in order to keep their pipeline filled. To meet this demand, many are working overtime, plants are reluctant to shut any lines down and smaller maintenance jobs have dropped lower on the priority list.

But, none of that matters if you’re rushing in the wrong direction. Ignoring maintenance or only fixing things when they fail (a reactive approach), has long-term consequences. The continual deferment of maintenance will ultimately result in failure.

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