The advantage of IFS Ultimo in the food industry and support for IFS Food and FSSC 22000 standards

The impact of asset maintenance efficiency on costs and safety.

Many companies in the food industry worldwide strive to maintain a high level of efficiency on production lines to meet the growing demand for their products from the retail sector. They must also guarantee the safety and traceability of food in accordance with applicable standards. The requirements of IFS Food and FSSC 22000 standards impose obligations on companies, with the continuous need for compliance with these standards.

At the same time, it is important for manufacturers to ensure the protection of workers from additional risks in the workplace. Improving production resource management is crucial to addressing challenges in the areas of:

  • machine efficiency
  • occupational health and safety regulations
  • food safety
  • environmental impact.

Asset maintenance is a daily routine in food processing plants. All surfaces that come into contact with food during production need to be cleaned and sterilized often to prevent product contamination.

Regular maintenance of facilities and equipment throughout the production line is equally important. Prevention in this regard helps prevent costly downtimes while extending the equipment’s lifespan. Ineffectively managed maintenance can not only increase costs by reducing the efficiency/power of malfunctioning equipment but also jeopardize food safety and workplace safety.

Key risks to food safety and their causes:

  • Biological contamination – due to, for example, inadequately cleaned surfaces, water leaks through poorly maintained roofs, doors or windows, contact with water unfit for consumption, or faulty plumbing/sewage.
  • Chemical contamination – caused, for example, by detergents or disinfectants used during the cleaning process or lubricants from machines allowed to come into contact with food.
  • Physical contamination – may occur when external physical objects, including small fragments or loose machine parts (e.g., nuts and bolts, washers, small metal or plastic pieces), accidentally enter the food during the production or maintenance process. (In 2019, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Commission sent over 150 notifications regarding foreign bodies in food products).

Food contamination can have far-reaching consequences throughout the supply chain. Creating a threat to the health and safety of consumers can lead to costly product recalls and fines, serious legal consequences, not to mention the high costs associated with the loss of reputation for the producer in the eyes of partners and consumers.

A standard that fully recognizes the impact maintenance can have on food safety is the “Quality and Food Safety Audit Standard” IFS Food 6.1 widely used in the food industry.

It states that: “Requirements for the product and prevention of contamination during and after maintenance and repair work must be ensured. Documentation of maintenance and repair work and corrective actions taken must be maintained.”

For this reason, a system supporting the areas of Maintenance Management and Asset Management should also support compliance with IFS Food, FSSC 22000 standards, and occupational health and safety regulations.

IFS Ultimo supports improving safety and cost reduction. IFS Ultimo is a modern EAM system that helps companies automate maintenance and asset processes while ensuring compliance with standards, leading to optimal supervision of safety issues. IFS Ultimo ensures compliance with IFS Food and FSSC 22000 standards in many food companies, including meat processors worldwide.

It ensures that everyone involved in maintenance activities in production facilities follows the exact same process every time, minimizing the risk of errors. Maintenance personnel can document their actions during execution, for example, using a smartphone or tablet, selecting from predefined checklists. Maintenance, production, and quality managers receive automatic notifications (including on their mobile devices) regarding the checking and approval of tasks in compliance with procedures and information on safety-related events.

This way, they have real-time access to information confirming that maintenance personnel use appropriate personal protective equipment, tools, and materials and have the necessary permissions to perform specific maintenance tasks.

Using IFS Ultimo to manage these critical tasks can help increase safety, ensure compliance with standards, and provide peace of mind during audits. The Ultimo EAM platform integrates food safety management, occupational health and safety, and asset maintenance in one system that signals the state and status of assets in real-time. Most importantly, it not only defines processes related to food safety and occupational health and safety but also helps enforce them, for example: a task can only be started after completing and registering all required safety procedures, minimizing any risks to food safety, workers, or property. Additionally, the digital record of each maintenance activity facilitates managing safety requirements and confirming compliance with regulations during audits or investigations.

Another important feature in IFS Ultimo is the so-called preventive or “intelligent” maintenance technology. It involves monitoring the state of machines and equipment (sensors and operational data). It utilizes Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and Industry 4.0 solutions.

Intelligent sensors monitor equipment in real-time and send automatic notifications when there is a risk of exceeding defined critical thresholds for a particular device. In response to such notification, a work order is automatically created in the EAM system. This allows maintenance operators to proactively intervene to prevent breakdowns and risks, maximizing resource availability, reliability, and performance while minimizing risk.

With this approach, maintenance is only performed when needed, meaning less time spent on maintenance work that (when done improperly or under time pressure) can pose a threat to food safety, workers, and property.

There is also the optimization of maintenance costs. Manual service documentation or the lack of a modern system for analyzing maintenance actions can make it difficult to determine the relationship between incurred costs and the state of each asset. Analyzing data for any trends regarding asset condition is even more challenging, making effective planning of preventive and maintenance actions almost impossible, and increasing the risk of unplanned downtime due to failures and long repairs.

IFS Ultimo provides advanced analysis and data needed to track the costs of each fixed asset, facilitating the identification of inefficient maintenance practices and inefficient resources. The company also gains better control over the maintenance budget, as it allows for the quick identification of costly resources and a review of all associated maintenance activities. Furthermore, access to reliable data on the state of assets is essential for comparing performance, setting realistic business goals, and planning strategic improvements to further reduce costs.

Author: Bartłomiej Żak

Business Consulting Director