Food hygiene and safety are critical in an industry where traceability is a key plank on which some brands live or die. And it’s just not the source of the product where traceability comes into its own, there are the processing aspects, too.
Australian food and beverage manufacturing and processing have a good worldwide reputation when it comes to the quality of its processing plants. As well as having high-end technologies, the country’s safety and hygiene standards are up there with the best in the world. There is a reason the rest of the world covets produce made on these shores.
This reputation doesn’t come by accident. It is due to diligent, and sometimes overbearing government standards and regulations that make Australian-made food and beverages popular around the globe.
It is also due to the commitment by service providers who build the plant and machinery that make up this important primary industry.
Flooring is a key component of any food or beverage plant, but it’s not just a case of laying a concrete slab and hoping for the best. There are many considerations that need taking into account.
“First, the flooring, will have to be safe underfoot,” said Tony Miller, who is director of flooring specialist, Roxset. “In other words it has to be a finish that’s slip resistant.
“Second, it needs to be graded to floor waste because they’ll have a lot of liquids about, not only during the cleaning process, but for general processing, too.
“Third, the floor should conform to Food Safe Australia regulations. From the point of view it needs to be seamless, impervious, and have a radius cove at the floor wall intersection.
“Finally, there is the aspect of cleaning depending on what sort of chemicals they use. If they use a CIP, or caustic solution for cleaning, then they need a floor that doesn’t wear away.”
Miller has been in the flooring business for 35 years and knows the pitfalls that customers – especially those who are starting on their manufacturing and processing journey – can fall into if they don’t get the right type of flooring in place. When Roxset first visits clients, usually there is a general awareness about the regulations and standards that need to be met, but it still pays to get expert advice.
“Not only is there an expectation from regulators that standards are met, but end-users and customers – the like of Coles and Woolworths – that are going to buy a product from a particular beverage manufacturer might send in their own auditors. They will come in and make sure these standards are being met. They will also have an audit trail, which goes through and looks at all aspects of what the manufacturer is doing and they would expect it to meet and certain standard. If it doesn’t, they are not likely to buy it.”
Traceability is where the audit trail comes in. According to Miller, these companies would expect manufacturers to be able to demonstrate that they have followed procedures and at various demarcation points it has been signed off.
“There may be a recording made of things like temperatures and bacteria counts and all sorts of things could be incorporated into the audit trail,” he said. “And that is where a HACCP system is good. It details the various aspects of an audit that need to be met so that management has a guideline and something to follow.”
While the type of flooring that Roxset produces is top-end, it is the outcome that is important. Miller knows that when it comes to building a plant that is up to state or federal standards then it is the whole package that is important – and that can come at a cost.
“Every aspect of the building is going to be expensive, but they are upfront costs,” he said. “You can’t operate a business without drainage, without proper equipment and it just falls into that category. You can’t be expected to run a business without proper ceiling, wall and floor finishes.”
When it comes to beverage manufacturing such as boutique breweries and distilleries, Miller not only can supply the right type of floor for the environment, but also give advice on how to make it last as long as possible.
“In beverage manufacturing, we have a client whose floor we laid over 20 years ago and they have never had to replace it,” he said. “It comes down to a couple of things. One is maintenance – if they are using the correct cleaning procedures and are maintaining the floor correctly, the floor will last a lot longer. If they are abusing the floor, and they do have to drive traffic on it and people are wilful in their actions, of course they can damage it.”
In a working environment like a beverage manufacturing place, Miller recommends the epoxy floor be a minimum of 6mm in depth, and that will give users in excess of 20 years of life. Roxset also puts an extensive warranty on it that can range from about seven to 10 years depending on what it assesses the activity is occurring on the floor and the state of the existing building. Miller also said that the type of surface that the floor is going to be is something Roxset can design for the customer. Roxset tailors the slip-resistance of that floor to meet the requirement of the individual customer.
“For example, if someone is involved in completely dry production then they don’t need the same level of slip-resistance as some of them where there is a lot of liquid on the floor ,” he said. “If you don’t have a sufficient slip-resistant medium on the floor, and you’ve got something like a banana skin on it, you are going to have a problem.”
Roxset specialises in epoxy finishes, which look smooth and easy to clean. Is that the reality?
“Epoxy is very easy to clean,” said Miller. “Inherent in a slip-resistant finish is the fact is what you need to do the requirement of how you clean the surface as opposed to something that is completely smooth. It is not something you are going to go around with a mop and bucket and mop. That is not compatible with a slip-resistant surface. Captivating scrubbing is.”
One thing that Miller is keen to push is that Roxset is not a company that’s products are a one-size fits all. It designs bespoke floors for a range of different environments in the food and beverage industry.
“We’re not an off-the-shelf product,” said Miller. “What we are doing is tailoring the floor in situ to meet their individual requirements. They are bespoke solutions.
“What we decided to do was make our own product to suit the requirement that we see in the individual operation depending on what they are doing. We look at what liquids might go on the floor; what contaminant might go on the floor; and what chemicals might go on the floor. We design to their circumstance so they are getting the best possible for finish for their particular requirement rather than give them a generic product that might not suit what they are doing.”
Miller said it is important to differentiate between different types of flooring because the requirements for say, an abattoir over a gin distillery, are far apart – different chemicals are needed.
“If it is a lamb abattoir for instance, they can have solid particles of fat on a floor,” he said. “Well, if you don’t have a certain degree of non-slip there, you are going to have major problem. There is going to be a lot of blood going on the floor.
“However, in a beverage manufacturer, it may be just constituent parts of whatever the product they are making. It might have high sugar content but it hasn’t got any fat, so the slip resistance doesn’t need to be to the same extent. That is why we tailor the floor to meet the expectation.”
Finally, Miller said if customers were to remember one thing when putting down a new floor, it’s this: “It needs to reach a certain standard from the point of view of beverage safety, which in other words it can’t harbour bacteria. That practically means it needs to be impervious, which is what we offer.”