Hygienic cabling at a Unilever factory

brown field

The Streamline HD cable support system was explained at a knowledge event. After internal consultation, Ben & Jerry's decided to get started with it. The initial findings are so positive that they are going to prescribe their suppliers to use this form of cabling from now on.

“My boys were quite envious when they heard where I was going”, Michael Evers—Business Development Manager at Niedax Group and Secretary of the national working group Hygienic Cabling— told us, while standing in the reception hall of Ben & Jerry’s factory in Hellendoorn.

It all started in the 1950s; in addition to bread and pastries, Hellendoorn baker Gerrit Valk, decided to start producing ice cream. In the 70s, the production site was moved from the centre of Hellendoorn to its current location in Hellendoorn, and was increasingly automated. In the 90s, the company stopped baking. Unilever took over the factory in 1985 and started producing Ola ice cream. Since 2002, the core business of the factory has been producing Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Ben & Jerry's is a great example of a factory where all kinds of brownfield-projects run and have been run in order to produce in a state of the art manner.

Safe Food Factory
Michael Evers (left) and Leon ter Braak

In the reception hall, we meet Leon ter Braak—QA Officer at Ben & Jerry's Hellendoorn— who has worked at this location for 17 years. We take our seats in the Strawberry Cheesecake room. The smaller Peanut Butter room was occupied. Smaller? Yes, but the peanut products are more popular. Leon has just completed a validation of the factory as one that produces products with and without peanuts.

Leon explains that the work of a QA Officer involves many things. FSSC 22000 requires that necessary measures are implemented with regard to food fraud and food defense. The entrance gate was moved, a fence was placed around the building, and identification was required upon entry. ‘Cleaning and disinfection’ were also an important part of the FSSC 22000. However, appropriate measures were already in place because milk and milk free products were produced on the same production line.

Safe Food Factory
Ben & Jerry's filling line

Hygienic design? The FSSC 22000 is not specific in this area. Leon points out: "You trust that the supplier of the machines will supply them in accordance with the EHEDG Guidelines. Of course, the machines are tested and assessed before use by our Project Engineers. We see that most issues arise with our own in-house modifications to the machines.”

In regard to food safety, quality concerns always revolve around four things: microbiology, allergens, chemistry and foreign parts. There is always something to improve. An example is the current way in which cables are attached to the equipment. It is not easy to clean around cabling—a prerequisite for controlling microbiology. Cable ties become brittle and break over time due to frequent cleaning. Pieces of cable ties, including the metal detectable ones, cannot always be detected. Yet, Leon cannot recall ever having received a complaint about this. Nevertheless, you always want to prevent it from happening.

Recently, Leon attended a Knowledge Event on Hygiene in the Food Industry, organized by Safe Food Factory and held at the Technische Unie. Leon went with the idea that “this can be interesting, even though I may not have the technical knowledge”.

The alternative of securing cables with a spring instead of cable ties, which was presented at the event, was a good idea to implement at the factory. The Quality Department manages the improvements at Ben and Jerry's Hellendoorn and has a dedicated budget for this. A team was formed immediately, and GoudaHolland (part of the Niedax Group) was invited to give an in-house presentation together with the line engineer involved. "When he recognized the practical benefit as well, he submitted the idea to the MT and they approved it," said Leon. "Now the first three items have been placed on one of the machines at a critical location above the six open packages. The first steps have been taken. Two cables still need to be extended and other parts like cable trays need to be adjusted too, but priority is given to the inside of the equipment. The first reactions are positive. It looks sleek. The cables run neatly, and you have room to clean”.

Safe Food Factory
New cabling fixations at Ben & Jerry's

Saving by investing. Leon explains; "Upgrading an existing installation with Streamline HD will pay for itself. It makes the installation more flexible and easier to maintain. This just saves the Technical Department a lot of time and work".

What does the future look like? Leon continues; "I really like the solution from our supplier Selo for new equipment. The last unit Selo had not wired in this way. Selo now consistently applies the new cabling method throughout each machine. We are also going to make this wiring method compulsory for new equipment - and step by step, we are going to renew existing installations.”

Featured company: Gouda Holland

Featured expert: Michael Evers

  • Cabling
  • Ice cream
  • Packaging