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Process industries like pharma, food and chemical have the most stringent cleaning requirements and standards than any other industry. Hence, the only way to keep the premises clean is through mechanised cleaning machines. In this interview, Samir Sabu, Director, Soma Specialities Pvt Ltd, explains how mechanised cleaning helps these process industries adhere to stringent manufacturing norms and produce high-quality products.
Why is cleanliness and hygiene so important for industries like food, pharma and chemical?
Proper cleanliness and hygiene is essential in the pharmaceutical industry to prevent any kind of contamination that can affect the quality of medicinal products. When it comes to delivering highest quality standards of pharmaceutical, chemical & food products, key hygiene factors need to be upheld. High levels of cleanliness and sanitation must be practiced through all stages of manufacturing through a comprehensive screening – from the personnel working in manufacturing plant to the production process.
Pharmaceutical, chemical & food manufacturing must be done in a clean and controlled environment. Therefore, supply chain partners that supply packaging materials to pharmaceutical, food & chemical manufacturing companies are also best suited to ensure proper hygiene, care, cleanliness, and a microbial-free environment when manufacturing such packaging materials.
A key element of quality assurance is proper housekeeping. Manufacturing and other operating areas should be regularly cleaned and disinfected to remove spilt powder, liquids, dust, and dirt. Cleaning avoids mutual contamination and keeps the working environment clean and safe.
Pharmaceutical factories should be ideal; floors and rooms should be disinfected and sterile. For this purpose, there are good manufacturing practices (GMP guidelines) that pharmaceutical factories must comply with. This policy’s best practices are production hygiene, staff hygiene, and facility and surface disinfection. In the pharmaceutical industry, cleaning and hygiene hold utmost importance in ensuring the safety of products, consumers and employees. The four key areas to focus on are: production hygiene, staff hygiene, facility & surface disinfection, and ensuring pharmaceutical hygiene through performance monitoring.
How is Soma Specialities helping these industries in maintaining their hygiene standards?
Although cleaning is not the core activity of a pharma, chemical or food industry manufacturer, the fact that cleaning machines are integral to their factory’s housekeeping is beyond debate. What these sectors need is a range of equipment designed specifically to meet its unique challenges. Soma Specialities has been working with pharmaceutical companies since the last 3 decades, and our team of sales & service professionals and engineers interacts, listens, and participates in solving the needs of pharmaceutical, food & chemical industry customers. We firmly believe that the most important aspect of collaboration with these manufacturers is understanding the unique nature of every customer’s production and determining their specific hygienic requirements.
We help our customers prioritise quality and safety of their operations with zero-compromise solutions to ensure & improvise hygiene standards; prevent cross-contamination; ensure a cleaner, healthier workplace; ensure GMP and ergonomics; and ensure maximum product quality.
General cleaning & floorcare: Production areas demand the highest standards of floor hygiene, preventing impurities from entering your production areas, which is critical in ensuring product quality and safety. Our floor cleaning equipment brings along a wide variety of innovations for maintenance of hygiene in such critical areas of application. Our scrubber dryers offer deep cleaning and drying floors in a single pass which can cut down up to 60% saving of chemical for a greener and uncompromised cleaning operation. During packaging activities, cutting machines often become blocked with waste, which can lead to process interruptions. The use of a vacuum cleaner allows for continuous waste-recovery while machinery remains in operation, thereby optimising productivity and ensuring a clean production environment.
End-to-end solutions: We can support the entire manufacturing process, beginning with dry-ingredient recovery during mixing, continuing to conveyance of powders, granules, and capsules, and ending with dust-containment during filling and compacting. Scrubbers, sweepers, vacuum cleaners and high-pressure washers then allow producers to maximise and maintain the hygienic standard of their production environment, lines, and furnishings.
Dust control: No matter what pharmaceutical or food product is being manufactured, dust generated by production can contaminate other products, or even be inhaled by personnel, if incorrectly filtered. The right machinery and accessories can effectively contain and control dust, preventing environmental contamination and contributing to optimal workplace safety.
Our range of machines is used for various pharmaceutical applications such as:
What do you bring to the table for the manufacturers of food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals?
Being an Indian manufacturer, we understand the local manufacturer’s requirements and challenges better than our overseas competitors. The level of dust and contaminants in a tropical country like India, power fluctuations, unskilled cleaning labour, unsuitable floors, congested production lines in growing companies etc. are challenges generally not faced with European manufacturers. Cleaning efficacy is determined mainly by four factors – temperature, action, chemical and time. Mechanical cleaning comprises the principle of applying high action with low detergent, temperature and time. This in turn saves water, detergent and manpower leading to better, cleaning efficacy.
In the Indian scenario, growing consumer awareness and increasing regulatory control have made cleaning and hygiene maintenance a serious task for pharma, chemical and food industries. This has led to the use of ‘mechanised cleaning’ in these industries. Better cleaning, saving of water and detergent, reduction in ETP load and reach to inaccessible areas are other benefits of mechanised cleaning.
Mechanised cleaning simply uses a few types of equipment, which are easy to handle, operator-friendly and have improved safety system for the operator. It is a false belief that mechanised cleaning is costlier than manual cleaning. The returns of mechanised cleaning should be calculated keeping in mind the factors operators’ salaries and cost of machine, consumables, annual maintenance, and running the machine. In addition, one must consider cost of manual cleaning in absence of mechanised cleaning and the opportunity to save labour hours.
There are many types of mechanised cleaning machines for use in Indian pharma, chemical & food industries.
Single disc scrubbers: These machines are used for cleaning the floors with detergent followed by vacuuming to dry/clean the floor. These machines could also be used for polishing or buffing the floor. Various pads and brushes are available depending on the kind of floor to be cleaned. Even office floors having carpets can be shampooed using these machines with change of brush. We can even provide a flame proof scrubber for explosion proof pharma & chemical production units. These machines can be of use in office premises, production areas, cleanrooms and packaging rooms.
Scrubber dryers: Scrubber dryers are available in capacities ranging from push-behind to ride-on versions. Both battery-operated and electrically operated versions are available in the market. Electrically operated machines are more economical than battery versions as batteries increase cost of the machines. But battery operated machines can be considered safer and environment friendly. Battery operated machines are needed if the power supply points are far from cleaning area or if the wires lying on the floor pose any risk to the personnel or machine. Ride on scrubber dryers are always operated on batteries and are used if the floor area to be cleaned is very large or frequent cleaning is needed which could be tiring for the operator to walk with the machine for longer hours. The layout of plant and equipment in the area is to be considered for selection of the scrubber dryers, as practical capacity may vary significantly with theoretical. Areas of application include production areas & warehouses.
Wet mopping machines: These machines are used to mop and dry the floors simultaneously in a single pass, even in small or congested areas. These are a suitable alternative to using scrubber dryers in places which do not require deep cleaning but faster mopping compared to laborious manual mopping. Sometimes, floors such as soft epoxy floors cannot be cleaned with abrasive scrubbing action or in clean rooms which don’t require heavy duty cleaning. Wet mopping machines work very efficiently and help tremendously in saving labour, water & chemical costs. These machines can be of use in office premises, production areas, cleanrooms canteens, corridors etc.
Wet & dry vacuum cleaners: These machines could be used for both dry and wet applications. These machines are available with different accessories like micron filter that do not discharge contaminated air. These machines can be of use in office premises, production areas, cleanrooms and packaging rooms, warehouses etc.
Industrial vacuum cleaners: As wet & dry vacuum cleaners can have limitations due to their universal motors, industrial vacuum cleaners which operate on 3-phase supply through turbine based blowers can be used 24×7. They are more suitable to be placed near the point of production to pick up production waste and even maybe used for recycling the waste and eliminating/ reducing losses. These machines can be customised from tank capacities to material of construction to filters and even flame proof industrial vacuums. These machines could be used for collecting dry dust, powder, flour vacuuming, production liquids & coolants etc. Areas of application include production areas.
Sweepers: Exterior areas of a plant or an establishment could be cleaned using sweepers. These machines are designed to pick heavy dust, including small stones and pebbles. Push-behind versions are suitable for smaller areas and ride-on sweepers for bigger areas. These can be useful for plants having very big open areas. Open area cleaning is very critical from both quality and aesthetic point of view. Areas of application include outdoor cleaning like sweeping of roads.
High pressure jets: Sticky soils can be easily removed using high pressure jets. These jets can deliver up to 200-bar pressure. Detergent can also be dosed in feed water to improve the efficacy of cleaning. It is effective in cleaning inaccessible areas like heights and tank interiors. It saves water and time. Hot water jets help remove soil. Generally these machines are diesel operated. The selection of these machines depends on washing power and the type of motor. Washing power is simply the multiplication of pressure and flow rate. High washing power cleans the application area more efficiently. Areas of application include office premises such as washrooms & production areas for washing equipment before next batch to remove residue of previous batch.
Centralised vacuum system: The centralised vacuum system with one vacuum unit placed on the service floor is connected to various openings through the main header and creates drop downs into the production hall for collection of the waste powder, at one place. This simplifies the disposal process and calculation of the wasted material to further optimize the process which can have minimal product wastage. If the collected material needs to be kept in the production area, the option of pre-separator with filter is also available and in that case, only the air gets released out of the hall and the powder remains in the pre separator.
Soma Specialities provides a comprehensive range of products suited for the production areas in a pharma or chemical plant. It delivers maintenance free operation, collection at a common place, disposal of collected powder from one point and measurement of lost powdered material. These machines can be of use in production areas. General points for selecting a cleaning machine are total area to be cleaned; time required for cleaning; type of electricity available; frequency of cleaning in a day (e.g. once a day, once every shift); power consumption; water requirement, durability & reliability, ergonomics, maintenance, warranty, and service.
Thus, by implementing mechanised cleaning techniques the pharma, chemical & food industry can definitely benefit in terms of cost and labour.
What are key factors for increasing the demand of cleaning machines in these process industries?
Rising standards of quality, regulatory requirements and reporting mandates, have ensured that pharma, chemical & food companies validate their cleaning processes. Technology has reduced manpower needed to clean and has improved the quality of cleaning. In future, companies would like to see more in terms of automation and customisation. Maintaining the best of cleaning and hygiene standards has given rich returns in terms of business received, especially exports. The standards maintained by pharma, chemical & food industries not only adds value to their businesses but also motivates their employees to maintain hygiene which enhances productivity & quality of products manufactured. It also boosts the morale of employees and reduces the attrition ratio if they work in a cleaner & healthier environment.
Has Covid pandemic given a boost to the demand for mechanised cleaning in industries like pharma & food?
The pharma industry is in the business of manufacturing lifesaving drugs, so they could not afford to pause production, even during Covid times. Likewise for the food industry as food is a necessity so their production didn’t stop either. The importance of a clean and hygienic working environment was not new to these industries, but the necessity to clean and sanitise the plant, equipment, packaging & personnel had multiplied manifold. During the pandemic, frequencies of cleaning in their manufacturing plants had increased to keep the premises hygienic and safe. As mops were being discarded after every use, the cost of consumables had increased considerably. So this gave rise to use of cleaning machines in the production & office areas as cleaning with increased frequency was only possible with mechanised cleaning equipment. Whereas other industries were reducing their housekeeping staff due to work from home policies or plant shutdowns due to lockdown, pharma & food sector had increased their cleaning workforce as well as use of equipment by 30 per cent during the pandemic.
Are stringent quality norms in industries like food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, etc aiding the demand for mechanised cleaning machines?
The manufacturing segments of pharma, food & chemical industries have the most stringent cleaning requirements and standards than any other industry. A pharmaceutical company needs to maintain the highest standards in production and hygiene always. The pharma industry requires cleaning products that do not interact with its raw material or finished product in any way. The new age food processing facilities have gradually implemented systems similar to pharmaceutical facilities in terms of cleanliness & hygiene. They actually use the same technologies – the same air lock system, level of hygiene and level of detailing that a pharma plant requires. The growth of this sunshine industry is hinged on a single crucial factor – flawless facility management. Pharma & food units in India must meet not just domestic but also international regulatory standards for the export markets. Contamination during the manufacturing process by impurities can condemn an entire product batch; undetected contamination of medicines can endanger the lives of patients. With such risks & magnitude of production involved, the only way to keep the premises clean is through mechanised cleaning machines.
Given the unique nature of food and pharmaceutical industries (as they come under FDA regulations), do you offer customised (specialised) solutions for these industries?
Although the majority of the equipment remains standard for all cleaning applications, but since their production is so criticial, their hygiene and cleaning requirement can also be very unique at times. Pharma and food industries can sometimes have peculiar and specific requirements. For example, a pharma or chemical unit classifying as zone 22 or having Gas Type B in their plant would require flame proof equipment to prevent any kind of hazard to the plant and personnel. For this application, we are the only company in India that produces flame proof floor scrubbers and flame proof industrial vacuum cleaners. Every month we supply many machines directly to the end users or through traders for this sort of requirement.
Also, although most industrial vacuum cleaners would have MS chassis and tanks, certain food & pharma plants would only require Stainless steel parts instead of Mild steel including the hardware parts and fasteners. As we are manufacturers, we can customise such requirements within our capacities unlike the importers who bring in finished goods.
How do you intend to further tap the process industries like food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals?
Our company’s forte being our product quality and after sales-service, we stick to our strengths mainly and get orders based on this more than anything else. So we get a lot of orders through word of mouth references from existing customers in these industries. Besides, the preference of the industrial sector is more inclined towards buying indigenous products. The acceptance of indigenous machines is far higher in manufacturing industries comparatively as the buyer is technically sound and having purchased equipment worth millions, understands the importance of an indigenous supplier as they can get spares & service at a more economical cost and much sooner than from an importer who will take weeks or months to get the spares along with their next shipment. Besides, they also understand that at the end of the day, they want the cleaning to be done, be it as a regular activity or for an important occasion like client visit or audit, and a non-functional imported machine from a bigger brand without any spares support wouldn’t help their cause. We also get orders from Indian turnkey project consultants who get contracted for setting up overseas plants for pharma, chemical or food manufacturing as they have to supply all the machines & equipment for the plant including cleaning machines also. Our presence in industry specific trade fairs has also given us great visibility. As these industries are growing and new companies are coming up, they have included cleaning machines from the word go rather than thinking of cleaning as an after-thought. With such growth in their industries, our business has also grown with them.
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