Already a big player in meat and poultry facilities, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. is seeking to expand its footprint in the fresh produce world with real-time data monitoring of its sanitation services.
The firm provides sanitation and food safety services to about 470 firms overall, and about 20 of those facilities handle fruits and vegetables, said Jake Watts, vice president of food safety at the Kieler, Wis.-based company.
“Our main business sector has been in the red meat and poultry sector but we’re starting to branch out into the FDA sector, and it’s really exciting for us,” Watts said.
“The FDA sector, and specifically the fresh produce industry, is really starting to reach out to us, and we’re really starting to get a foot in the door in that sector.”
Watts said PSSI focuses on creating robust sanitation standard operating procedures, the cleaning and sanitizing tasks the company performs on food production facilities. That aligns with the needs of the fresh produce sector, he said.
“One of the big things that the Food Safety Modernization Act is (doing is) applying more of a science- and risk-based approach, and that’s one of the things that we can bring from a sanitation standpoint — bringing that applied knowledge and bringing those skills to the table and utilizing that science-based approach when it comes to sanitation,” he said.
Documentation and record keeping are key components of how PSSI adds value, he said.
Watts said there is documentation that needs to be done on the four factors — time, temperature, concentration of cleaning agents and mechanical force — that influence a successful cleaning process.
Through the end of this year and early next year, PSSI is moving to real-time documentation of food safety variables in its cleaning and sanitizing services, said Doug White, senior vice president of operations for the company.
“The desire for us to be able to be gathering that information and sharing in real time, that’s what’s driving our move to real-time data collection on the floor, or during the sanitation shift,” he said.
Using a waterproof tablet computer, PSSI staff can collect data in real time and share that with key stakeholders.
The initiative is in pilot stage this fall, with a broader roll-out by the end of this year and the first quarter of next year.
The system will provide data analytics that will add efficiency and effectiveness, and give the ability to provide alerts and notifications when necessary.
“Right now, a lot of the documentation that we have is old school; it’s the clipboard, it’s a pen and a piece of paper,” Watts said.
Getting data inputted on a real-time basis gives PSSI the ability to do analytics and have the information needed to make adjustments.
“If we determine that our water temperature, to be effective to remove soils, needs to be between 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit, we may not have that visibility right now in a manner that allows us to make quick decisions about the process,” Watts said.
With the real-time system, PSSI has the ability to take corrective action sooner, he said.
“Where we are headed is to be able to make adjustments during the shift to be able to more consistently deliver great service, that we can adjust as we go,” White said.
The real-time data initiative will be valuable to all food processing facilities, White said.
“It is going to allow us to have to continue to have that kind of culture of continuous improvement, give us that ability to track and trend, do those diagnostics, to drive that consistent performance,” Watts said.
“We really see this as a platform that’s going to set us apart from our competitors.”