Dealing With Change, Moisture

Sept. 2, 2009
Welcome to MRO Q&A, a Food Processing series addressing maintenance, repair and operational issues in food plants. We have assembled a panel of plant operations experts to answer any question you have on plant-floor issues. To pose a question, check out our Plant Maintenance Resoure Center

Q. How can plant managers keep up with all the changes happening in every area of food plant operations? Sometimes I do not think my (smaller) staff can handle everything that is being thrown at us.

A. There was a time not too long ago when large food & beverage operations maintained technical staffing capable of handling almost any plant operations issue that could come up. Today’s staffing levels are far different. Most food companies today staff their organizations to meet only their primary strategic objectives.

The driver for this change was keeping your primary plant resources focused on the core functions that make your product unique or different from the competition. To support this change the implicit understanding was that external resources exist in sufficient numbers to provide coverage for other essential operational and maintenance needs. This requires most organizations to maintain a highly flexible staffing plan utilizing internal and external resources to meet their ongoing operational and maintenance needs.

Once your staffing requirements have been set up to serve primarily your core strategic needs, you must then develop a plan for meeting your “other” operational and maintenance needs. Some of these needs may be met with permanent contract services (not just people but skill levels) and others may be met with consultative services backed up by major project-to-project-related service providers.

As an example, you may staff your plant with a full time contract services company to provide cleaning and sanitation of your non-food processing equipment, or you may add a roofing and flooring consultant to your maintenance staffing who could provide annual reviews of your flooring and roofing issues and then hire a professional contractor to complete the work when needed. This way you have access to specialists focusing on their areas of expertise while you are focused on the essential elements of your production needs. This should provide for the proper level of staffing at the optimal cost.