Reconfiguring Food Facilities in Response to COVID-19
Companies across all industries are dealing with unprecedented challenges as the coronavirus pandemic engulfs our nation, but the owners and operators of food facilities may be facing one of the most unique and difficult dilemmas in all of business.
The processing and distribution of food is an essential business. Our society depends on the food supply chain to operate consistently and efficiently. Should the flow of food from the farm to the consumer be interrupted or impeded, we will experience problems and issues rarely seen in the United States.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is already having an impact on our food supply chain. Several major food processing facilities in multiple states have been forced to suspend their operations to stop the spread of the virus among their workforces. Because this is a first-ever challenge for the food industry, there are no rule books detailing how to deal with this situation and no prior examples to follow.
Food processing and distribution companies must begin to develop new strategies and processes that will allow them to operate at full production while ensuring the health and safety of their workforce.
As a company that focuses on the planning, design, construction and maintenance of food facilities, A M King recognizes the magnitude of this challenge. We also understand the industry’s requirement for smart and fast solutions for adapting existing facilities to align with the new procedures. In anticipation of forthcoming requests for assistance, we have a dedicated team of experts working to ensure food facility owners and operators have the resources, knowledge and capabilities to reconfigure their workspaces. The goal is to keep their businesses operating and their employees safe and healthy.
While our team recognizes that each food facility operates uniquely, we are focused on developing solutions in the following areas:
Separation is a proven preventer of the spread of COVID-19; however, separation in a food facility is difficult to accomplish. Separation must not only occur at workstations, but also in welfare areas such as the breakroom and locker rooms. While methods of separation must provide the necessary level of protection, they must also allow workers to perform critical tasks without being impeded.
Evaluation and review of operating processes
Every food facility has a proven process. From the point that raw materials enter a facility to final point of packaging and shipping, an operating food facility adheres to a set of processes that have proven to be successful. Adjusting these processes may now be required. Facility managers will evaluate how employees enter and exit, where they can work safely, and when they can work. These changes may result in new walls, more doors, relocation of equipment, and other modifications to allow a facility to operate efficiently, yet safely.
Consideration of modified space planning
One key to preventing the spread of the virus is to provide distance between individuals. Facility managers will also need to consider how to allocate the proper amount of space for adequate distancing. Some facility managers may be able to accomplish this by more careful space planning of their existing footprint. Others may need to find ways to better manage space that is presently under-utilized or investigate the feasibility of expanding facility footprints to allow more square footage per person.
Greater usage of automation
While complete automation of many of the tasks required in a food processing or food distribution facility may not be achievable, there are typically aspects where automation can be implemented. Food facilities can conduct a feasibility analysis to determine where automation can be applied in a manner to alleviate interaction among employees. While the implementation of automation may be an expensive solution in the short term, the overall long-term benefits can be significant.
Practically every workplace throughout America will be changing how it operates and how it protects its employees. Food facilities, by necessity, will be on the forefront of those modifications. As they have done in the past, food processors and food distributors will introduce innovative solutions to manage through this crisis and keep the American food chain operating as efficiently and productively as before.
If you need assistance in learning how to reconfigure your facilities to ensure employees are working in a safe environment, contact us at [email protected].