Facility planning and layout design

The objective of any food processing facility is to convert raw materials into finished products by processing them as safely and efficiently as possible. When planning the layout and design of your food premises, you should consider compliance with regulatory requirements whilst mitigating food safety risks and ensuring production efficiency, flexibility, and ease of cleaning, amongst others. With many crucial aspects to consider, we suggest asking for advice from food safety consultants, engineers, and architects with experience in the food industry before making any modifications to your existing food premises or plunging in and buying a new premises.

Follow along as we share four key considerations to help you plan the layout of your food production facility.

  1. Select the Correct Site for Your Food Safety Business

There are numerous aspects to consider when looking for a new premises for your food safety business. These include:

  • Municipal area zoning laws
  • Proximity to the customer and raw materials
  • Ease of delivery of raw materials to premises for large delivery vehicles
  • Safety and security of the area
  • Risk of fires, floods, and heavy rainfall
  • Nature of neighbouring businesses
  • Liquid and solid waste storage and removal services
  • Sufficient energy and water supply, as well as the quality of water supply
  • Compile a Flow Diagram of the Manufacturing Process

A flow diagram will help you visualize the steps involved in converting your raw materials into finished products. Some questions to consider per step include:

  • What storage units are needed – shelves, pallets or bins?
  • How much space is needed for equipment and people at each step based on estimated volumes?
  • Will you need forklift/hand pallet movement?
  • Where will you store unused pallets/bins?
  • Where will you store packaging, ingredients, and cleaning chemicals?
  • Where will you store the finished product?
  • Are specific process steps such as defrosting, chopping, blast freezing, cooking, sterilizing, or cooling required?
  • Will you need a laboratory to perform any analytical or organoleptic testing?
  • Where will you store your retention samples per batch produced?
  • Compile a Drawing of the Layout of Your Factory

Here, you will need to list all the room requirements for all the activities on your premises. Some of the areas you need to consider include:

  • Receiving area
  • Raw material storage area: chilled, ambient, and frozen
  • Storage of packaging materials
  • Storage of cleaning chemicals
  • Staff ablutions including change area, shower, and toilets
  • Staff canteen
  • Area for staff lockers
  • Staff lobby/entrance area to production area with handwashing facilities
  • Decanting and weighing area
  • Preparation area
  • Processing area
  • Packing area
  • Finished goods storage area
  • Dispatch area
  • Waste disposal area
  • Pallet/bin storage area
  • Reception
  • Office space and boardroom
  • Security room
  • Engineering workshop

One top tip is to plan the layout to encourage a linear, u-shaped, or s-shaped flow of raw materials coming in through to finished goods going out to minimise the cross-flow of materials and staff.

  • Determine the Required Level of Segregation

There are broadly two categories of food and beverages depending on whether they are ready-to-eat and need to stay chilled until consumption (high risk/high care) or whether they will be processed further before consumption (low risk).

High-risk/high-care products are typically short shelf-life products requiring refrigeration, such as cooked and smoked meat or fish, processed fruit or vegetables, sandwiches, ready-to-eat meals, soft cheeses, and confectionery products containing fresh cream.

Low-risk products are typically ambient shelf-stable products such as spices, canned goods, cereals, oil, sugar, and bakery products such as bread and biscuits.

When manufacturing high-risk/high-care foods, you must implement segregated hygiene areas to minimise microbiological cross-contamination. Further information can be found here.

Bonus Considerations

Here are a few additional factors to consider when planning your food facility’s layout.

  • Access should be controlled by keeping openings to a minimum
  • Exterior doors should not open into production areas
  • Windows should be laminated or shatterproof to prevent potential contamination from glass breakage
  • Where windows are used for ventilation, they must be screened and well designed to facilitate cleaning
  • Lights should be covered to avoid shattering over food handling areas
  • The building must be waterproof and dustproof
  • There must be no holes in the ceilings or walls, or gaps beneath the door where pests may enter
  • Ensure that there is adequate ventilation across all seasons for the type of activities conducted in the building and that the lighting intensity is adequate
  • Consider drainage – for example, the direction of flow should be from clean to dirty areas

How Can Entecom Help You?

For advice on the layout of your food production facility, feel welcome to contact us at info@entecom.co.za.

We also have a one-day Food Safety for Maintenance Staff workshop to help your maintenance team understand their vital role in mitigating food safety risks.

In addition, you may wish to consider EO, our digital compliance solution designed to help your business work more efficiently and to take away all the stress and time wastage associated with a manual food safety system. Click here for more info on EO.

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