Importance of hygiene

T. Boer & zn, a supplier of veal, is constantly looking to the future and identified the need for a new hygiene sluice. This important access system must comply with strict and specific requirements. The Oirschot-based company Havantec Food Equipment custom-made the right – and innovative – solution. The access sluice was installed over a year ago.

Theo Legters is Operations Manager at T. Boer & zn, Europe’s biggest supplier of veal and an independent arm of the Van Drie Group. The slaughterhouse is situated in the green surroundings of Nieuwerkerk aan de IJssel, on the edge of a housing estate. “We’re located at the heart of the community, so we want to treat our neighbours and our surroundings with respect, just as we do the environment and our animals.”

Legters, who has 40 years of experience in the meat business, knew exactly which criteria the hygiene sluice had to meet. “Our company is growing, and so too is our workforce. We didn’t want to rely on voluntary actions and social control any longer; everyone must be forced to pass through the hygiene sluice to reach their workspace. On top of that, the hygiene rules are becoming tighter all the time. If you supply to retailers, like we do, you have to meet a guaranteed standard of quality and this is stringently checked, including in terms of the microbiological quality of products. Both American customers and European retailers have high demands. The hygiene gate had to ensure that we can guarantee the bacteriological quality of every production batch, from one break to the next, plus the new sluice had to solve the problem of cleaning knives and gloves. Our employees are strongly attached to their own knives and aren’t keen to let them out of their sight. But how could that be arranged during cleaning? Another precondition was speed; every day, at least 250 people pass backwards and forwards through the sluice at break time, so access must be quick. And last but not least, it all had to fit – we only had a limited amount of space for the new system.”

The language of the slaughterhouse

“I always hate it when the first question people ask is ‘How much will it cost?’. First you go in search of the best possible solution, and only then do you look at the money aspect,” says Legters. He chose to work with the supplier Havantec because he knows that the company speaks the same ‘language of the slaughterhouse’ as the people within T. Boer & zn. “Only a few words are enough for us to understand one another. They are specialists with hands-on experience, they know how things work and which techniques they have to use to relieve the burden on their customer. Besides that – just like us – Havantec invests in innovation and comes up with smart solutions.”

Together with Hans – who is just as experienced in the food business – and Jeroen van Tuijl from Havantec, he proudly shows us the new sluice in operation. The system works as follows: directly before entering the hygiene sluice, employees sharpen their knives before placing them in the tool holder. Along with the compulsory protective glove, the knives are cleaned in the washing unit. The employee passes through the sluice and washes and dries his hands while his shoes are cleaned. He cannot pass through the turnstile to reach the production area until he has washed his hands and disinfected. A camera system monitors whether he spreads his fingers – as is required – while washing his hands; only then is the automatic gate opened. This system, known as MANO Vision, is one of the pioneering technologies by the German manufacturer ITEC Food Technology. ITEC, which Havantec represents in the Netherlands, is a global specialist in all kinds of hygiene-related solutions for the food industry. After passing through the turnstile, the employee retrieves his knives and the glove from the tool holder again. These have followed the same route as the employee, in parallel. On the way back, when the break starts, the knives and the safety glove are cleaned thoroughly again ready for storage. And that is how Havantec and ITEC have constructed the closed-loop hygiene system with a relatively small footprint that Legters was seeking for T. Boer & zn.

Service and continuity

When T. Boer & zn first started discussing their needs with Havantec, the system they were looking for was not yet available. However, it soon left the drawing board at ITEC and became reality – Havantec made sure of that. Legters: “If I need a machine I can Google it, but that doesn’t ease the burden on me; at Havantec they do. It’s a supplier that delivers good quality and makes proactive suggestions, including about the reuse of equipment, and also comes up with innovative solutions. At Havantec, the top priority isn’t to make money; instead it’s to provide quality, service and continuity.” Van Tuijl: “A one-off customer isn’t a real customer; you want people to keep coming back.” Legters: “In cases like this, your decision shouldn’t be dictated by the cost price; you’re choosing a total solution in the form of a system that’s designed for the task at hand and also has the right dimensions. Havantec maintains a focus on that goal. After all, a lot depends on it; our hygiene sluice must function optimally so that we can guarantee the quality of our products and have peace of mind when supplying them to all our customers – worldwide.”