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What Do You Consult On?

By Nathan Schiff, Ph.D.
Associate Editor - Institutional, FABRICARE

Dear Dr. Schiff,

I have learned a lot from your articles about the chemistry behind things and I am wondering just what you do. I used to think you were in a laboratory somewhere but you seem to get into a lot of businesses.

I would be interested in knowing if you get called in to solve problems or just to inspect laundry systems. You must have an interesting job. I am sure others would like to know about it too.

George Reed

Dear George,
How it all Started

My life as a consultant started five years ago when I was downsized as the result of a merger between two large chemical companies. I had 22 years of management, product development and application experience and a PhD in Biochemistry and I decided to fulfill a life-long dream and go on my own. My journey has taken me into many challenging areas, including writing the Chemistry of Clean column for Fabricare Canada. The major part of my time is spent in helping clients to increase efficiencies and reduce operating costs.

Food and Beverage Hygiene (FBH)

FBH, takes up a large portion of my time. This field requires state-of-the art technology as well as satisfying the massive amounts of government regulations. I am on retained by companies in both the U.S. and Canada and encounter a variety of problems from removing labels on beer bottles to treating wastewater in food plants, to interpreting two sets of government regulations. An in-depth knowledge of chemistry is a definite asset in this field.

Training of employees and communicating technical concepts to them is a vital aspect of my occupation. Without it, new technology can not be successfully implemented. In food plants, employees may not be available for training until after midnight when a production run is completed. For this reason I have spent a fair amount of time working through the night, instructing, testing and verifying that new products and procedures are in place and computer systems are functioning properly for the next day's production..

The way to keep clients is to show them how to save money. Chemicals are only the tools used to clean and sanitize environmental surfaces. Reformulating products, contolling their usage, while maintaining maintaining equivalent levels of quality is one way to save the client, money. Reduction in energy, water and sewer surcharge costs can account for very large portion of the total savings. For this reason, an intimate familiarity with the plant's procedures, operations and internal regulations is a must before I would offer any recommendations.

The Paper Monster is Alive and Flourishing
One of my challenging assignments is setting up Good Manufacturing Practices, which has the acronym of GMP, for companies manufacturing drugs. GMP is a system which encompasses every step of the drug manufacturing process, from receiving and testing the raw materials to procedures for a possible product recall.

Each step requires detailed documentation, and the maintenance of massive records, including records of ongoing testing of the product. When audited and approved by the Therapeutic Products Program in Canada or the EPA/FDA in the United States, an Establishment License Submission is finalized and the company is then able to manufacture the drug.

A second aspect of my paper monster involves the preparation of submissions and labels for CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency). These submissions are for the registration of products which are used in federally-inspected food processing plants. Without this registration, a manufacturer cannot sell or distribute the products to be used to clean and sanitize the food contact surfaces in a food processing plant.

You know all about Material Safety Data Sheets which are required to be kept on hand in any workplace, including a laundry or dry cleaning plant. There is a more complicated form called ANSI Z400.1-1998. This format is becoming more popular with manufacturers because it allows them to ship and distribute their products internationally and prevents expensive liability suits because it is very comprehensive. Preparing these MSDSs for my customers requires a fair amount of research because they must include comprehensive details of regulatory information.

From my customers' view-point, this paperwork is a necessary evil, but management is more interested interested in the preparation of advertising literature, since it relates more directly to sales. When I am preparing the product data information I often feel that I am giving birth to a product which will soon take on a life and personality all of its own in the hands of the marketing people.

Processing Plant Laundries
Food processors often have their own in-house laundry, and so it is a logical extension of my expertise to be involved with the detergency aspects and chemical principles in their laundry. These are identical to those used in Food and Beverage Hygiene except that laundry deals with the removal of soil from a soft surface and FBH deals with removal of soil from a hard surface such as stainless steel.

Each laundry is unique, and therefore this job often requires extensive development, testing and product adjustment to make the system function the way the customer wants it to. It's like a marriage between the chemicals and the customer's dispensing equipment. Product dosing, concentrations, contact times and water temperature must all be coordinated, just the way they must in any laundry.

The Future
In the current market place, some of the accepted ways of doing things are beginning to show signs of becoming extinct, like dinosaurs. They can no longer maintain their cumbersome bodies due to a declining demand for old products and technology which were innovations when they were introduced. History has shown that, along with death and taxes, progress can not be stopped.

A new breed of entrepreneur is on the scene, utilizing the latest technology to provide the marketplace with what it needs, and the services it demands. Producers of food and pharmaceutical products therefore often need to innovate, and often they need a consultant like me to advise them.

My advice to present and future consultants is to listen very, very carefully to your clients. Tailor your services precisely. If the client asks for bread, don't give him cake.


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