We consistently see good outcomes when food processors are open to bringing everyone together early on in a new project.

“Before building a new system,” says Guernsey, “it’s best when our customers involve their own core team from cross-functional areas such as safety, sanitation, and maintenance. They know the effects that operations and sanitation have on the equipment, and that helps us as a partner understand the full picture of what we need to achieve.”

Include your equipment manufacturer in the discussion as well. “We hear from processors that some equipment isn’t as easy to clean or maintain as they would like,” says Rasmussen. “But in order for your OEMs to help you reach your goals, they must be included in those early conversations, too.”

When a new food safety regulation is announced, start thinking immediately about what you can do to not only meet those requirements, but to exceed them.

“We’ve seen companies wait until the deadline, panic sets in, and they become reactive,” says Rasmussen. “Don’t wait for the guidance to come to you. Start proactively working toward what the regulation might require so you can be one or two steps ahead of it.”

There’s a Japanese term—poka-yoke—that means “mistake-proofing.” Guernsey and his team have added it to their work vocabularies. “For us, it’s the idea that we should always be thinking about designing for the future and building things that help prevent mistakes,” he says.

Food processors have an enormous responsibility rife with complex challenges: Produce safe food, every day, at a scale that’s affordable. But even with older equipment and unforgiving budgets, there are things you can control to help make your plant a food-safe, future-ready environment.

Build a strong internal culture. Get everyone involved. Be proactive, and you’ll always be farther ahead than those who fail to plan and scramble to follow the rules at the last minute. There’s too much at stake when you’re literally feeding the world.