WHAT THREE DECADES IN FOOD SAFETY HAS TAUGHT US. By Brett Osrin, CEO Ecowize
Ecowize is now 27 years old. We’ve been cleaning and sanitation specialists for close to three decades! Here are some highlights from our journey so far:
- Viro Clean was acquired in 1996 and rebranded to Ecowize
- In 2000, our Technical Director John Frodstrup – originally from ISS Food Services in Denmark – introduced a time-motion database, which was a game-changer for our business efficiency
- Frodstrup also introduced open plant, low pressure cleaning systems, which considerably improved our efficiencies in food processing facilities
- In 2001, we opened an Ecowize branch in Australia – today it’s considered an industry leader
- In 2002 we established operations in New Zealand
- In 2004, we added our pest control and washroom hygiene business in South Africa
- In 2007 we introduced EQMS, a proprietary cloud-based quality management system
- In 2013, we launched Ecowize in the USA and launched the multi-channel strategy
- In 2014, we were the first cleaning company in the world to achieve ISO 22000 status, which certifies we possess a legitimate, highly sought-after food safety management system that meets international standards
- In 2015 we became registered distributors of Foamico in all the territories and FBK and Elpress in South Africa
- We currently employ approximately 4500 staff across South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the USA
The last three decades have held myriad changes for Ecowize – and the sanitation and cleaning industry at large. When we started, there was far less focus on compliance and process. Now, there’s a lot more focus on how results are achieved. We’ve honed a disciplined method that combines the 10 steps of cleaning and optimal people-process-technology systems in one smart cleaning approach.
Today, fostering a visually and microbiologically clean environment is only half the job. Compliance and due diligence demands are extensive and expensive for food producers. Our aim is to provide a fastidious, efficient and value-for-money service, with a cost of cleaning and chemical usage that is lower than our clients could achieve themselves.
Here are some of the other lessons we’ve learnt, during our (almost) 30 years in business:
- South Africa really holds its own: We should be very proud of our national cleaning and sanitation standards; we meet the global benchmark and have been early adopters of best-practice technologies like open plant low-pressure cleaning systems.
- There’s a drive to be more eco-friendly: This is extremely important to Ecowize. Our smart cleaning approach ensures we use reduce our chemical, energy and water usage, while maintaining optimal outcomes. There’s an industry-wide drive to move to more environmentally friendly chemicals.
- Technologies have changed: We are committed to staying at the forefront of technological innovation. Our implementation of a new pump system at RTE meat facility in Philadelphia, for example, has greatly increased the facility’s capacity and eliminated costly downtime.
- People need a purpose beyond a pay cheque: Our bottom-line goes beyond profit. We are dedicated to creating shared value by investing in a bigger purpose of protecting food security. Our people are our priority and they share our values and goals. A company’s longevity depends on it being purpose-led.
- Our best results are achieved in partnership with our clients: We are extremely dependent on our clients working with us to create the right conditions for optimal outcomes. We depend on the sinner circle to maximise efficiencies – this means the factors of time, temperature, mechanical action and chemistry all need to be perfectly balanced. If, for example, a client asks us to reduce cleaning time to an hour instead of two hours, we will need to change the other factors to ensure there’s no compromise. Our clients are reliant on us to produce the outputs of a visually and microbiologically clean facility. We’re equally reliant on them for the inputs of time available for cleaning, water temperature and incoming water pressure.
- Quality first, always: Often, there’s a sense that production trumps quality. We have had to be extremely strict in retaining our rigour of ensuring that quality comes first. This is non-negotiable. Dialogue with our customers needs to be guided by what is best for the product and food safety.
- Training and development are key: It is essential to give people ongoing ways to grow. We are committed to creating learning opportunities for our team. That’s how you create a smart cleaning culture. During COVID-19, we’ve been pivoting to virtual upskilling through online courses in emotional intelligence and business management, to name a few.
- More stringent monitoring: We’re expecting even more rigorous monitoring and oversight going forwards. The food industry has always had this culture and it’s being progressively ramped up. Advances in technology have made it easier to identify data trends. This has greatly assisted with maintaining food safety standards.
We create strategic partnerships with our clients, continuously focusing on best practice and world class standards. We operate with transparency and have an intimate understanding of our clients’ needs. Thank you to all our clients – many of whom have been with us from the start!
Thank you also to our team. Over the last 27 years, we’ve built an incredible team around the desire to protect South Africans and food security. We are an outcomes- and purpose-led company, committed to excellence and learning. Our people are key to our long-term growth and sustainability.
We have had a phenomenal 27 years as leading cleaning and sanitation specialists – and we look forward to the next thirty and beyond!