I remember the early June day in 2013: It was a bright day full of sunshine, and I was working at my desk when Kevin came into my office full of excitement. We were just informed we were getting our first big food grade account for bulk bags. This was Global-Pak’s beginning into the diversification of the business, growing from all industrial application into the food business. We were confident this was the next phase of growth for Global-Pak.
We had been working on the food grade business for some time preparing for our Global Food Safety Initiative certification under Safe Quality Foods or SQF. It took tons of leg work to get the project off the ground. We had done prep, hired a consultant, formed teams to make sure the project went well, done our risk analysis and even had self-audits and vendor audits to ensure quality. We were good to go.
We partnered with a long-time vendor who had been pushing us to pursue food-grade business for bulk bags. At the audit, we were so impressed with the shiny epoxy floors, stainless-steel tables, and positive pressure room with the filtered air. Every last detail of the process was accounted for: the sewing needle counts, the metal detection looking for sewing equipment, the vacuuming and blowing system to clean the bags, the lighted tables at the end of the line for final inspection. We were ready to take the food grade business by storm with a 100% on our SQF certification and a manufacturing partner who had been at it for years – the dream team!
We placed our orders to begin building inventory, and the orders started to flow out to the customer. Quality was good, delivery was on time, and our stock levels were building. One month in everything is running well, with no issues – it looks great. We couldn’t wait to find another prospect. Then came the call…
Our customer said their end user found hair and dirt on the bags. How could this be? We saw the procedures, we know how clean our warehouse is. It couldn’t be a Global-Pak issue because the bags are sealed, covered, and delivered to the customer unopened. We think it has to be a problem at the customers or their trucking company causing contamination to the bags.
We decide to inspect the bags in our warehouse, so we can prove to the customer it’s not us causing contamination. After reviewing our processes, we ordered stainless steel tables, covered them in plastic sheeting, and put our teammates in protective suits to inspect the bags. (This included show covers and hair nets – we’re not messing around.) At this point, our team members began to find hair and dirt on a large percentage of the bags – no way! How is this possible? We saw firsthand how clean the facility was, so we begin to wonder if they had lied to us or just cleaned while we were there. Even our industrial bags were cleaner.
Once we dug into the case further, we realized the contamination occurred when the bags left the pristine room, and were loaded carts and sent into the unclean hall. From there, they were sent to an unclean baling room and tossed into an unclean baler. This transportation negated the shiny, clean room and all the GFSI safe guards, and hurt the confidence we had in growing the food grade bulk bag business. (Fun fact: Polypropylene plastic caries a positive electro-static charge by nature, so any dirt dust or hair kicked up on the ride to the baler room or kicked up from tossing the bags into the unclean baler stuck to the outside of the bags like dust on a television screen.) 30,000 bags later, plus a lot of white suites, hair nets, link rollers, and vacuuming your mother would be proud of – we had clean bags again, and a very expensive education on the food grade bulk bag business.
So, be wary buyers, if there is a hole on the process, it will show up. We have experienced many more challenges over the years, helping us to reduce the risk associated with food grade bulk bags. Let our experience and challenges help you in the risk assessment and evaluation of using bulk bags in food grade applications. If you would like our team to help you with your food grade application please reach out to your sales professional or contact Global-Pak directly.