Investing in an optimal flooring system is a choice that can more than pay for itself.
Manufacturing facilities in any industry are expected to adhere to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) that protect consumer well-being and maintain standardized protocols for safety and hygiene.
Perhaps nowhere else are these standards more important than in the pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturing industry, where bacterial contamination or product cross-contamination can have devastating, even lethal, consequences for consumers.
Every detail of the facility layout and architecture should be planned out with these safety standards in mind, including the floors, walls, and ceilings.
Seamless Flooring For Improved Hygiene
One common way that pathogens and contaminants are able to enter a facility is on the shoes of employees. Dirt, dust, and microbes cling to shoes and then are tracked onto the floor, where they can then be spread throughout the facility by further foot traffic. Having proper shoe covering protocols in place can help to keep this under control.
However, cracks in flooring, grout lines, and seams between sheets or planks of flooring material all make it easier for contamination to occur; bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms can gather in these hard-to-reach spaces, where they may not be fully removed by standard cleaning procedures.
At the join between wall and floor, the seam is vulnerable to contamination, which is why one cGMP standard sets out to ensure all interior surfaces are smooth, nonporous, and free of cracks, seams, and open joints.
Three common options for creating seamless flooring systems in manufacturing facilities are sheet goods with welded seams, polymer modified cement terrazzo, and fluid-applied resinous flooring systems. Each has specific advantages and drawbacks:
- Sheet or plank goods with welded seams are systems of vinyl or rubber rolled sheet goods or planks wherein the seams get heat-welded together to create a smooth, continuous surface. The same can be done for tile systems, but the amount of labor required for installation can make this an unattractive option. Sheet goods such as vinyl can be the most economical short-term option for creating a seamless surface and may be sufficient for settings that experience relatively light traffic. However, the heat-welded seams can be prone to cracking and the floor covering itself can begin delaminating and lifting away from the underlying substrate if consistently exposed to heavy loads. Moving heavy equipment across these flooring systems can also result in gouging and tearing.
- Polymer modified cement terrazzo is by far the most common form of terrazzo installed today, and consists of aggregates suspended in a cement matrix that has been made more flexible and forgiving by the addition of epoxy or another polymer. After the surface is ground smooth, it is covered with a protective top coat. On average, terrazzo flooring is by far the most expensive to install. Depending upon the type of aggregate content and binder matrix, aftercare can range from minimal to high maintenance, sometimes requiring regularly scheduled honing, buffing, and/or recoating treatments by outside contractors.
- Resinous flooring systems such as epoxy, polyurethane, and acrylic are typically fluid-applied, often in combination with a variety of aggregates, in multiple layers to achieve the desired thickness and texture. Unlike terrazzo, the resinous flooring installation process does not require additional grinding and polishing once the system has been installed, therefore helping to minimize expenditure of time and budget. Depending on the specific needs of the facility, options can be selected to provide high impact, abrasion, chemical, and thermal shock resistance, as well as static control. With moderate installation costs and minimal required maintenance, when compared to other options, resinous flooring systems can provide the best life cycle value over the long term.
Different Areas In Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Facilities
Beyond the production and packaging lines, pharmaceutical manufacturing campuses often include research and development departments where life-saving discoveries are made and tested. Each of these facilities has its own demands and needs. Laboratories and clean rooms are held to the highest standards of hygiene and sterility.
Precision is paramount in the pharmaceutical industry, and contamination is unacceptable, so products can only be tested and produced in highly controlled environments. These areas must have smooth, seamless floors that are easy to clean and disinfect when necessary. Ideal for these environments, resinous flooring systems can often be modified to contain an antimicrobial additive that will impede the growth and survival of bacteria and other microbes.
Production areas, packaging zones, and storage spaces also need to be hygienic and easy to clean, but additionally must be able to withstand higher levels of foot and vehicle traffic and the movement of heavy equipment. Scratch, impact, and puncture resistance are of the utmost importance in ensuring that a smooth, seamless floor remains intact and free from damage.
Areas that could be exposed to corrosive chemicals should have added protection with specialized products that are able to withstand these environments. In areas where sensitive electronics are present or where volatile compounds create a risk of explosion, static control can be vital to protecting worker safety.
Epoxy and other resinous flooring products offer the flexibility to create the right flooring system to meet the diverse demands of the various areas in a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.
Choosing A Flooring System That Will Last
Selecting the right flooring system for a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility requires assessing all the available options within the context of how they will help meet or maintain cGMPs set by the industry, as well as the FDA, USDA, and other agencies.
Additionally, in both flooring design and functionality, worker experience should be taken into account, including ease of cleaning and enhanced safety for employees on the floor.
As managers evaluate options for their various pharmaceutical and biotech facilities, consideration of both short-term and long-term floor performance and maintenance costs can prove invaluable. Having to replace a flooring system sooner than planned can impose costly downtime and the inconvenient rerouting of activities in the affected areas. Investing in an optimal flooring system that can withstand the wear-and-tear of daily operations is a choice that will more than pay for itself.
Epoxy and other resinous high performance flooring systems, given their cost-effective installation, durability and minimal care requirements, can provide outstanding life cycle value, while maintaining compliance with regulatory agency requirements and cGMOs over the long-term.
About the Author:
Kendall Youngworth is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Minneapolis-based Tennant Coatings with more than 10 years’ experience assisting clients across many industries in the selection and installation of optimal concrete flooring for their facilities.