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Meet the Engineer – Gerdien van Koten

Meet the Engineer - Gerdien van Koten

As a brand-new colleague of the Commissioning, Start-up and Validation team, in short CSV team, Gerdien van Koten not only got the chance to learn a lot at VMEngineering, but also the opportunity to take up the standardization of the working methods. Thanks to her experience in the dairy sector, she brings a share of the necessary knowledge with her, yet she cannot wait to discover the diversity of the food industry even further.

How did you end up in this field of knowledge?
During my orientation for college, I ended up in the so-called “Voedingsmiddelenhal” (Food hall) at Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden.  I immediately found it interesting to get to know the technology behind nutrition. In the Food Technology course you combine technological knowledge with knowledge about food. Processes set in motion by the technology have a tremendous influence on creating an end product of quality. That is what excited me and what I still love to do now.

What makes your work enjoyable and what do you focus on?
Understanding the process, and the chemical reactions of the ingredients within,  is always interesting in my view. What exactly is happening? Where can it go wrong? What can I influence? Are questions that concern me. I think quality is an important factor in this. In the sense of the quality of the end product, but the process should be precisely tailored to it. Furthermore, hygiene must always be guaranteed.

For VMEngineering I am currently working on a simple and clear production process. It is very nice to be able to start with this. Fortunately, a number of projects have already been done by VME that were more complex in the field of CSV. I am going through this documentation thoroughly to learn some more and to get the hang of the method of working. This will come in handy in subsequent projects, which may involve more complexity. In addition, we are still working on the standardization of our approach, as the CSV team is still relatively new. It is great that I can already have a voice in this as well.

What makes CSV so important for process engineering and clients?
The actual start-up and validation of installations and production lines is not every day work for the employees of the client. The expertise and, perhaps more importantly, available time is therefore not often found within the company or the project team itself. I, or one of my colleagues, can provide support in this case. Furthermore, it can also be very useful for a project team to deploy a CSV officer. After all, every change within the process has an impact on the end product and the intended specifications that must be tested in the validation. When someone gives advice on these points early in the project, the start-up and validation can only be carried out better in my view.

Our CSV approach gives the client an overview of crucial points. These points regard the process and operational management, we call it Critical to Business (CTB), and the quality of the end product Critical to Quality (CTQ). The quality of the product itself is included in the CTQ, but hygiene in the form of “cleaning” is an element to be tested in this as well. Providing an overview of all qualifications is part of the entire validation, testing and documentation, so the entirety in which we unburden the customer.

Trends affecting CSV

As Gerdien mentions, every choice within the process has an effect on the end product. Some choices that producers make are strongly influenced by consumer demand or by directives and / or legislation imposed by the government. We see health and the environment reflected in developments. Gerdien gives as an example sugar and salt reduction in food. Consumers want this to be reduced, but for some products this means that a different way of preserving has to be found, because microorganisms will take up all the space they are given. In addition to the new way of preservation, it may also be the case that hygiene must be re-examined during these changes. Likewise, the consumption of energy or raw materials has become an agenda item of significance for clients. Less consumption should of course not mean a reduction in quality or hygiene! Gerdien will undoubtedly be working on this at VMEngineering in the near future.

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