Today’s consumers are more attuned than ever to issues of food safety and health. The food and beverage processing industry has responded with more comprehensive sanitation practices and hygienic equipment designs. Improvements in technologies such as spray balls, valves, pumps, and sensors, as well as multi-tank cleaning systems, are also enabling more efficient cleaning processes.
In the decade since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, sanitation technologies have continued to mature, and automation is being employed in both clean-in-place (CIP) and clean-out-of-place (COP) systems. With the detailed cleaning records required by the FSMA to verify compliance, electronic record-keeping and cloud-based data storage are becoming more common as well.
CIP is being broadly applied across many industries because it’s more reliable and less labor-intensive than other methods. The food, beverage, health, and semiconductor industries all use CIP. The dairy industry and 3-A Sanitary Standards have been CIP leaders and remain the largest installed base. The aseptic market, which involves low-acid products packaged for ambient transport, is considered by experts to be the most advanced in using CIP and sterilize-in-place (SIP) systems.
Automation makes a difference
Producers are now focused on deploying more efficient cleaning processes that use less water, energy, and chemicals, according to Bryan Downer, vice president of sales and marketing for Sani-Matic. While various solutions are being employed, they usually involve increased use of automation.
“One of our customers, a processed foods company, did a cleaning efficiency study and realized they were using chemicals to fix a CIP process problem,” Downer explains. “We also identified that while a more effective CIP system could reduce cleaning time significantly, they would still not be able to recover that time for production because their manual cleaning process was still the bottleneck.”
Because of space constraints, the customer opted for a CIP/COP combination unit that provided proper velocity and temperature for CIP, reducing time and chemical use considerably, Downer notes. “Most important, they were able to automate the majority of the manual cleaning, which allowed them to go back into production nearly twice as fast and recognize a full return on investment in less than 12 months.”
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Downer points to another example of a customer using its process tanks to perform CIP, sometimes referred to as a “pot and pump” method. “Although reasonably effective, it was time-consuming and there was no good way to monitor or record cleaning parameters like time, temperature, flow, or chemical concentration,” he says. “By implementing a small, portable CIP mini system, they were able to clean much faster and with better results since they could monitor and record what was occurring. The small system fit their budget needs at the time until they could upgrade to a more automated and sustainable multiple-tank systems.”
Designed for cleaning and water recycling
CIP programs must be tailored to the operating conditions in different plants and correctly sized for cleaning effectiveness.
Many processors are moving to three-tank CIP systems because they allow cleaning chemicals to be reused and water from the final clean water rinse to be recycled for pre-rinsing in the next CIP process, reducing use of both water and chemicals, says Trent Bullock, manager of engineering services for Central States Industrial (CSI).
New CIP-able process equipment designs eliminate baffles and other barriers that could hinder cleaning and use advanced spray balls and valves. Another trend is to integrate cleaning and processing equipment, which enables a plant’s programmable logic controller (PLC) to communicate with the CIP system, often from feet or yards away.
New process equipment is designed to manage CIP without operator intervention. “Companies know they can’t always control the operator, so they’re more accepting of automation,” Bullock explains. “Since cleaning processes need to be repeatable, they want to start cleaning from the process to eliminate human errors.”
Among the many technologies that are enabling more effective cleaning processes are improvements in spray devices, says Steven Grall, director of process technology for A&B Process Systems. “The ability of spray devices to thoroughly wet all surfaces and prevent interruptions during production are continually improving,” he says. “The historic spray ball has evolved to be rotating, have higher impact and impingement forces, and have monitoring to assure validated performance.”
CIP supply units have historically been the point of information regarding flow rate, conductivity, pressure, temperature, and time, according to Grall. “Now this data is being recorded and stored, and active CIP routines are compared against the validated routine readings to assure performance to standards,” he adds.
The benefits of integration
One of the more exciting developments, according to Grall, is the integration of CIP techniques with other processes to minimize heating, chemical, and water requirements. “This combines what historically has been process line CIP technology with back-of-the-house infrastructure water treatment processes,” he says. “This promises to significantly reduce water, chemical, and steam usage, as well as lower overall waste discharge and better control CIP systems for microbiology, potent flavor, or color carryover and allergen batch-to-batch cross-contamination.”
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The increased use of enclosed systems and equipment in 24/7 operations requires incorporating CIP features. “Positive pumps are an example of designs for CIP,” Grall explains. “Most suppliers have CIP-cleanable vessels, pumps, valves, and heat exchangers. Systems built with these components need validation but are generally assumed to be CIP-able.”
Filling equipment has also come forward with automated CIP, with the latest versions reducing the need for personnel to be involved in the pre- and post-cleaning phases, Grall says.
“In addition, some units have begun incorporating CIP into downstream packaging conveying,” he notes. “Some non-water CIP systems are also being used on packaging, bundlers, casing, palletizing, and stretch wrapping where disassembly and reassembly are required, such as specifically designed COP cabinets. It’s common to see these COP cabinets used for combinatorial scales, change parts assemblies, totes, carts, and preparation tools.”
Though slower to take hold, another development is full integration with operations, Grall adds. “CIP poses challenges because it’s not necessarily the main goal of a production line, which is built to prepare and preserve the product in a suitable package,” he says. “In a capex project, operations may not be at the table when a new line is discussed, so integration with CIP systems is often an afterthought. As CIP documentation, risk mitigation, and increases in uptime show their value, the future will see greater integration.”
Save resources with modern equipment
“Cleaning is an integral part of the production cycle because it contributes to food safety, decreased downtime, and more sustainable operations,” says Rick Burns, process/system engineering manager, U.S. and Canada, for Tetra Pak. “It’s becoming more important as producers begin to realize that it has a major impact on availability and operational costs. Better cleaning processes contribute to a producer’s overall performance, including the ability to reduce energy, utility and detergent consumption, as well as protect a company’s reputation.”
Making improvements to inefficient, outdated equipment can improve energy savings by up to 30%, according to Burns. “Adding a variable-speed drive, for example, lets operators specify the flow rate within the CIP recipe parameters,” he says. “Updating controls, sensors, and alarms can optimize automation to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) that might include water reuse percentages and how much wastewater is being generated or energy consumed.”
Flow, temperature, concentration, and time are the four factors that determine cleaning effectiveness, Burns explains, and software can help calculate the combination of settings to create the most efficient CIP recipe. “The system can monitor and verify the cleaning process, resulting in decreased costs and increased effectiveness,” he says.
Pigging aids CIP
Another technology that goes hand-in-hand with CIP is liquid product recovery, known as pigging. It makes a CIP process quicker and more efficient, which is why its use by the food industry is steadily increasing. Pigging can reduce waste, increase yields and capacity, lower contamination risks, and improve environmental stability. It also reduces downtime between batches and speeds changeovers, directly improving a CIP process.
“CIP is mainly about removing bacteria, chemical and biological residues from a previous production run,” explains Peter Elgar, director of HPS Product Recovery Solutions. “This is particularly important in shared product lines when preparing equipment for the next product batch. Pigging, on the other hand, is about recovering residual product, nearly always during product changeovers or between batch runs.”
Pigging works by propelling a specialist projectile (the pig) down a pipeline. The pig diameter is slightly larger than the pipeline or tubing that is transporting the liquid. These systems are nearly always automated and recover nearly all the liquid in the pipe, so there’s no need to send the liquid to waste during the flush CIP cycle.
“Pigging systems remove nearly all the residual product, often more than 99%. That means there’s less need for CIP because there’s virtually no product in the pipeline left to remove or sanitize,” Elgar notes. “Since the pig is made from food-grade materials, it can be fully CIP’d and why the two technologies work so well together.”
Though pigging rarely removes the need for CIP, it can significantly shorten the cleaning cycle and reduce downtime between batches. “It also means reducing the amount of expensive and often caustic chemicals that must be used, as well as the amount of water needed for flushing, so there’s less waste to send for external treatment or disposal,” Elgar says.