Failure to properly prepare means the operation loses valuable time, causing the food operation to back up, money to be wasted on water and chemicals and, at times, putting the workforce at risk. If, for example, a COP tank is not properly cleaned of soils the operation may have to stop – usually as a result of an inspection. More time wasted. The operator has to spray out the tank, fill it up again, get the temperature and re-circulation going and add chemicals.
Management – sometimes through the goading of the equipment dealer – can be sure the equipment sanitation set-up is designed to avoid trouble. That’s why using proximity switches and safety interlocks is important to assure the CIP is properly connected.
Conductivity sensors, too, verify if cleaning is thorough. Spray balls within the food processor tank eliminate a good share of the pre-cleaning hand scrubbing. Not providing these components makes the system more manual than automatic.
Another source of deficiency in the system comes from poor supervision. Though management back-up of the process is important, proper training establishes the basis for minimal problems and maximum effectiveness.
Setting up SSOPs
The most effective approach is a manual customized to the equipment, product and processes at the location rather than relying on just the manufacturer’s generic instructions. Work on pulling together the manual contents should begin as soon as the cleaning system is acquired to establish the sanitation standard operating procedure (SSOP).
The SSOP manual brings all aspects of operation into one three ring binder that goes beyond the standard instruction book offered by equipment manufacturers. Well laid out manual content covers cleaning frequency; materials involved for all cycles, including the concentration, along with the recommended containers; safety equipment; pre-wash inspections and wash procedures.
Creating the cleaning manual is a team effort. The cleaning equipment supplier needs information on the nature of the product line and the anticipated processing routine. If there is a change in the product line a good idea is to determine what changes may be needed to the manual.
A visit to the facility will enable the vendor to get information first and take digital photos of the hook-ups, controls and the places where a manual scrub is required. Preferably invite one of the workers to walk through the process when the photos are being taken to create an initial expert on the procedure.
In short, the customized operations manual is a key component of the system. The photos are especially important for clear communication to a workforce made up of a growing number of multi-lingual or non-English speaking operators; which typically experiences high turnover rates. If a manual with text in another language is to be provided, be sure to work with the on-site workforce to avoid getting the instructions lost in translation and to cover peculiarities in dialect.
A properly prepared manual enables all new employees to take on the job of cleaning and perform it effectively. Furthermore, the manual enhances communication by encouraging employees to use the same terminology for the cleaning process.
Besides creating a cleaning routine, the direct involvement of the user in drafting the manual enables them to easily set up and document a new SSOP when changes are made in processing equipment or the product line. According to government regulations it is ultimately the user who bears the responsibility if problems arise. If they run into trouble, the manual proves to the regulating agency that the site has made a concerted effort in providing a documentation system for their sanitation process.
Chemicals and automated equipment alone cannot guarantee a safe operation. They are the tools. It takes properly trained workers to effectively clean and sanitize a plant.