Clean-in-place and sterilize-in-place (CIP/SIP) systems are essential to safe, efficient food production. Between different product runs and on a regular basis, product handling, processing, conveying, and packaging equipment components undergo crucial washdowns to eliminate contaminants. And regularly well-cleaned equipment also tends to enjoy extended operation life, providing an important cost benefit to food and beverage companies.
Automated and semi-automated, microprocessor-controlled, closed-loop CIP/SIP technologies are by no means new. But they have been making significant strides in better assisting food manufacturers and packagers who want to assure the safety and integrity of their products. Over the years, some food pathogens that lurk in the crannies and crevices of holding tanks, flow pipes, pumps, valves, cooking vessels, product hoppers, and conveyor belts have become more resistant to conventional chemical and thermal cleaning methods. CIP/SIP equipment manufacturers and cleaning chemical suppliers have stepped up to the plate to make sure that the foods on consumers’ plates are safe and hazard-free if properly stored and handled from the truck to the table.
Today, the chief challenges confronting high-efficiency CIP/SIP systems are making them more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. That means using less water, less heat, less time, and less-caustic chemicals. Alternative technologies may involve using air rather than water—including a new system developed by Aeolus Technologies Ltd. in the U.K.—and cold-acting chemicals rather than heated detergents as the cleaning media. These technologies continue to emerge as vital food safety tools.
One ecology-minded company highly focused on improving the environmental sustainability aspects of food equipment cleaning systems is Sani-Matic Inc., of Madison, Wis. According to Sani-Matic’s senior technical engineer Gabe Miller: “To improve sustainability of cleaning processes, the most significant first step is to reduce the amount of water used for cleaning. By reducing the water required for cleaning, the chemicals needed to treat the equipment can be reduced accordingly, as well as the energy needed to heat and pump the solutions.”
Sani-Matic specializes in the custom design and manufacture of CIP automatic cleaning systems for process lines, tanks, and vessels. These systems can be portable or stationary and single-, double-, or multitank. Each custom design aims to minimize cycle time, lower chemical usage, reduce water and utility costs, and promote worker safety.
“Manual cleaning operations are usually uncontrolled, with operators often using more water than necessary,” Miller said. “So the best way to reduce water consumption and, thus, improve sustainability, is to automate the cleaning operations wherever possible by incorporating high-efficiency clean-in-place systems.”
Conveyor CIP Advances
Automated and semi-automated conveyor cleaning can save food and beverage companies considerably on labor, energy, and water usage. Lafferty Equipment Manufacturing of North Little Rock, Ark., recently introduced its newly designed Conveyor Mate foamer and spinner systems for quicker, higher-efficiency conveyor sanitation and maintenance.
The fully adjustable, high-pressure water-driven Conveyor Mate Foamer is engineered to accurately dilute chemical concentrates to required ratios and then direct high quality foam onto the tops and bottoms of conveyors, using adjustable-angle stainless steel arms for precise targeting by the nozzles. Requiring 30-250 psi water and compressed air, this aggressive hydro-cleaning/rinsing system features an all-stainless steel cart, stainless steel foamer arms and hardware, and a 20-gallon polyethylene tank.
Today, the chief challenges confronting high-efficiency CIP/SIP systems are making them more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly. That means using less water, less heat, less time, and less-caustic chemicals. Alternative technologies may involve using air rather than water.
“The water pressure range of this unit is unmatched by any other foamer that we know of,” said Lafferty’s President Drew Lafferty. “Most foamers on the market cannot operate with water pressure as low as 30 psi. And, typically, an entirely different model is needed if the water pressure is above 125 to 150 psi. This unit’s flexibility to operate with 30 to 250 psi water allows it to be used in a variety of operating conditions.”
Lafferty also has fine-tuned its spinner assembly systems, which can be mounted above conveyor lines in various positions and angles to perform high-pressure CIP. The spinner assembly offers full-circle and flat-spray cleaning at high-impact water velocities. These spinner assemblies are available in 24-, 30-, 36-, and 46-inch standard models. But systems also can be customized to meet specific applications.
Lafferty estimates that its foamer and spinner assembly systems can increase cleanup time and water-usage efficiencies by approximately one-third versus some more conventional spray bar systems.
Improve COP Efficiencies
Food and beverage processors are very familiar with CIP systems, which involve the use of programmable logic controllers to recirculate washing, sanitizing, and rinsing solutions through equipment and pipelines. But, while this method works exceedingly well for dairy, beverage, and brewing operations, some other food category processors have equipment that must be at least partially disassembled for manual cleaning. That necessity moves them into the realm of clean-out-of-place (COP).
Sani-Matic is also working to optimize efficiencies of COP systems. “Many of these manual cleaning operations can be automated or semi-automated to improve cleaning performance and repeatability, while at the same time decreasing the amount of water, chemicals, energy, and time required to clean and sanitize the equipment,” Miller noted.
As an example, Sani-Matic cites its automated Sani-Cab cabinet washer program. Similar to an industrial-sized dishwasher, a cabinet washer is a large enclosure with a recirculation pump, a reservoir, and rotating spray arms. Most food processing and packaging equipment take-down parts—for example, pump rotors, pipes, valves, weigh scale buckets, and filling/depositing equipment components—can be cleaned in a cabinet washer.
A typical cleaning cycle sequence for a COP cabinet includes:
- Pre-rinse with recovered rinse water to remove heavy soil deposits;
- Wash with hot caustic or hot acid solution for a pre-set time;
- Post-rinse with fresh water to rinse away residues (this post-rinse water can be saved for the next pre-rinse cleaning cycle); and
- Sanitizing cycle, if required.
A more conventional cabinet washer may hold 200-plus gallons of water. The new Sani-Cab washer holds approximately 17 gallons of water, using less than one-tenth the water and chemicals required for a more typical COP cleaning cycle. And, considering that the cleaning water must usually be heated to at least 140 degrees F or higher, the time and energy needed to heat the lower volume of water represents a major cost reduction.
New Approach for Frying
An interesting new advancement recently introduced by Diversey Inc., of Sturtevant, Wis., is the One-Step Fryer Boil-Out (FBO) program. Designed to offer a more sustainable means of cleaning carbonized soils from fryers and other food manufacturing equipment, the FBO program reduces labor requirements, energy costs, and chemical usage. The one-step process considerably decreases cleaning and rinsing times, as well as the amount of energy, cleaning chemicals, and water needed to complete the task.
“Current methods for eliminating the build-up and grease in a fryer can take upwards of 10 hours,” said Diversey sector expert Todd Willis. “With our one-step system, required cleaning time is cut in half, enabling operators to refocus on other areas of the facility.”
Automated and semi-automated conveyor cleaning can save food and beverage companies considerably on labor, energy, and water usage. Efficiencies are also being improved in equipment that must be at least partially disassembled for manual cleaning.
While developing the specific cleaning formulas for this one-step FBO program, Diversey carefully evaluated several factors, including the various types of cooking processes, cooking oils, and cooking temperatures, as well as the metal used in the frying machinery. The resulting program has reduced downtime for cleaning, increased productivity, and improved the overall effectiveness of FBO. One satisfied customer is Frito-Lay North America, which recently presented Diversey’s One-Step FBO Program with innovation accolades.
The streamlined, one-step FBO process is engineered to eliminate up to 65% of water and energy usage, 30% of cleaning chemicals, and 49% of the time usually associated with more conventional FBO operations. The program also offers customized fryer audits, cost calculators, specialized technical support, and on-going results monitoring to help users better quantify efficiencies and results.
“Food manufacturers need a fryer boil-out program that achieves satisfactory results while reducing downtime and food safety risks,” Willis said. “With One-Step FBO, users can be assured their commercial fryers will be cleaner and safer to operate, while reducing the environmental impact of the boil-out process.”
Diversey also offers a specialized water-saving foam cleaning program called Enduro for food and beverage equipment. Enduro cleaning products are formulated to cling to vertical surfaces for extended contact times to better penetrate and remove soils and contaminants. These cleaning foams are receptive to fast, low water-volume rinsing, enabling the user to save water, energy, cleaning time, and labor.
Valve Performance Vital
Mix-proof valves play an important role in the success of CIP systems. A number of key companies are involved in the latest technologies for the manufacture of high-performance mix-proof valves, including, but not limited to, Alfa Laval, APV, GEA Tuchenhagen North America, Tyco Flow Control, SPX Waukesha Cherry-Burrell, Südmo North America, and GEA Process Engineering (formerly Niro).
“An essential component of sanitary flow processing, mix-proof valves are used for separation of incompatible media at the flow path intersections within the piping systems—for example, food product can be flowing in the lower valve body, while CIP solutions are flowing in the upper body,” said Steve Cook of the consulting firm Cook Process Solutions of Springfield, Mo. “The design of the mix-proof valves provides a double-block-and-bleed arrangement where any leakage from a main seal is leaked to atmosphere through a vent. It’s crucial that these valves be designed, manufactured, installed, and maintained properly.”
While mix-proof valve technology is far from new, Cook noted, “many food processors have not yet implemented this technology. When we start a new process design and introduce this for the first time, the food processor finds that it can drastically increase hours of equipment operation. Often, in the course of a year, this extra production easily can offset the capital investment. The greatest challenge sometimes is for the food processor to make the investment in automation and CIP.”
Judy Rice is a food and packaging writer based in Lac du Flambeau, Wis. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.