Cleaning in manufacturing facilities is essential to preventing microbiological buildup on processing equipment and producing a safe product for consumers. While most industry professionals are familiar with clean in place (CIP), a good cleaning program also involves clean out of place (COP) as part of the process.
CIP is a term most industry professionals are familiar with, as it’s used in food manufacturing facilities as an efficient and effective process to clean manufacturing equipment and help ensure food safety and quality. You can think of CIP like a washing machine connected to your food processing equipment, dedicated to rinsing, washing, and sanitizing the internal components of that equipment.
The COP process can be used for equipment and components that require at least some disassembly to be cleaned. COP is generally beneficial for cleaning individual parts like hoses, fittings, nozzles, trays, knives, clamps, and even conveyor belts that are taken off the machinery to be cleaned, removing them from the CIP cleaning cycle.
Automated and Manual Processes
While essentially any cleaning completed “out of place” is considered COP, there are both automated and manual processes. Manual involves cleaning by sanitation personnel, often with buckets of water, brushes, chemical solution, and elbow grease.
Rather than manually cleaning individual out-of-place items, many facilities elect to use an automated COP system. This ensures a detailed clean and saves the operation the labor and stress of manual cleaning. You might think of automated COP like you would the use of a dishwasher cleaning your dinner dishes. Larger pieces of removed machinery are placed inside a COP tank to be cleaned. For smaller items, such as gaskets, a COP basket can be used to ensure those items aren’t lost during the COP cleaning cycle.
Once parts have been disassembled and placed in the tank, a cycle similar to CIP is run. The parts in the tank are rinsed, cleaned, and sanitized through an automated COP cycle. There are six common steps in a COP cleaning process:
- Dry cleaning. This step removes product residue or other debris from the equipment.
- Rinse the parts in the COP tank. This will also remove any additional residue or debris the dry cleaning did not remove.
- Cleaning the equipment with a soap or chemical. When done in the COP tank, the parts are run through a cycle that circulates the water and chemical solution with the appropriate action to effectively clean the equipment.
- Rinse the parts in the COP tank. This will remove any residual chemical.
- Complete a visual inspection or swabbing to ensure parts were adequately cleaned. If the parts do not pass, a reclean is needed before moving on to the next step.
- Sanitize the parts in the tank. This generally involves leaving them to soak in a sanitizer solution until the equipment is ready to reassemble.
The Four Pillars of Good Cleaning
- Time is defined as how long the cycle runs and can vary depending on the parts being cleaned, as well as the COP equipment and chemical used.
- Action is the turbulence of the COP tank. Depending on the parts being cleaned, some systems have a predetermined setting.
- Concentration is the amount of chemical used in the COP. This is defined on the chemical label. A high concentration may require an additional rinse to ensure all the chemical was removed. A low concentration may require a reclean due to inadequate cleaning.
- Temperature of the water is based on what you’re trying to accomplish. Hot water is usually used for a caustic clean, while room temperature water is used for a sanitizer soak.
An automated system controls each of these steps to help reduce personnel labor and ensure consistency in the process. Equipment today is also designed to be more sanitary than in the past, which aids in the cleaning process of the equipment.