A clean-in-place (CIP) system is like a washing machine connected to your food processing equipment. When fully integrated with a modern automation system opportunities abound for increased production capacity, enhanced product integrity, and significant savings in time, energy costs, and chemical expenditures. If you are interested in getting more out of your processing equipment, here’s what you need to know.
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The CIP Basics
A CIP system is comprised of dedicated equipment for the rinsing, washing, and sanitization of the interior surfaces of your process equipment. In these systems you will usually find tanks, valves, pumps, heat exchangers, chemical dosing, and process instrumentation devoted to this purpose. A single CIP system usually cleans a variety of processing equipment items and areas.
The connection between a CIP system and your process equipment is through a series of pipes, valves, and/or flow connection plates. These systems create and circulate various cleaning solutions through your process equipment. They generally monitor and record contact time, flow rates, temperatures, and chemical concentration levels to insure your equipment is properly cleaned. As the name implies, the CIP system and the equipment you are cleaning remain in place, and are generally not disassembled in any way as part of the cleaning regimen.
Compare this to a manual cleaning process. With this method your process equipment needs to be disassembled by hand; manually washed, rinsed, and/or sanitized; then reassembled when complete. For larger items like tanks, this likely requires rinsing down the tank, manually scrubbing the interior with a wash solution and brush, and then manually rinsing it off when complete. These methods are time consuming, and carry some risk to product integrity if the manual cleaning is not performed properly. For very large tanks, a manual approach may not even be possible.
A half step between CIP systems and manual cleaning operations are clean-out-of-place (COP) systems. There are a few different forms these systems can take. They may be stationary units with one or more tubs where equipment can be immersed with heated rinse solutions or detergent mixtures. There are also portable units usually comprised of a tank, pump, and heat exchanger that can be connected to stationary equipment. Depending on the system there is often some rudimentary automation or sequencing of the COP system, but it will generally require some manual operations to complete your cleaning process.
What’s Your Type?
Now that you understand the basics, let’s take a closer look at how a CIP system operates. Like your washing machine, these systems have historically been pre-programmed with a variety of generic cycle types. You will usually get cycles for things like rinse only, full wash, and sanitize only. Each cycle is comprised of a series of steps for things like filling the system, adding chemicals, heating and circulating solutions, rinsing the system, and draining. Each step is performed for a period of time, or until some event or measurement value is sensed by the system. Customizing these cycle types and matching them to the cleaning tasks at hand is one way a modern automation system can create more production capacity for your equipment.
Different products have differing effects on the soil levels of food processing equipment. For example, it is generally harder in a food plant to clean a batch tank that made chocolate pudding than the same tank that made vanilla pudding. This effect is not limited to just the batch tank, but also holds true for all of the processing and filling equipment involved in the production operation. The same equipment, running different products, can have different optimized CIP cycles.