For food and beverage manufacturers, ensuring that plant equipment operates under clean conditions is of the utmost importance – because people consume the end products. Besides food safety concerns, manufacturers must manage production downtime, costs and profits, and energy efficiency.
But despite the time, money and expertise devoted to keeping plant equipment clean, manufacturers may still doubt the performance of their “clean-in-place” (CIP) systems. New innovations in CIP technology, however, allow them to meet safety standards while cutting costs in an earth-friendly manner.
What is a “clean-in-place” process?
At the heart of a food or beverage manufacturing plant, the clean-in-place process is a complex system of pumps, valves, instrumentation, filters and pipes that enable the process equipment to be regularly cleaned without disassembly. The process uses a significant amount of water, chemicals and energy.
Operational results of CIP systems are difficult to verify, and contamination is possible at any point along the way. Energy use varies depending on the product involved – as high as 13% in a milk plant, for example. Plants might spend as much as 20% of each day on cleaning the equipment.
Risks of an inefficient CIP system
Given the complexity of a CIP system, the risk of equipment failure is high, which impacts the top concern: food and beverage safety. Mistakes that result in improper cleaning can put a plant at risk of causing a food safety disaster as well as incurring a costly violation of industry safety regulations.
Safety aside, inefficient CIP systems can cause downtime and affect profitability. When production equipment isn’t clean, a plant will also waste raw materials. To add to that loss, the CIP process is energy-intensive, increasing operational costs. Furthermore, CIP systems need to be adaptable, as manufacturers must change and enhance recipes to remain competitive.
How to improve the CIP process
Manufacturers have used CIP processes since the 1950s and often make process improvements through a trial-and-error approach. Changes may include modifying chemicals, cleaning times or water temperature; reconfiguring settings; or proactively replacing or idling equipment.
But the better way is to take a holistic approach that incorporates CIP automation software to find the optimum combination of water, chemicals and time. This approach saves time, reduces errors, and lowers water and energy consumption, while still meeting safety standards. A 20% reduction in cleaning time, for instance, will deliver approximately an extra hour of production time each day. When problems arise, advanced automated CIP systems can convert troubleshooting time from what once took hours to perform into minutes of diagnostics.
Three key pillars of a successful CIP process
- Efficient and effective design: Switching to smaller, decentralized or multiuse CIP systems reduces the amount of energy needed to deliver chemicals and also saves water and time.
- Energy efficiency: Improving outdated equipment components and modifying wasteful processes can save up to 30% on energy costs. An example would be replacing fixed speed drives with variable speed drives to specify the flow rate of a recipe process.
- Automation optimization: Automation software improves the quality of available CIP system information and allows for better control of the equipment through alarms, notifications and status dashboards. Finding the root cause of any issue is also possible, and specialized CIP software systems can generate “proof of clean” reports as needed by food sanitation authorities.
Incorporating these key pillars will have a positive impact on energy costs and profitability, as well as promoting peace of mind with a cleaning process that’s optimized for supporting food and beverage safety.
Color-coded chart in the clean-in-place automation software flags issues for a plant operator