The Inside Dirt On Clean In Place

Let’s face it: Time cleaning your process equipment is time spent not making your product.

CIP stands for clean in place. A CIP system is usually comprised of one or more tanks for rinsing, washing and sanitizing your process equipment. Like your washing machine, a CIP system is generally programmed with a variety of cycle types, depending on what equipment you are cleaning and what product you are making. Well, maybe not the spin cycle, but you will usually get cycles like rinse only, full wash and sanitize.

Like your washing machine, each cycle is comprised of a series of steps for things like filling the system, adding detergent, washing, rinsing and draining. There is generally some sort of recording device to provide independent verification that proper temperatures, flow rates and chemical concentration levels are met.

The connection between a CIP system and your process equipment is through a series of pipes, valves and/or flow connection plates. These systems generally circulate various cleaning solutions through your process equipment, while monitoring time, temperature and chemical concentration levels to ensure 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.

When the Same Thing Is Different

Let’s face it: Time cleaning your process equipment is time spent not making your product. A well-automated CIP system can make sure that you are protecting your product by properly cleaning and sanitizing all process equipment, while at the same time, doing so in the most efficient manner possible. Let’s look at some automation options that can really get the most out of an automated CIP process by optimizing your CIP cycles based on how you are using your process equipment.

The old adage states that the only thing constant is change. This is very much the case in most modern manufacturing plants. As an ever-increasing number of SKUs are processed, what you make affects how you should clean. In a food plant, it is generally harder to clean a tank that made chocolate pudding than the same tank that made vanilla pudding. The same tank, running different products, can have different optimized CIP cycles.

Different sets of processing equipment, making the same product, may also have different cleaning requirements. For example, you may have a group of 10 tanks, all the same size, all capable of making the same product. The tank nearest to the CIP system may be 300 feet closer than the farthest tank. The closer tank requires less cleaning solution to fill the pipe to and from the CIP system, will lose less energy than the farther tank and will generally use less cleaning chemicals.

Another thing that can vary in your plant over time is the types and source of your CIP chemical solutions. A new sanitizer may be half the cost and require half the contact time as your old one. The same product, made with the same processing equipment, using different chemicals can have different optimized CIP cycles.

In Search of CIP Nirvana

Not too long ago, process and CIP functions were operated from industrial control panels with switches, buttons and status lamps used as the primary way for people to interact with the automated systems. Some plants still operate this way today. For CIP, usually a small group of cleaning options would be hardcoded into a plant floor controller. You might get a selector switch optioning cycles like long wash, short wash and rinse only. Each cycle would be a fixed sequence; much like a washing machine cycle is still done today.

With this method, CIP cycles were generally programmed for the worst case to ensure you adequately cleaned the process equipment. You could, in no way, optimize this process as we can today. Recording of key process parameters was done with chart recording devices.

The best contemporary CIP systems are automated to allow for flexible cleaning cycle configurations. Today, with modern control systems, the plant sanitarian can configure precise cleaning cycles specific to particular products made in particular pieces of equipment. Savings in energy and chemicals costs can be substantial. Significant reductions in cleaning times can also be achieved, allowing for more time to make product. Recording is often done electronically, allowing for easier dissemination and analysis of critical CIP data.

The Complete CIP Approach

Innovation happens in technology all the time. In our manufacturing plants, new cleaning approaches, such as electrochemical activation (ECA) systems, show a promise of a green technology using significantly less water, chemicals, energy, and most importantly, time required for a given CIP cycle. Modern automation systems need to be agile and flexible to take advantage of new technologies such as these, while leveraging existing technologies to get the most optimal results out of existing systems and equipment.

A properly automated CIP system should allow you to easily make adjustments to your cleaning cycles, without having to re-code or hardcode anything in the system, and without the assistance of specialty technical resources. This will put the power into the hands of your plant sanitarians, giving them the tools to precisely match cleaning cycles to products, equipment and chemical profiles. If done properly, your CIP system should give you the most secure form of cleaning for your equipment, at the lowest possible cost, in the shortest possible time.

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