When it comes to cleaning food production equipment, it wasn’t that long ago the only option was taking the equipment apart piece by piece, scrubbing and flushing it with chemicals and water inside and out before putting it back together again for the next run.

Article Index:

All this took a lot of time that could otherwise have been spent making food and beverage products. It also took a lot of water, chemicals and heat, costing large sums of money. In addition, repeatability wasn’t always that great because of the human factor. 

Starting in the 1950s, bucket and brush methods started taking a back seat to what is now the norm: cleaning-in-place or CIP. With this approach, equipment is cleaned automatically without being dismantled and done in a fraction of the time by an array of specialized holding tanks, precision piping, heat exchangers, valves, pumps, spray balls and other components that are interconnected and driven by PLCs.

The benefits of CIP are tremendous. But, despite modern advances, challenges still exist. “Today, one of the biggest [challenges] is proving the equipment is clean to the exact same degree time after time,” says Bryan Downer, vice president of sales at CSI Designs, a CIP system builder in Springfield, MO.  

CIP and food safety

Today’s CIP guidelines are entrenched in HACCP, GFSI, FSMA, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, 3-A Sanitary Standards and other industry initiatives and government regulations. “Food safety is the highest priority,” says Ola Wesstrom, senior industry manager, food and beverage, Endress+Hauser. “FSMA’s pending revisions to the GMP, in combination with higher pressure from retailers, are driving the need for increasing the quality and automation of CIP.”  

Much of CIP automation has sophisticated sensors, monitoring equipment and software dedicated to tracking CIP performance in real time, which is Endress+Hauser’s specialty. Wesstrom says major retail chains also are looking for more detailed calibration and process-related records to confirm their suppliers have a thorough CIP process in place and know how to use it.  

According to Brian Gehrke, executive vice president, key accounts at A + B Process Systems in Stratford, WI, “The data acquisition and data trending PLCs and software available today make information readily available at a reasonable cost to producers. If there’s a product quality issue, a processor can backtrack and verify whether the CIP performance was up to par or, if not, where the problems were, whether they are related to flows, temperatures, times, chemical concentrations or other factors.”

Ease of ownership

What are food processors looking for when it comes to CIP? Basically it’s less water, chemical and energy usage, along with less time cleaning and more uptime. 

“Cost of ownership used to be the benchmark,” says Downer, “but ease of ownership is a term we’re now using with our customers.” This requires a CIP partner not just concerned with chemicals, but also with a solid understanding of the product and the entire process,  a company that can help select the appropriate equipment, supply it, put it in, start it up and keep it in proper running condition.”

Downer believes in pushing the technology envelope, especially when it comes to spray heads used for cleaning large tanks and other vessels. His company almost exclusively specs out TrueClean S series and JM rotating spray nozzles. “The jets are very predictable, robust and accurate because of their unique manufacturing process,” he notes. “Now, we have better technology available in the form of rotating spray balls, yet often, customers will live with a static ball because that’s what came with the tank they bought.”

Downer says the difference in price between rotating and static spray heads is miniscule in relation to the overall cost of a tank, but the improvement in cleaning and overall plant performance is huge by comparison. “One of the biggest opportunities we have as a company is to improve the efficiency of a client’s cleaning system, and sometimes, it’s a simple matter of pulling out a pin, taking off the old device, putting on the new one and putting the pin back in. It takes all of about three minutes, and in some cases, after we’ve done this, we’ve reduced CIP time by up to 70 percent.”

He cites one example in particular: a cultured dairy operation that was about to build an extension so it could increase output by 20 percent. It turned out a simple switch from static spray balls to rotary devices reduced tank cleaning time throughout the facility from 2.5 hours to 45 minutes per tank on average. The dairy achieved its 20 percent increase in production—without building the extension or changing production operations.

Increasing uptime

According to Jean-Pierre Berlan, marketing director, USA and Canada, at Tetra Pak Processing Systems, IntelliCIP, a proprietary system based on pressure differential measurements, detects in real time the thickness of fouling materials in various sections of a sterilizer’s heat exchanger. Consequently, instead of running the CIP wash right up to the minimum recommended time, a food processor can shut it down earlier, if IntelliCIP verifies the loop is already clean, which saves water, detergent and energy while increasing plant uptime.

“We saw one plant that was running acid for a preset time of 30 minutes. But after we tracked the process with IntelliCIP, we found that in less than 10 minutes all the minerals the acid was meant to remove were gone,” explains Berlan. “So effectively, the plant saved at least 20 minutes for each acid cycle.”

Berlan says basic equipment design is another key element. “When we design and install a piece of processing equipment, it has to be cleanable. And when we install it, we guarantee its minimum safe running time before it needs to be cleaned. Plus, we use our know-how to make this time as long as possible.”

Part of that means leveraging processing methodology. “For example,” says Berlan, “if you preheat milk gently before you sterilize it, you stabilize the proteins, causing them naturally not to foul as much or as quickly. You get longer run times from the process itself, so you don’t need to invest as much in cleaning chemicals, you increase plant efficiency, and you lower your operating cost. With this simple processing adjustment alone, we’ve been able to help some of our customers increase their machine availability by up to 50 percent, which is huge.”

Increasing velocity

A trend that’s emerging in new CIP installations, according A + B’s Gehrke, is an increase in flow rates. Traditionally, the tried-and-true standard has been five ft./sec. and still is for smaller pipe sizes. “Some processors are finding, however, that for four-inch pipes or larger, five ft./sec. does not always provide enough turbulence for optimum cleaning. Many of them, particularly major producers, are moving up to seven ft./sec. with better results.”

A four-inch pipe at five ft./sec. delivers 180 gal./min.; at seven ft./sec., it delivers 252 gal./min., but more powerful pumps are required. Upgrading existing systems, which rarely exceed 200 gal./min., is not so easy. “You might still be able to use existing tanks and suction headers, if they’re large enough to produce that kind of flow,” says Gehrke, “but it’s something that has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

In general, Gehrke notes that upgrades of existing CIP systems to a new velocity are rare. “However, requests for new CIP systems that contain the larger line circuits are becoming more common.”

An interesting development that’s not necessarily new but trending ahead on the chemistry side is the use of electrolysis to generate caustic and acid solutions. The process, which combines water, salt and electricity, started with beverage applications and is now migrating to the dairy industry. The main reasons for this are improved safety (the chemicals don’t burn skin) and lower operating costs over time since shipping bulk premixed chemicals in 55-gal. drums is no longer necessary.

Mixproof valves

GEA Tuchenhagen of Portland, ME has developed a number of products that have pushed the CIP needle forward. Two of them are the VARIVENT mixproof valve and VARIVENT mixproof tank valve. When they are used in processing systems, plants can conduct seat and line cleaning while product is present on the other side of the valve, “which allows a plant to reap the financial benefits of full 24/7 production,” according to GEA Tuchenhagen National Sales Director Brian Romano.

“Mixproof valves are used for the separation of incompatible media [i.e., product and CIP chemicals] at flow path intersections,” he explains. “The double-seated mixproof valve has two independent seals that separate the two liquids and the drainage chamber, which is open to the atmosphere to ensure full mixproof safety in case either of the seals fails.”

Another unique CIP product is the GEA 3-A VARICOVER product recovery system, which allows plants to recover up to 99 percent of finished product during CIP by using a product pig that pushes any remaining product out of the pipe. What’s left in the line is a small film of residual product that can be easily removed via CIP cleaning. VARICOVER is the first system of its type to be certified under the 2012 3-A Sanitary Standard 101-00 for Pipeline Product Recovery Equipment Using Projectiles.

John Maconachie, who runs Ontrack Project Solutions in Barrie, ON, says, “The holy grail of proper plant process design is being able to use CIP and process interconnected systems at the same time.” And this, he says, is what mixproof valves enable a plant to do. He notes that while mixproof technology has been used in the US and elsewhere for years, the CFIA in Canada has only recently approved it for CIP applications.

“In my work with clients,” Maconachie says, “I try to set them up so they chase their process with CIP—meaning as soon as they’ve finished one step in one section of the plant, whether it’s a batch tank, line wash or other key component, they clean it. So, at the end of the day, they only have to clean the finished product tank going to the filling machine; no CIP crew has to come in at night to clean the system for startup again in the morning. The setup also allows for continuous processing with only a short interruption for CIP.”

Conserving water

Most companies that supply CIP systems are system integrators. One exception is Madison, WI-based Sani-Matic, which is also an OEM since it manufactures its own tanks, frames, manifolds, control panels and system software. Being an integrator and manufacturer gives Sani-Matic flexibility, says Chad Dykstra, vice president, global sales and marketing, “and the ability to respond quickly to last-minute changes in accommodating customer needs and deliverables.”

Like others, Dykstra acknowledges data acquisition and reduced cleaning time are on at the top of the list of objectives for CIP. He also mentions greater water savings and sustainability. “Efforts to use less water, which means using less chemicals and less energy to heat it up, are becoming more common, both as a means to save money and protect the environment,” he adds.

“A brewery we worked with in California was using the maximum allotment of water per day the city would allow and had to truck in an additional 20,000 gallons per day, most of it for CIP,” he recalls. “We went in and said we’re not going to do a single use to drain, but recover that water for the next step in the cycle. By doing this, we basically reduced the brewery’s cleaning time by 60 percent and its water consumption by 50 percent.”

Maconachie says he’s had similar success helping customers save water, one of the most noteworthy being the result of using data acquisition technology from Flomation Engineering Technologies of Richmond Hill, ON. Maconachie uses the company’s eView monitoring system to continuously analyze customer CIP systems. 

“A dairy in Ottawa was using 300,000 liters of water for cleaning per day when following timer guidelines, but we found with eView and some reprogramming, it only needed 230,000 liters, saving 70,000 liters every day and reducing its CIP time by more than two hours per day.”

Getting it right

Endress+Hauser provides equipment that monitors temperature, concentration, conductivity, velocity, phase separation, fluid volumes and breakdowns before they happen, as well as 21 CFR Part 11-compliant data recorders for recordkeeping. All its instrument housings are designed to be self draining and to minimize the use of gaskets.

According to Ola Wesstrom, when setting up a CIP system, a processor should:

  1. Look for a company with the capability and expertise in hygienic design beyond the CIP plant itself and that is prepared to make mechanical changes. When done correctly, replacing tanks, process connections, piping sections or other components can produce considerable savings, with a relatively short ROI.
  2. Consider the location of the CIP room. Is the factory layout suitable for a centralized or decentralized approach? “I have seen pipes running 300 ft. between the CIP room and the area that needs cleaning,” says Wesstrom. “That’s possible, of course, but it is not efficient, because you lose a lot of heat and use unnecessary amounts of energy to pump liquids back and forth over such long distances. Often, you see this kind of thing in an older plant. When it was first built, the CIP room was likely close to everything, but perhaps since then, there’s been growth and expansion, and the setup is not effective anymore.” The solution? Consider building a new CIP plant in the new section.
  3. When designing and setting up a new process line, remember the CIP system and the process line should be closely integrated.
  4. Eliminate cracks and any dead space in pipes and valves, and always check the entire loop to ensure self-drainage.


Pumps should be CIP-able too

Pumps are integral to CIP systems, and among the players in this technology is Fristam Pumps of Middleton, WI. “We have sizes that can produce high flow rates and pressures for the supply side,” says Senior Applications Engineer Randy Verges, “and on the return side, we offer a liquid ring design that can solve issues associated with air binding and the creating of the ‘bath tub ring’ when cleaning tanks, without the need to add burp valves.”

According to Marketing Manager Daniel Funk, many centrifugal pumps work on the supply side, and Fristam offers several, such as its FPR and FPX models. Reliability and longevity are the most important factors.

“Our company’s FZX liquid ring pump, on the other hand, is specially designed for CIP return,” says Funk. “Because of its ability to produce a vacuum, it can empty a tank completely of its contents, including foam, and a single FZX pump can handle the CIP return of multiple tanks, eliminating the need for one CIP pump per tank.”

Verges recalls recovery of CIP solution at one of A + B’s pharmaceutical clients. “Its challenge was the amount of liquid left in the piping after CIP was done, and its water is very expensive,” he says. “Our liquid ring pump was incorporated, and the client’s recovery reached nearly 100 percent, saving thousands of dollars per year.”

Chemicals also are a concern, due to safety regulations that have become more stringent over the last five years and are expected to become more so. Therefore, Fristam and other manufacturers must carefully consider the materials they use to make the seals to ensure they last as long as possible.

As for maintenance, when seals need replacing, Fristam FPR pump’s front-loading feature allows workers to pop out an old one and put in a new one easily and quickly without having to disassemble the pump housing.

Pumps and piping work together in a CIP system to provide the required velocity, pressure and turbulence for optimum cleaning. “For CIP, velocity is the key,” says Verges, “so having piping systems without a large variation in tubing sizes makes it easier to set up a CIP system. It is also important to choose a process pump that can be CIPed without modification or teardown. A lot of time can be wasted taking apart a pump that should be cleanable in place.”

For more information:

Bryan Downer, CSI Designs, bryand@csidesigns.com, www.csidesigns.com, 417-929-0131

Ola Wesstrom, Endress+Hauser, ola.wesstrom@us.endress.com, www.usendress.com, 317-370-9263

Brian Gehrke, A + B Process Systems, bgehrke@abprocess.com, www.abpprocess.com, 715-687-3031

Jean-Pierre Berlan, Tetra Pak Processing Systems, jeanpierre.berlan@tetrapak.com, www.tetrapak.com, 647-775-1837

Brian Romano, GEA Tuchenhagen, c/o cara.gardner@gea.com, www.gea.com, 410-428-4063

John Maconachie, Ontrack Project Solutions, ontrac@rogers.com, 647-409-1339

Chad Dykstra, Sani-Matic, chadd@sanimatic.com, www.sanimatic.com, 608-772-2680

Daniel Funk, Fristam Pumps, dfunk@fristampumps.com, www.fristam.com, 608-203-2003