CIP – Safeguarding quality and hygiene

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If you manage a food processing plant, then you know how important it is for the quality of the final products as well as for the brand name, to clean and sanitize the production equipment.

The result of improper cleaning can be very costly for a factory. Simple mistakes in the production processes (and predominantly in the cleaning process) can lead to disastrous outcomes. In addition to severe consequences on human health, these cases can cause costly product recalls, loss of confidence in the company’s brand, and significant loss of revenue.

The challenges for a CIP system

Every sector in the Food & Beverage Industry presents its peculiarities and challenges in the cleaning and sanitation process. Especially milk and dairy products are particularly vulnerable to spoilage and rapid bacterial growth. The CIP washing process in the Dairy and Cheese plants must be thorough and very strict in terms of temperature, wash cycle, and chemical cycle duration to prevent infections from microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. It is also a very complex process as different washing programs may be needed for equipment that includes hot spots (e.g. Pasteurization).

If we take into consideration the modern marketing trends for mass customization and the production small batches of many different products to satisfy different consumer preferences, one realizes how complex the cleaning process becomes and how important this cost center is for the Industry.

Finally, we must not forget that very strong chemicals are involved in this process, which can be harmful both to humans and equipment. Cleaning should be carried out with absolute safety and the least possible impact on the environment, minimizing the water and detergent usage, and maximizing the recovery and reuse of resources.

Operating cost of the washing process

Cleaning in Place is not only a key process in the production cycle but also a significant part of the operating cost. A typical CIP cleaning process requires large amounts of water, chemicals, and energy. It is estimated that, on average, a food and beverage production unit will spend 20% of the total day with cleaning equipment, a percentage that represents a significant downtime for a factory. Energy usage varies depending on the process. For example, a dairy unit is likely to use 13% of its total energy in the CIP process.

So even though the operation of CIP equipment is such a large part of the operating costs, most manufacturers in the food and beverage sector, have not validated that their installation works most efficiently. The challenge with CIP is to evaluate how well and how efficiently it cleans in each cycle. Trying to ensure thorough cleaning of the production equipment, they often carry out the process using much more energy, water, and chemicals, but also much more time than necessary. The focus then is on two pain points: either the resources are wasted, or food safety is at risk due to incomplete washing.

There is no doubt that by optimizing the operation of the CIP equipment they will achieve very positive results, both in resource savings, and time spent on washing (reducing the downtime of the production unit). A lot of facilities have a large number of CIPs performing many washes during the day. It is easy to understand that optimizing the operation of these units can lead to sizeable savings.

CIP optimization steps

Most companies understand that CIP optimization creates opportunities for resource savings, but being aware of the risks associated with failure, they often hesitate to move forward. However, savings can be made without compromising the quality of the cleaning. Specifically:

Initial planning & design

Success starts with planning. It is important to design the equipment from the beginning with as few parts as possible, and without areas where the cleaning fluid cannot reach, or where it can accumulate and stagnate. The specific characteristics of the equipment to be cleaned (product produced, length and diameter of pipes, type of equipment, etc.) are important factors in the design and final specifications of the CIP system that will result in an effective cleaning with low operating costs.

Full automation

A well-automated CIP system significantly reduces the risk of insufficient cleaning. By incorporating the appropriate measuring instruments into a fully controlled environment and with minimal human intervention, the operator can pre-determine and monitor all the critical parameters for proper cleaning. Visual and audio alarms can be installed to notify the operator of any deviation from the program parameters, while at the same time there are corresponding confirmation signals of successful completion of washing of each circuit and indication of the remaining circuits for washing. The reduction achieved in cleaning time as well as in the use of resources is very significant.


Optimizing CIP Programs

Inspecting stainless steel surfaces to check the effectiveness of CIP will reveal if there are any problems with cleaning, as well as the origin of the problem depending on the nature of the residues to be found. Frequent inspection (either optical or with sensors) will allow the corrective movements and optimization of cleaning programs and TACT parameters (Time, Action, Chemicals, Temperature). The aim is to confirm the correct cleaning of all points to be cleaned, at a very high percentage of washes.

Real-time cleaning verification

The real-time monitoring of critical CIP parameters (time, temperature, chemical concentration) and indicators of cleaning efficiency (such as turbidity, surface cleanliness, flow, etc.) is important as it allows for cycle adjustments while in progress. This overcomes the tendency for excessive cleaning (waste of resources).



Big data analytics

These advanced automated monitoring systems collect real-time data from the CIP process from the industrial network of the production unit (PLC and historical database). These are encrypted, transmitted, and collected in data centers. Then, specially designed algorithms analyze the data for patterns and deviations that indicate adherence to the predetermined washing guidelines and protocols. The analysis highlights the problems that need immediate action and opportunities for future improvement. This process Is an integral part of digitizing the production units and moving the production process to the Industry 4.0 era.


«CIP is an investment that provides long-term returns»

The return on investment in CIP

The more advanced a CIP system is, the greater the initial investment in purchasing and installing it. However, it is important to understand that CIP is an investment that provides long-term returns. If properly designed, installed, and commissioned, every time you run an efficient cleaning cycle you will save valuable production time that has been lost in slow, inefficient cleaning practices. If calculated on an annual basis, the savings are very large. Depending on the frequency of cleaning, many industries often see a complete recoup of the investment for their CIP system in one to two years.

For over 20 years now, AS HELLAS is designing fully automated CIP systems, adapted to the specific needs of each production line. These installations operate with minimum human intervention, optimizing both the use of resources and the efficiency of the wash cycles. The analysis and processing of the data of these cycles ensure the continuous improvement of the system performance. You can read more about our ready prefabricated Cleaning Units here

Whether you need a new unit, or you want to optimize an existing facility, contact us to discuss the needs of your production equipment for cleaning and the most efficient solution for guaranteed safety and hygiene.

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  1. Eric Mayer, “Define ROI to Win Approval”
  2. CHANGES – Thomson Reuters



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