How to integrate regular cleaning into a facility’s processing

Cleaning can fall lower on a priority list because it adds no direct value to the product, but the cost of not taking proper precautions can be astronomical.


Cleaning can fall lower on a priority list because it adds no direct value to the product, but the cost of not taking proper precautions can be astronomical. Courtesy: StellarMost people enjoy cooking food that they love to eat. It's the cleanup that people hate. Has a home-cooked meal ever been made that didn't involve cleaning? Probably not. Also, those who like to cook would never start with dirty utensils and pans, right?

Food manufacturing facilities operate in the same way. They aim to produce high-quality products while minimizing the cleanup involved. However, they must first begin processing with clean equipment, but that can be easier said than done.

Cleaning is important, really important

It may seem obvious, but how much is sanitization truly a part of a plant's daily routine? Cleaning can sometimes fall lower on a priority list because it adds no direct value to the product, but the cost of not taking proper precautions can be astronomical.

The leading brands in dairy manufacturing all pay the highest degree of attention to the sanitary design of their plants. It ranks up there with production volume and efficiency. Why? With dairy, cultures and other organisms can easily contaminate other products if facilities don't establish proper cleaning procedures. Without proper cleanup, the same products can't be made from day to day. The same principle applies to any facility regardless of what it produces.

Although cleaning is critical, plant owners are often discouraged by how time-consuming it can be. On average, 20% of a food and beverage plant's day is spent cleaning equipment. How can a facility be sanitized while not having to completely shut down for cleanup every day?


When it comes to cleaning equipment, there are two different approaches.

1. Cleaning-in-place (CIP)-cleaning equipment without disassembling parts. This is typically done by running sanitizing chemicals, heat and water through process equipment, pipes, etc.

2. Cleaning-out-of-place (COP)-cleaning equipment with the disassembling of parts. A basic everyday example of COP is washing the dishes after dinner.

In a side-by-side comparison, there are benefits to both CIP and COP systems. However, when it comes to water conservation and recycling, CIP offers more opportunity for recycling and re-filtering water.

Benefits of a water-recovery CIP system include:

  • Maximizing cleaning solutions
  • Conserving water
  • Decreasing disposal fees
  • Improving ROI.

Cover your bases by ensuring all processing equipment is kept clean in order to produce the best product.

How to integrate regular cleaning into facility processing

1. Start each process with a clean system-a meal should never be cooked from a greasy pot, and a product shouldn't be produced on dirty equipment. Making a casserole in a slightly dirty dish may seem like a shortcut at first, but it will only make the cleanup take longer. The same holds true in a food plant. Starting processing with clean equipment will make it that much easier to clean.

2. Have a clear definition of clean-one facility's spotless might be another's spotty. Have a plant-wide understanding of clean standards.

3. Establish a cleaning schedule-integrating regular cleaning into a plant's schedule will ultimately make life easier. Plus, routine cleaning will shorten cleaning times in the long run. Having a record of these processes is also a crucial reference during facility inspections or in the event of a contamination crisis.

At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet for CIP or COP systems-it's all about knowing the facility and understanding that cleaning is not an afterthought. A food processing plant is a complex network of systems that rely on each other; therefore, process and cleaning cannot be separate. 

- Mike Murdaugh is a senior process engineer at Stellar and has more than 20 years of experience in the engineering field with a focus on food and beverage and HVAC-R. This article originally appeared on Stellar's blog Food for Thought. Stellar is a CFE Media content partner.

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