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Custom Clean-in-Place (CIP) Systems Offer Economic and Environmental Benefits

Originally published on pages 22-23 in the Food Review March 2022 issue


With the rising costs of raw materials and labor, the need to make food processing more efficient and cost-effective is on the rise. Besides the cost of materials, there are also ‘hidden’ costs in the amount of downtime and cost of water and chemicals required to keep food processing systems properly sanitized and operating at full capacity. Manufacturers are now looking at ways to integrate more sustainable food processing solutions, providing economical and innovative options.


Clean-in-Place (CIP) sanitation systems are becoming more popular in the food and beverage industry, offering a modern method for automated cleaning. These systems consist of stationary skids with cleaning circuits installed throughout. Highly customizable mechanical arrangements and controls lead to an efficient process, minimizing downtime. CIP systems provide a valuable return on investment when considering how many hours will be saved from minimizing unscheduled downtime and implementing faster cleaning cycles. Systems can also fit in tight and congested spaces when planned properly.


By increasing efficiency, these systems allow for increased traceability and are environmentally friendly with water and chemical savings. Running an automated CIP system allows for the maintenance of your cleaning schedule and decreases the wear and tear on your machine. Operators will have a safer work environment, as they will have less exposure to chemicals and can avoid situations with confined space entry. While it is difficult to calculate the exact amount of savings that comes with a safer work environment, preventing workplace injuries allows for more productive workers, less downtime, and increased performance. With a focus on safer conditions for employees and safer products, quality will naturally be passed on to the customers. Preventing contaminations between batches leads to consistent product and decreases the opportunity for foodborne illnesses.


"CIP systems provide a valuable return on investment when considering how many hours will be saved from minimizing unscheduled downtime."

Automatic CIP systems feature automatic valves that will introduce the CIP flow at the proper time to the process line. The valves allow the flow of product to pause, introduce the cleaning solution, and then reintroduce product back to the system after sanitization is complete. Tanks can be incorporated for caustic wash, acid wash, and freshwater rinsing. The automation sequences include regulating duration, amount of chemicals, and temperature. Electronic data records and digitally saved files streamline the record-keeping process to stay compliant with the industry.


Food grade panels are integrated into our custom systems that are rated for complete washdown. Hygienic enclosures protect electrical equipment in the most extreme washdown and sanitary conditions. FDA compliant gaskets protect against cleaning agents and are safe for high-pressure washes. Sanitary door latches can also be added to save time during the cleaning process.


The Spec Engineering team has prior experience with customizing a CIP system to fit in a congested space. In a project for a leading food manufacturer, Spec transitioned a 20-year-old CIP system to a modern, automated system. Old and new lines were run simultaneously for approximately four weeks before completely transitioning to the new system. With a skid system of 22 ft. long x 8 ft. wide x 17 ft. tall, the engineering team needed to be strategic with transporting the system into the facility, while also finding the proper space for the system. This modular CIP skid was pre-assembled in Spec’s manufacturing facility, and an in-house factory acceptance test was completed. The skid was then disassembled and prepared for shipment.


Pipe routing plans were developed to fit the system into the congested space, with over 2,000 ft. of sanitary tubing installed. There was a large effort from the automation team as new safety features were introduced to the system and PLC/HMI controls were Ethernet-connected throughout. While plant capacity increased, the integration of the CIP system also decreased downtime for cleaning shutdowns. At the same time, there is increased cleanability and hygienic design while the amount of operator interaction has decreased.


Automated CIP sanitation systems make food processing solutions more efficient while reducing the amount of water and chemicals used and increasing operator safety. Whether integrating a new CIP system into your food processing line or updating an old system, the economic and environmental benefits are well-received.

CIP sanitation systems are becoming more popular in the Food & Beverage industry, offering a modern method for automated cleaning.

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