All manufacturing facilities should be kept clean at all times for best operation. Food and beverage plants must go further. Cleanliness is not just nice to have. It can literally be a matter of life and death for both customer and company.

Plants must take the extra step to design facilities, machines and processes to assure that they will be cleaned to a level which guarantees uncontaminated product.

Einstein is reputed to have said “Keep it as simple as possible but no simpler.” This is a good rule to keep in mind with cleanability. The more complex and difficult the cleaning process, the more likely that failures will occur.

Here are some ideas to simplify the cleaning process:

1. Develop good written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to assure that everyone knows exactly how cleaning is to be done.

2. The smoother the surface, the easier it is to clean. Protruding bolts can be replaced with flathead, countersunk screws. Cracks and holes can be filled with silicone caulking. Horizontal flat surfaces can accumulate dust and liquid. It is much harder to accumulate on surfaces that are  slanted or rounded.

3. Cleaning chemicals should be pre-measured to assure their use in proper concentrations. Buckets or sinks used for mixing cleaning solutions should be clearly marked to show how much water should be added.

4. Cabinet-style bases on machines may be necessary but can also complicate cleaning. If the cabinet is not sealed, it must be cleaned inside as well as out. A light mounted inside will assure that the cleaner can see what he or she is doing. Dust- and liquid-tight sealing of cabinets can reduce or even eliminate the need to clean inside.   

5. Cabinets should either be mounted flush to the floor to eliminate the need to clean under them or raised high enough (6 to 10 inches) to give good access for cleaning.

6. Sanitary conveyors have a closed frame which prevents contamination getting inside. Common in pharmaceutical plants, they should be considered in food and beverage plants.

7. Liquid fillers will always have some spillage. They should be designed so that any spillage is contained. Concave tops with a drain or slanted tops with gutters can help confine spillage.

8. An assortment of hoses, wires and conduits will be hard to clean. Enclosing them all in a single, sealed ductway under the packaging line provides a single, smooth surface that needs to be cleaned. Or use disposable tubing to eliminate the need for cleaning. Another alternative is to use dedicated piping systems that can be easily disassembled. This not only reduces chances of cross contamination, it allows them to be more easily cleaned off-line.  

9. Use stainless steel wherever possible. It costs a bit more initially but pays for itself quickly in ease of cleaning and maintenance.

10. Older machinery will often have control panels with an assortment of switches and buttons. More modern equipment will use touchscreens with pictures of the switches. It is easier to clean a single, flat, screen than a variety of controls.

Simplification will not only improve the quality of cleaning, it will reduce the amount of production time lost. Better product with more production? Sounds like a winning combination.  F&BP