By John Peter Koss
Beverage plant management in the 21st century, with automation, digitalization, new technology applications and expanded raw and packaging material introductions, continues to be challenged with basic and fundamental responsibilities of maintaining a clean, safe and productive plant environment. Within this challenge are several significant questions: 1) What cleaning practices/procedures for external/internal plant areas and processing/production equipment are necessary and available to maintain a hygienic environment? 2) What laws and regulations prevail to which all types of beverage plants must comply? 3) What costs are involved to ensure best practices are available for use and compliance? And, 4) Who is charged with the responsibility for the cleaning, compliance and cost justification issues?
Many plants have standard procedures for overall plant maintenance and cleaning; however, the priority area is processing and production equipment where beverages are prepared and packaged. Cleaning and sanitizing procedures have transitioned from manual practices to sophisticated integrated CIP (clean in place) systems and operated from a centrally controlled station which may serve multiple pieces of equipment. New systems offer options for cleaning materials, hot or cold water and programmed cleaning time depending upon the equipment and the products being processed.
Several manufacturers offer new systems with installation and operations support for specified time periods. This is important because the processes, products and equipment have changed rapidly and will continue to do so; therefore, long term agreements or contracts may not provide what might be termed “best practices” applicable to a plant’s operating conditions.
During the process of cleaning system selection, the issue of compliance with local, state and/or federal regulations is a major item. In addition, plants or contract packers must comply with parent company cleaning specifications that may dictate equipment type or capability. Cleaning system selection can be critical because the available systems must be matched with the governing regulations and the cost involved can become a controversial issue—is the application worth the cost?
The reality of the “cleaning function” is simple—it must be done! A beverage plant producing a consumer product must ensure all “best practices” are used where possible. This can be difficult because “best practices” usually apply under a set of operating conditions and all plants have similar, but different conditions. Laws and regulations have become more stringent, manufacturers have had to accelerate system development and costs have taken priority in today’s economy.
The two issues of cost and responsibility cannot be set aside. Plant management (corporate too) has the responsibility of adequately assessing what is needed to comply with regulations. What is the best best system for our conditions? What is the cost justification? And, what form of measurement can be used to evaluate results?
i>John Peter Koss, a beverage operations advisor, is a licensed registered professional engineer and has 50-plus years of beverage business experience. He can be reached at email@example.com.