reduce cross-contamination risks during product changeovers in liquid processing

The Challenge of an Extensive Product Portfolio

Competition in liquid processing industries such as food, beverage, personal care, cosmetics, and other processing industries is getting tougher. As a result, many companies have found that offering an extensive product portfolio is essential for meeting ever-changing customer demand and maintaining a competitive edge.

So, chocolate and confectionery manufacturers no longer just produce traditional chocolate bars, but they also manufacture a wide range of products such as protein bars, ruby chocolate variants, and muesli and granola bars. They also produce bars containing superfoods, fruit, and caramel as well as tea-infused options, vegan chocolate and many more.

As such, production facilities have shifted from using dedicated lines to utilising shared lines that can handle many different varieties, types, and flavours of products each day.

challenge of extensive product portfolio

The Problem with More Frequent Changeovers

The proliferation of new product variants means more batches and more production runs which increases the frequency of changeovers. And the more changeovers there are, the more downtime there is which reduces capacity utilisation and increases processing costs.

More frequent changeovers also increase the risk of cross-contamination when changing from one product to another, especially when shared equipment is employed.

This blog article looks at how to reduce cross-contamination risks during product changeovers by using liquid product recovery (pigging) technology.

The Risk of Product Cross-Contamination in Liquid Processing

Cross-contamination refers to the contamination of a product by other active ingredients or other products. So, for example, a household product manufacturer may use the same pipeline for different colours of washing up liquid.

If the pipeline isn’t cleaned properly and traces of the previous product (eg red washing up liquid) remain in the pipeline, this will contaminate the next product being processed (eg green washing up liquid), resulting in tainting in the finished products.

Product cross-contamination can have a detrimental impact on the quality of finished products. It may also lead to significant product loss, high wastage costs and can seriously hurt the profit margins of liquid processing companies.

To make matters worse, if the cross-contaminated product makes its way to the customer, it may lead to expensive product recalls which can prove to be costly and damaging to a company’s reputation and brand.

reduce cross-contamination risks during product changeovers in liquid processing

How to Lower the Risks of Cross-Contamination During Changeovers?

While manufacturers were previously able to dedicate a facility to the manufacture of a single formulation of product to prevent cross-contamination, this is no longer feasible in multi-product facilities. So, how exactly can manufacturers reduce the risks of cross-contamination?

In multi-product plants, it’s important that processing equipment is designed with hygiene in mind. Manufacturers must also ensure they have a robust changeover process in place.

Rigorous cleaning must be carried out to ensure all remnants of the previous batch are removed from the pipeline. In most cases, clean in place (CIP) technology is used to sanitise and flush the lines during changeovers and prepare equipment for the next process or production run. Not only does CIP ensure that processing equipment is cleaned and maintained to minimize any possible cross-contamination, but it also improves safety and product quality.

The Advantages of CIP

CIP systems are widely used in hygiene critical and liquid processing environments. During the CIP process, water, cleaning and disinfecting solutions are circulated through the circuit to clean the pipelines and processing equipment without dismantling them.

Please note, in applications such as chocolate, CIP systems aren’t used. That’s because chocolate doesn’t mix well with water (particularly variants with a high cocoa content).

Instead, equipment is often cleaned by dismantling it and cleaning it by manually scraping and brushing the equipment.

The Problem with Cleaning

Although the CIP process minimises cross-contamination risks by removing all traces of the previous product, it can be extremely time-consuming.

In addition, when a CIP system is in operation, production uptime is stopped. This is precious time not producing the product which ultimately impacts profitability.

What’s more, many older and existing CIP systems tend to be extremely resource-intensive and wasteful, requiring significant amounts of water and energy. They can also cause additional costs to companies through resources, cleaning chemicals, time losses, and other environmental impacts.

worker cleaning production equipment

Reduce Cross-Contamination Risks by Pigging

Many liquid processing companies are implementing hygienic pigging systems to clear the transfer pipelines of residual product and reduce the risks of cross-contamination.

The systems work by sending a special projectile (the ‘pig’) through the pipelines. A ‘pig’ is a specially designed, flexible projectile that fits compactly to the pipeline. The tight fit allows the pig to push all the contents out of the pipeline to its destination. The pig is propelled through the pipeline by gas or liquid i.e. air, water, the next product and so on.

By pigging the line, this enables the same line to be used for multiple products. This increases the capacity and flexibility of operations and enables manufacturers to meet rapidly changing customer demands for greater product variety and mass customisation.

High Recovery Rates of the HPS Pig

The HPS pig is extremely efficient and achieves high recovery rates, recovering up to 99.5% of product from full pipelines (this figure is sometimes even higher!).

Because the pig removes practically all traces of product residue in a single run, the chances of cross-contamination between variants are greatly reduced. This, in turn, means increased product quality, reduced product losses, lower rework and improved control over raw material and finished product inventory. It also reduces the chances of product recalls.

Faster Cleaning Process with Pigging

Pigging systems are often used in combination with a CIP system. Pigging before CIP offers major benefits to process efficiency and productivity.

Because pigging removes all traces of product residue from the pipeline, it significantly reduces the time and resources used by CIP systems. In this way, pigging before CIP makes the cleaning process much faster and efficient and speeds up changeover times.

In addition, pigging before CIP lowers water usage, decreases flush waste, reduces the use of cleaning chemicals, lowers effluent while saving money.

Find Out More

There’s more information about liquid processing companies that have implemented product recovery systems in our pigging system case studies.

For further information about minimising the risk of cross-contamination through pigging and product recovery solutions, then please contact HPS.

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