Cleaning considerations for plant construction and retrofits

Spillz Pty Ltd

Monday, 27 May, 2024

Cleaning considerations for plant construction and retrofits

Maintaining impeccable hygiene standards in food manufacturing is essential for product safety, regulatory compliance and operational efficiency. Integrating efficient cleaning systems from the start in new plant constructions or retrofits is critical. This approach not only safeguards hygiene but also streamlines operations and reduces long-term maintenance costs. This article from cleaning machinery specialist Spillz presents some key considerations to consider.

Strategic water supply placement

The placement of water supply points is a foundational aspect of effective cleaning. Ensuring that water sources are strategically positioned near high-traffic and critical cleaning zones, such as processing areas, entry points and storage areas, can significantly streamline cleaning routines. Conveniently placed water supply points reduce the time and effort required for sanitation, allowing for more frequent and thorough cleaning. Moreover, it is essential to consider the type of water supply equipment installed. High-quality hoses, nozzles and connections can enhance water pressure and distribution, making the cleaning process more efficient. Installing backflow preventers at water supply points can also help prevent contamination of the water supply.

Integrating advanced cleaning systems

Integrating advanced cleaning systems during the construction or retrofitting phase can lead to substantial long-term benefits. Conveyor cleaners, for instance, can incorporate steam cleaning systems, UV sanitation systems or spray bars to ensure continuous cleaning and reduce contamination risks. These systems can be set up to operate at regular intervals or during specific production phases, maintaining a high level of cleanliness with less manual intervention.

Automated cleaning systems, such as clean-in-place (CIP) technology, can be installed in tanks, pipes and other equipment. CIP systems automate the cleaning process, ensuring consistent and thorough cleaning without disassembly. This saves time and labour, reduces downtime and enhances safety by minimising human contact with cleaning chemicals. Additionally, installing equipment like high-pressure washers, foamers and sanitising stations can enhance overall plant cleanliness, particularly for large surface areas and hard-to-reach spots. High-pressure washers are effective for removing stubborn residues, while foamers distribute cleaning agents evenly across surfaces, ensuring comprehensive coverage and adequate dwell time.

Designing for cleanability

The design of the plant itself plays a critical role in maintaining cleanliness. Using materials and surfaces that are smooth and non-porous, and incorporating rounded corners, minimises areas where dirt and bacteria can accumulate. This design choice makes cleaning easier and more effective. Stainless steel and epoxy-coated surfaces are ideal for food manufacturing environments due to their durability and ease of cleaning.

Effective drainage systems are also crucial. Designing the plant with sloped floors and strategically placed drains ensures quick and complete water removal during cleaning. This prevents water stagnation and microbial growth. Additionally, drains should be easy to access and clean, with removable grates and traps to prevent blockages.

Accessibility is another key factor. Ensuring that all areas of the plant, especially those above equipment, are easily accessible for cleaning is crucial. This might involve designing walkways, installing removable panels or incorporating high-reach cleaning systems. Proper access reduces the risk of missed spots and ensures comprehensive sanitation.

Considering the use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or other robotic cleaning systems in the design phase is also important. Designate specific docking and charging areas for these robots to ensure seamless integration into daily operations. For robots that use water, plumbing these docks is necessary to supply the required water. However, waterless robotic systems eliminate this need, making them easier to integrate into existing plants and warehouses without significant modifications.

Dust management systems

Evaluating the levels of dust generated in different areas of the plant is essential. Depending on the dust levels, it may be necessary to install central vacuum systems or dust extraction systems during construction or retrofitting. Central vacuum systems provide continuous dust removal across the plant, while localised dust extraction systems target specific high-dust areas. These systems effectively manage airborne particles, reducing dust accumulation on surfaces and equipment.

Accessing high-level cleaning areas

Cleaning areas above equipment, such as ceilings, overhead pipes and ductwork, presents unique challenges. Carbon fibre poles and extendable brushes allow workers to clean high areas safely from the ground, ensuring thorough sanitation without the need for ladders or scaffolding, reducing the risk of accidents.

Installing permanent scaffolding or lifts provides easy access to high areas for regular cleaning and maintenance. These structures should be designed to be stable and easy to navigate, allowing workers to clean high-level areas safely and efficiently.

Establishing effective cleaning routines

Effective cleaning routines are essential for maintaining hygiene standards. Tailor the frequency and intensity of cleaning to the specific needs of the plant. Daily cleaning should focus on high-traffic and critical areas to prevent the build-up of contaminants. This includes floors, work surfaces and equipment that comes into direct contact with food. Daily cleaning should be thorough but efficient, ensuring that essential areas are sanitised without disrupting operations.

Weekly deep cleaning should involve a more thorough cleaning of areas not covered in daily routines, such as walls, ceilings and behind equipment. This may involve disassembling and sanitising equipment, as well as scrubbing and disinfecting all surfaces. Periodic intensive cleaning should be scheduled during plant shutdowns or slow periods to minimise disruption. This comprehensive cleaning involves deep-cleaning all surfaces, inspecting and maintaining cleaning systems, and ensuring compliance with hygiene standards.

Implementing a system for monitoring and documenting cleaning routines can help ensure compliance with hygiene standards. Use checklists and logs to track cleaning activities and identify areas that may require additional attention.

Future trends in plant hygiene

The food manufacturing industry is evolving, with new technologies and techniques enhancing hygiene and efficiency. The use of automated and robotic cleaning systems is increasing, providing consistent and thorough cleaning with minimal human intervention. Advanced robots equipped with AI and machine learning can adapt to different environments and cleaning needs, optimising performance.

New sanitation technologies, such as antimicrobial coatings, ozone cleaning and advanced UV sterilisation, are emerging to further enhance plant cleanliness. These technologies offer additional layers of protection against contaminants and pathogens.

Data-driven cleaning uses sensors to monitor cleanliness levels in real time, allowing for targeted and efficient cleaning interventions. Smart sensors can detect areas with high contamination levels, triggering automated cleaning systems or alerting staff to take action. Additionally, the industry is moving towards more sustainable cleaning practices, using eco-friendly cleaning agents and reducing water and energy consumption. Implementing green cleaning technologies not only enhances hygiene but also supports environmental sustainability.


Maintaining high hygiene standards in food manufacturing plants is essential. By strategically placing water supply points, integrating advanced cleaning systems, designing for cleanability and establishing effective cleaning routines, plants can achieve optimal cleanliness and operational efficiency. Embracing future trends and technologies will further enhance the ability to maintain a clean and safe environment. Proper planning and consideration during the construction and retrofitting phases can lead to long-term benefits, ensuring the plant operates at peak efficiency while maintaining stringent hygiene standards.

Incorporating these cleaning considerations into plant construction and retrofits can help food manufacturers maintain high standards of hygiene, enhance operational efficiency and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Staying ahead of emerging trends and technologies will be key to sustaining these standards and achieving long-term success.

Image credit: Tan

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