From the mainstreaming of organic to huge growth in “free-from” foods such as gluten-free, nut-free, lactose-free, animal-free and vegan dairy products, changes in consumer demand have put pressure on dairy processors to produce a wider variety of products and SKUs to keep pace. Whether it involves switching from conventional runs to organic, or “free-from” raw ingredients and back again, turning over production lines takes time. On top of that, as more processors splice in organic production runs, they typically need to employ a separate set of CIP products or processes in order to meet organic standards. All this de-specialization presents growing efficiency challenges for dairy processing plant managers. 

In fact, one of the most common questions we hear from dairy plant managers goes something like this: “What can we do to increase uptime and productivity with our changeover processes?”

CIP/COP protocols play a big part in changeovers. Yet while most plant managers and quality and food safety leaders can rattle off a list of frustrations around cleaning and sanitizing processes, CIP/COP isn’t often viewed as a strategic advantage. But today, for processors to remain competitive in this new reality of de-specialization, plant managers need to explore every option to maximize agility as they juggle radically different production runs. 

Moreover, processors don’t have to live with the frustrations and inefficiencies of the limited range of organic-certified CIP chemistry. New organic-certified CIP chemistries can deliver meaningful efficiencies and solve some key changeover process challenges:


Validating Sanitizing Effectiveness

Conventional sanitizers commonly used in dairy processing operations have a tight range of effective use concentration. This requires operators to be hyper-diligent with pulling samples in a timely fashion to validate concentration and sanitizing efficacy. Not only does this tax already-burdened production employees, but there’s also the ever-present worry of falling outside the effective use concentration—or above the no-rinse concentration level. All of these potential outcomes lead to costly, production-stopping inefficiencies like re-sanitizing or extra rinse steps.

Solution: Sanitizers with Broader Effective Use Range

A new breed of CIP sanitizers use advanced, concentrated formulation to solve the effectiveness worries by expanding the effective use range. This significant buffer helps guard against inevitable production condition variability that can impact sanitizer concentration in a dynamic production environment. This concentrated formulation provides an added benefit that enables plants to dramatically reduce their chemistry usage—by as much as 42% (based off expected use concentration for Food Contact Sanitizing).


Beating Biofilms 

With more research demonstrating the serious risks of these impenetrable layers, biofilms have become the bane of quality and food safety leaders’ existence. Dealing with biofilm in today’s varying production environment typically leads to deviating from typical sanitizing SOPs. Using a separate product with more intense chemistry than the standard sanitizer also requires a lengthy rinsing protocol following application, further slowing down performance. 

Solution: Biofilm Efficacy At Standard Concentration

To tackle biofilm challenges, the new generation of CIP sanitizers is specifically designed with a low-pH formulation that can penetrate and destroy biofilms at standard use concentration. This added efficiency eliminates an extra rinse step, even for food contact surfaces in organic and other types of production. This innovative new chemistry is enabling plants to beat back biofilms within standard sanitizing SOPs, while keeping production moving smoothly.


Reducing Disruptive Acid Washing 

Dairy producers know they need to keep surfaces acidified to avoid the build-up of calcium-based deposits that can lead to sticking curd and other production quagmires. Switching over to organic and other types of specialized production runs generally means using a separate cleaning product to do frequent acid washing—increasing time and the need for a lot of extra water during the process.

Solution: Low pH Sanitizer Formulation

Forward-thinking plants are now turning to new organic-compliant sanitizers that can also be used across all production lines to deliver the same conventional production run benefits: modern concentrated chemistries that can sanitize and acid wash in the same step. By effectively doing a short, built-in acid wash between each vat as part of sanitizing SOP, they can push long acid washes to the end of the day—streamlining CIP and significantly reducing chemistry, water and energy usage.


Gaining Real-Time Visibility & Control 

As previously mentioned, most organic-compliant sanitizer products and those needed for the growing number of specialized products offer a narrow effective use range—mandating the need to manually pull and titrate samples within a tight two-minute window.

Solution: Conductive Sanitizer Chemistry

At Ecolab, one of the most exciting developments we’ve been part of combines these new innovative sanitizers with modern tech-driven concentration monitoring and controls. This continuous, real-time visibility to sanitizer concentration improves operational efficiency as more dairy processing plants produce organic and other specialty products being driven by health and wellness trends. This combination of conductive chemistry and automated monitoring technology enables automatic documentation of sanitizer concentration for QA and compliance leaders. These advances can help realize constant audit-readiness, produce automatic alerts if/when something falls outside the range, and allow for easier troubleshooting with a new, comprehensive digital log.


Simple Changes Can Unlock Big Efficiencies

We all know that de-specialization is the enemy of efficiency. But there’s no denying consumer demand for a wider variety of products. To thrive in this environment, dairy processors need to focus on agile efficiencies—strategies that enable them to take on new products and accommodate more frequent changeovers, without tanking bottom-line performance. There’s no silver bullet to this challenge, but agile strategies also don’t have to be complicated, heavy lifts. Switching to modern CIP chemistries is a perfect example: Putting a spotlight on the everyday hassles of the status quo and making an easy switch to innovative products that can immediately resolve those frustrations and deliver measurable efficiencies—while actually simplifying processes and lightening the load on plant staff.