Packaging equipment suppliers have been putting their engineering ingenuity to the test in recent years to meet increasing and intensifying meat and poultry customer demand for more sanitary designs. As a result, clean-in-place (CIP) options, among other design trends, are a continued focus to make equipment cleaning and sanitation efforts more effective.

At West Liberty Foods’ Tremonton, Utah co-packing facility, for example , employees are required to wear clean suits in the plant’s slicing rooms and in the IQF packaging area. “To our knowledge that’s the first time any meat company has ventured into clean-suit technology in IQF packaging,” Gerald Lessard, WLF COO, told Meat&Poultry this past year.

Whether it means utilizing offthe-shelf solutions or custom design, packaging equipment suppliers are responding to the “clean movement” at a rapid pace.

Addressing sanitary design

Multivac Inc., Kansas City, Mo., has consistently taken a leadership role in the continuous development and improvement of sanitary design features for packaging machinery for the meat and poultry industries, says Bob Koch, director of sales with the company’s food division. “We believe this is done best in collaboration with our customers and core industry groups like the American Meat Institute,” he adds. “Most recently, we have seen this reflected not only in our latest R XX5 generation of thermoforming equipment, but also in our new T 700 and T 800 tray sealers.”

In the realm of developing new packaging equipment, CIP is an important design feature, Koch says. “It is, however, one of several options we give our customers in designing their packaging solutions,” he adds. “Our ongoing assessment of market needs and demand will determine the extent to which CIP is available in future machine models and generations.”

CIP is currently available as an option on two Multivac thermoformers. “These systems are at the higher volume end of a very broad product range,” Koch says.

Multivac’s newest packaging machinery offered for meat and poultry customers with CIP capabilities include the R 535, a high-speed thermoformer for high-volume production, and the R 245 high-speed thermoformer for moderate- to high-volume production.

Touting options

Sealed Air’s approach is to offer options to improve its customer’s operations, efficiencies and bottom line, says Bill Bartell, North American Equipment marketing director for Sealed Air’s Cryovac Brand, Duncan, S.C.
“Our philosophy has always been to provide equipment that meets the highest sanitation standards,” he adds. “Sanitation is a key component and consideration of the design process.”

Sealed Air previously did not offer CIP systems in conjunction with its be used in many food applications, such as those governed by 3-A, FDA and USDA,” Bartell says. “Sanitary design is obviously an important consideration in the design, operation and maintenance of the equipment. Sealed Air is now offering a new VFFS System that includes a CIP system as part of the standard configuration. This type of CIP system could also be used in conjunction with our standard VFFS systems, if requested by a customer.”

Providing CIP features is becoming a common theme as processors consider investing in packaging machinery. “Customers are looking at methods to improve their overall operations,” Bartell says. “CIP systems can offer improvements in cleaning and sanitation times. Improvements in the quality and consistency of cleaning and sanitation can also be realized. Improving the customer’s operation, as well as improving the quality of cleaning and sanitizing, are drivers that will make CIP systems more common features on our packaging machinery.”

In the primary-packaging area of fresh meat, there has not been a large market pull for CIP as adequate sanitation is provided by current methods, Bartell says. “As labor costs increase and sanitary protocols become more stringent, market drivers for CIP could change the situation. Recapitalization cost to move toward CIP is a major inhibitor, he adds.

Onpack line of VFFS machines. But due to the growing number of requests, it has worked closely with its customers to create CIP systems that incorporate its Onpack VFFS machines. “Our Onpack VFFS machines can “To date, only one of our Onpack VFFS systems includes a CIP system as part of the standard configuration,” he continues. “It is important to note other Onpack VFFS systems can be configured to utilize a CIP system, if desired by a customer.”

RapidPak solutions

RapidPak was the first rollstock machine manufacturer to build its machines in compliance with the Dairy 3A standard, says Daryl Shackelford, vice president of the RapidPak division of Alkar-RapidPak Inc., based in Lodi, Wis.

“In fact, RapidPak was first rewarded the Dairy 3A/23-04 certification on March 5, 1992, approximately 10 years before most of the other rollstock suppliers even started to work on Dairy 3A certification,” he added. “When the American Meat Institute introduced its 10 Points of Sanitary Design in May of 2002, RapidPak embraced this initiative, made further sanitary design improvements and was awarded the AMI Supplier of the Year in 2004 for its commitments and accomplishments in the area of sanitary design.

At the Worldwide Food Expo held last October, RapidPak again raised the sanitary design bar by introducing the RP-1000, a revolutionary design with still more sanitary design enhancements, not to mention the additional focus on ergonomics and environmentally friendly “green” features, Shackelford says.

“RapidPak introduced the world to the concept of CIP rollstock machines, by introducing this fully integrated technology at the AMI Exhibition in the fall of 2002,” he adds. “Since then, RapidPak’s CIP feature has continued to be an important option, especially with the additional attention now being made by the other suppliers in the past three years.”

RapidPak machines are sold to other industries, such as the sterile medical device market where CIP is not relevant. “Even so, roughly 30 percent of our RapidPak machines are now equipped with some form of CIP,” Shackelford says.

CIP capability is available on all models of RapidPak machines. “Our newest RapidPak model is the RP-1000, which also has CIP optional capability,” he says. The primary design feature is the forming die is located directly under the sealing die, which saves a lot of floor space.”

ULMA’s top priority

Sanitary design has been ULMA Packaging’s No.-1 priority in the design of its new and updated equipment for quite some time, says Bill Chastain, vice president and managing director of Ball Ground, Ga.-based ULMA Packaging Systems Inc., an ULMA Group company.

“We feel CIP is an evolving technology that is becoming increasingly important as an enhancement to our product line,” he adds. “Any steps or technology that can be applied to increase the sanitation level and reduce the labor and possibilities of contamination must be evaluated and if found viable, offered to our customers.”

All of ULMA’s newest TFS horizontal form, fill and seal machine line has been designed with hygiene and sanitation in mind. All four models offer CIP capability as an option, Chastain says. The TFS 700 series of horizontal form, fill and seal equipment for vacuum and/or modified atmosphere packaging of meat and poultry products is the newest company equipment with CIP capabilities.

Component elimination

CP Packaging LLC, Appleton, Wis., has designed its VisionPak machine with the mindset of eliminating as many components or cables from the product work zone as possible, explains Ray Buchko Jr., vice president of operations. The VisionPak frame is constructed of solid round stainless-steel frame components that are mechanically fastened and bonded with a twopart epoxy providing a hermetic joint.

“CIP features are very important on a packaging machine,” Buchko says. “The VisionPak machine is designed with minimum components in the machine product zones. By eliminating the need to have motors/ gearboxes or cables and switches in the product zone, the machine is wide open for sanitation and inspection.”

All VisionPak machines are designed to meet the highest sanitation standards, he adds “When a Vision-Pak leaves our factory, components have been designed and mounted with all surfaces exposed for the CIP processes,” Buchko says. “The Vision-Pak machine is not shipped standard with CIP piping mounted through the frame; adding a series of pipes and fittings in the machine only creates more surface area for product build-up.”

The VisionPak is the newest line of packaging equipment manufactured by CP Packaging. The machine was in development for three years prior to the first installation in November of 2008. “The concept behind developing the VisionPak machine was to simply bring the latest in sanitation design to the meat and poultry industry,” Buchko says.

Looking ahead

Expect CIP features to become more prevalent for packaging machinery for the meat and poultry industry. “As more processors have a chance to learn about the technology, we are confident it will continue to grow in popularity,” Multivac’s Koch says.

It is predictable CIP features will continue to increase in importance and prevalence, RapidPak’s Shackelford agrees. “The focus on food safety is here is stay, and grows in significance every year,” he adds. “It is foreseeable the world will continue to demand ever-more cleanable/sanitizeable/food-safe packaging machines.”

CIP technology is evolving and will be more prevalent in packaging machinery used in food applications, whether that be meat, poultry, cheese or produce, ULMA’s Chastain says. “Current CIP systems are an enhancement to the sanitation process, but we do not feel it can completely replace the ‘human factor’ of inspection, testing and final sanitation,” he adds.

CIP features will definitively become more prevalent for packaging machinery used by the meat and poultry industry, Sealed Air’s Bartell predicts. “CIP features will have a significant impact in improving customer operations by improving cleaning and sanitation times and efficiencies,” he says. “These improvements will help customers realize increased production levels and product quality. However, economics will drive the future of CIP. As mentioned, the economic equation could tilt toward CIP with increased labor cost and more stringent sanitation protocols.”

All companies have a responsibility to continually upgrade the products they manufacture to meet the highest level of sanitation, Buchko, with CP Packaging. says. “Having a machine capable of CIP solutions will continue to be very prevalent as it relates to food safety,” he adds. “As you minimize the disassembly of a machine for cleaning purposes as well as eliminate contact surfaces on the machine, there is less potential for contamination.”