The Cleanability of Valves

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Although pieces of equipment may be the same in functionality, they vary in sanitary design. If the wrong installation method, equipment design, or cleaning process is chosen, then a facility may be open to contamination. Choosing the right design and following the correct maintenance and sanitation methods are the best ways to avoid recalls or lawsuits over unhygienic practices.

Evaluating sanitary standards can be a first step toward determining if a piece of equipment is a good fit for a particular sanitary application. For more in-depth analysis of equipment and a system’s design as a whole, a system audit may be needed. Failing to evaluate a process system in this way could be risky to your company and customers. An excellent example of this in action is the common use of ball valves.

Process Engineer, Trent Bullock, said, “A ball valve is a very dirty valve that typically isn’t okay in any food processing plant, but there are tons of them out there. Plants use them every day and think they’re fine, but I personally wouldn’t want to eat anything that’s been manufactured with a ball valve.”

The most reliable way to choose sanitary, cleanable equipment is by utilizing 3-A Sanitary Standards and European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG) certifications as a reference. These organizations consider, not only whether the materials used are food grade, but also whether the equipment is designed in a way to prevent dead legs and product entrapments to allow for thorough cleaning. Equipment designs have to pass extensive testing or review to earn compliance with those standards.

However, even 3-A compliant ball valves can be misleading, because there are two different types of 3-A certifications. Many ball valves are certified in compliance with clean-out-of-place (COP) standards. If a COP ball valve is treated like a clean-in-place (CIP) valve and is not completely disassembled and manually cleaned every day, then it as dirty as if it had never been cleaned.

Small but critical details like this can be missed easily, and that’s one of the reasons regular auditing is essential for any business. With the media attention that recalls and lawsuits receive today, it’s easy to see the value of preventing a potentially catastrophic product safety failure. There are many companies that can help audit processes and suggest or implement improvements, including Central States Industrial (CSI). Audits are especially helpful when personnel might not have the resources or knowledge to ensure a facility is functioning at the hygienic level needed.

Everything from equipment selection, piping design, installation standards and cleaning processes must come together to ensure a process system is truly hygienic. An engineering study performed by one of CSI's hygienic process experts can diagnose complex issues and develop quick solutions.

If there is any doubt about the cleanliness of equipment in a facility, an engineering audit is the most effective method to make sure the right equipment is in use. Audits are especially helpful when personnel might not have the resources or knowledge to ensure a facility is functioning at the hygienic level needed.

Note: If you are interested in an alternative to full-port ball valves, CSI offers LAUFER Free Flow Shutter (Arc) valves as a hygienic option. The valve is EHEDG certified, as well as 3-A and FDA compliant. Other alternatives to ball valves include Alfa Laval Unique 7000 Series seat valves or the LKB Butterfly Valve.

Expert Bio

Trent Bullock - Process Engineer

Trent graduated from University Missouri Rolla, currently known as Missouri University of Science and Technology, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He has vast industry experience in controls and automation, process engineering, manufacturing engineering, and OEM equipment development. He has been a Process Engineer at CSI since 2012 and is responsible for designing sanitary process and control systems for food, dairy, and beverage industries. He is focused on providing support and technical expertise to both internal and external customers.

Liz Braden - Employee Development And Continuous Improvement

With a degree in Manufacturing Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology, Liz Braden has experience in the food processing industry where she is adept at managing production and improving plant processes. Her experience at Central States Industrial (CSI) includes working as a Technical Service Representative and Customer Service Manager. She is now Manager of Employee Development and Continuous Improvement where she looks after training, resource development, and CSI’s continuous improvement program.