04/03/2023 | Food & Beverage | 9 MINUTE READ

Understanding CIP and COP Systems

In the event that you’re in the pharmaceutical, beverage, or food industry, cleaning is an important stage of your production process. If you make the mistake of bypassing one aspect of the cleaning process, it can result in lost products, delays to production, fines by the FDA, unsafe products, and product recalls. Cleaning and sanitizing your facilities will allow you to minimize this risk.

Two systems that can help you implement thorough and effective cleaning techniques include Clean Out of Place (COP) and Clean In Place (CIP). If you’re thinking about upgrading to a partially automated or fully automated cleaning system, you should know about the benefits available from the CIP and COP systems. This guide helps you understand how these systems work and why you should have them implemented in your facility.

cip and cop systems

What are CIP and COP Systems?

CIP systems are specifically designed to help you clean interior surfaces for process equipment, which can include everything from tanks to pumps and pipes. This is a highly advanced system that can be outfitted with heat exchangers and sensors to ensure that the cleaning processes are effective and can be repeated.

COP systems are meant to clean smaller pieces of equipment that a CIP system would be unable to address. The different types of items that can be cleaned by a COP system include everything from clamps to pump rotors.

If process equipment must be disassembled for cleaning, a COP system will be effective. There are times when COP systems will be used in combination with manual cleaning techniques if a CIP system is too expensive for the facility in question. Both of these systems are important when cleaning industrial facilities, which is why skilled operators should be in charge of them.

CIP systems clean harder to reach surfaces that are commonly used in milk processing facilities and bakeries. These areas are difficult to spot and clean with long brushes. If a CIP system is properly installed, it’s usually faster when compared to manual cleaning. It also requires less labor and no reassembly or disassembly.

When inspections are performed on CIP systems, they can produce repeatable results if they are managed by a skilled operator. Another notable advantage of using this system is that workers will have less exposure to chemicals. The main downside is that a CIP system has high upfront costs.

COP systems come with lower upfront costs when compared to CIP systems. They also provide cost savings when taking manual cleanings into account. Operators won’t be exposed to strong chemicals and high temperatures when using the COP system. However, COP is a manually intensive solution that requires reassembly, disassembly, and unloading/loading of the COP washer.

cip and cop systems

When to Use CIP and COP Systems?

The automated CIP process is often used during the production processes of creams, sauces, lotions, beverages, personal-care products, and semi-solid foods. During the computer-controlled process, a detergent is sprayed and circulated throughout the path that the system takes.

The turbulence that’s created from the CIP equipment assists in dislodging particles from smaller crevices where harmful bacteria and pathogens can develop if they aren’t thoroughly cleaned. Once the particles are dislodged, they will fall outside of the processing path, after which chemical cleansers are sent through the same equipment to sanitize components and kill any harmful bacteria. These chemicals are able to be stored for later reuse. Once the chemical cleansers have been applied, the equipment is rinsed to complete the cycle.

Manufacturers and industrial facilities typically use COP methods on utensils and other small items that are unable to be cleaned in the area where they’re used and need to be disassembled beforehand. As mentioned previously, everything from fittings to hoses can be cleaned with this technique. Even though the processes that COP and CIP use differ, COP has the same cleaning solutions as the CIP technique.

During the COP process, an immersion washer is the main piece of equipment used to clean items. These are lengthy tanks that spray jets of a detergent solution to create turbulence and scrub off processed materials and ingredients when the parts are submerged in the hot water. While the parts are submerged in the water, they will soak in a sanitizing solution that allows for a deep clean. The parts are then reassembled and installed back into the necessary manufacturing equipment.

Benefits of CIP and COP Systems

Using CIP and COP systems in your industrial facility offers many advantages that can’t be found with manual cleaning. Even though manual cleaning can be just as effective, employees would need to perform an ample amount of manual labor to produce the same results. They would also be exposed to dangerous chemicals on a regular basis. The main benefits of these systems include:

  • Enhanced efficiency
  • Reduced cleaning time and cost
  • Improved sanitation and hygiene
  • Increased equipment lifespan
  • Compliant with regulatory standards

Even though COP is more intensive than CIP, manual cleaning requires far more labor than both of these techniques. Improving efficiency with cleaning means that these processes can be completed on a shorter timeline, which should help you save cleaning time and reduce how much you pay to have equipment and parts cleaned.

Even though manual labor can provide the same amount of cleaning as CIP and COP systems, it’s rare for sanitation to be as thorough. Both of these systems are able to dig deep into the crevices that are often overlooked during manual cleaning, which ensures that the food, beverages, or personal care products that are made with these parts are kept clean.

Because of the improved cleaning that these systems provide, you should also benefit from increased equipment lifespan. When your equipment lasts longer, costs should be reduced since replacement equipment won’t need to be purchased as often. Another advantage of superior cleaning is that it will be easier for your facility to be compliant with regulatory standards.

cip and cop systems

What Do CIP and COP Systems Clean and Sanitize?

CIP systems are designed to clean interior surfaces of:

  • Processing vessels
  • Process pipes
  • Tanks
  • Blenders
  • Spiral freezers
  • Mixers
  • Roasters and fittings

These pieces of equipment can be cleaned without needing to disassemble them. As for COP systems, they are designed to clean smaller parts after they have been disassembled from larger pieces of equipment. Parts that are routinely cleaned with COP systems include:

  • Product handling utensils
  • Clamps
  • Fittings
  • Pump rotors
  • Casings
  • Hoses
  • Tank vents
  • Impellers

Both CIP and COP systems use the same types of chemicals during the cleaning process, the primary of which include:

The types of chemicals you choose depend on numerous variables, the primary of which is what equipment you’ll be cleaning. When you use these cleaning agents correctly, you should notice that the cleaning agents:

  • Break down the bonding forces between the surface and contaminants
  • Reduce the surface tension of water, which makes it considerably easier for your cleaning solution to penetrate the contaminants
  • Dissolve soils for simpler and more efficient cleaning
  • Emulsify water-soluble contaminants
  • Soften fats for easy rinsing

Why CIP and COP Systems Complement Each Other?

In the event that your facility has the budget needed to obtain a clean-in-place system, this option is considered to be more effective when compared to COP and manual cleaning procedures. COP is a great option for companies that are on a stricter budget but want to use a system that’s more efficient than manual cleaning.

Using the two systems together offers the most benefits. You’ll be able to avoid manual cleaning altogether and can clean smaller parts that need disassembly as well as larger parts that don’t require disassembly. With both of these systems in place, you’re prepared for any cleaning situation.

If you’re set to install a CIP system in your facility, the first thing you should do is make sure that any small equipment parts are removed to either be cleaned manually or used with a COP system. Cool water that’s below 80 degrees Fahrenheit should be used to pre-rinse your piping and equipment lines, which will help to reduce the coagulation of proteins and remove some of the less stubborn soils.

Once the pre-rinse water is flushed, your cleaning solution of choice will be sent through the system to get rid of any chemicals, contaminants, or residues. At the end of this step, another rinse will occur.

The last step is for a sanitizing agent to be applied, which occurs just before you use the equipment. You can perform this process with a chemical rinse or through circulating hot water. If the equipment lines are set to produce low-acid products, you should use hot water for this process. If acid-containing products are being produced, highly acidic water should be used.

As for COP systems, they are configured depending on your plant-specific or industry-specific standards. The types of equipment that need to be cleaned and your preference for automation or manual control will determine what the system looks like and how it’s implemented into your facility. It’s possible for COP systems to come with the most basic functionality that requires manual control. However, they can also be highly automated.


CIP and COP systems are beneficial for any industrial facility that wants to make sure that their equipment is kept clean at all times. The beverage, food, and pharmaceutical industries will benefit substantially from these systems since clean equipment results in clean products.

If you want to make sure that you choose the right system for your equipment, keep in mind that COP systems are most effective with smaller pieces of equipment that have been disassembled. Once one or both of these systems are installed in your facility, you’ll benefit from lower costs, better efficiency, and improved sanitation.

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Posted by Dominic O'Donnell on April 3, 2023

Sensorex is a global leader in the design and manufacture of quality sensors for water quality and process applications. The company offers more than 2000 sensor packages for pH, ORP, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, free chlorine, chlorine dioxide, UV transmittance and other specialty measurements, as well as a full line of sensor accessories and transmitters. Its expert technical support engineers solve analytical sensor challenges with custom designs and off the shelf products.

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