Optimize Tank Cleaning

A more-effective method can offer significant benefits

By Andrew Delaney, Alfa Laval Tank Equipment Inc.

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Many plants use totes for storing and transporting materials. Improper or inefficient cleaning of totes directly impacts overall productivity. Traditionally, facilities have outsourced tote cleaning or paid a fee to return dirty totes to suppliers. However, rotary impingement tote cleaners enable cleaning to be done on site in 2–7 minutes, cutting costs and improving productivity, as one chemical company can testify.

That company ships its products in totes; after the products have been delivered, the totes are returned for re-use. It also re-uses many of the totes it gets from suppliers of raw materials. The director of operations was frustrated by the time, inconsistency and costs of sending dirty totes to a vendor for refurbishing/cleaning. He also had to make sure that re-used totes were 100% clean to avoid the dangers of cross-contamination between product shipments. This often necessitated manual cleaning on site — but the results were less than perfect.

So, he purchased a rotary impingement machine. It reduced the time spent cleaning totes on site and increased the level of cleaning effectiveness. As a result, the company spent 50% less time cleaning while eliminating outsourcing and achieving a consistent clean. The machine paid for itself in one week.

Rotary impingement machines aren’t the answer for all tank-cleaning applications, though. For example, with relatively easy-to-clean residues such as powders, the devices can be overkill for the job — providing more water-jet impact than necessary to effectively clean — and for the budget. Whereas a spray ball or rotary spray head typically costs under $1,000, rotary impingement machines generally run $3,000–$5,000. Just as with any purchase, conduct a return-on-investment (ROI) analysis to determine the payback of a rotary impingement machine versus a spray ball or rotary spray head. If the payback on a rotary impingement device exceeds 5 years, then opt for a spray ball or rotary spray head. An easier test is to ask yourself a simple question: Is this spray ball getting my tanks clean, quickly and effectively? If the answer is yes, then stick with the spray ball. If not, then it may be time to upgrade to the higher water-jet impact offered by rotary impingement cleaning.

If quick dispersion is needed to coat a tank rapidly with a chemical or disinfectant, don’t consider rotary impingement machines. At this time, they don’t have the capability for quick dispersion.

Also, at sites where water is abundant and cheap and, thus, where reducing water use isn’t a top priority, the savings provided by a rotary impingement machine may not be as compelling as elsewhere.

It’s also important to note that some rotary impingement machines can be damaged if operated at a pressure higher than that recommended by the manufacturer.

Tank size, internal obstructions as well as the residue must be considered when selecting and sizing a machine. Also keep in mind that not all rotary cleaners are equally robust. Many “off-the-shelf” devices easily clog, break down and incur high repair costs; the result is inefficient cleaning and massive tank downtime. To make the most out of your CIP, your tank cleaning machine should be durable. Furthermore, maintenance and necessary repairs should be quick, easy and affordable.

Tank and tote cleaning, when done properly, can save massive amounts of time and water. Audit your CIP to see what you can do to make your sustainability goals a reality. The right rotary impingement machine may provide significant benefits that directly impact the bottom line.

ANDREW DELANEY is executive vice president, operations, for Alfa Laval Tank Equipment, Inc., Exton, Pa. E-mail him at andrew.delaney@alfalaval.com.

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  • <p>Although chemical processing isn't our forte here at Rodem, we can vouch for the results of optimized tank cleaning in the sanitary arena. We actually had one client looking to add more tanks to meet processing demands. When we looked into it we discovered that by improving cleaning of current tanks we could avoid adding new costly tanks and still improve production to meet demands. The Alfa Laval Gamajet impingement cleaning devices took this personal care manufacturers cleaning time from 5 hours to 45 minutes! </p>


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