C.I.P in the 

"Ready Meals Industry"

N.E.M Business Solutions        Tel / Fax  : 01823 680119     Mobile   07768 981196 


      Ready meals     Recipe development at kitchen scale    Ready meals   

"Ready Meals" are one of the fastest growing sections of the UK food industry and have been for several years. This situation has resulted in a number of small scale enterprises blossoming into fully fledged industrial scale operations in a very short time. 

This meteoric growth has left many companies struggling to cope with the technical aspects of running a large scale cooking and packing organisation. In order to try and bridge this gap in technical skills and experience some companies have fallen back on the skills and services provided by the manufacturers of the processing equipment. 


           From This                                  to                                                This !

Unfortunately in a number of cases the equipment manufacturers are "good engineers" but have very little experience of using or cleaning the equipment in a day-to-day operational situation.  Some equipment is by its complex nature difficult to clean, this not only applies to CIP (Cleaning In Place) but to all general cleaning.


Here are a couple of examples that can easily be avoided if a little thought is put into the design process. Don't be afraid to let operational staff get involved in the design process. Standard "off the shelf" pieces of equipment may seem like a less expensive deal in the short term, but living long-term with some of these problems is often far more costly.

CIP in the ready meals sector is being "pushed and extended" towards the limits of "practical acceptability" by the need to "turn the plant round" quickly for the next recipe. This situation is especially noticeable in the cooking vessels that are notoriously difficult to clean quickly.

Traditional methods of "boiling-up" (filling a cooking vessel with cleaning solution and letting it simmer for an hour or so) are far to slow and wasteful. The standard techniques used in large sections of the food industry to fit spray balls and "spray-clean" vessels also has similar problems. "Burnt-on" material can take a considerable time to be removed by the relatively low pressure used by a spray ball.

In situations where there is a need for minimal "down-time" then high pressure cleaning techniques are needed. This does not mean a team of cleaners with pressure washers. The fine mist created when normal pressure washing lances are used will carry dirt, debris and bacterial from one are of the plant to another.

Pressure washing. The generally accepted method for high pressure vessel cleaning is to fit a "high pressure rotating spray device"

 High pressure rotating heat by Toftejorg. TJ20g          High pressure rotating spray head

It may be necessary to fit more than one spray head to ensure total coverage within the vessel, this often the case where complex agitation mechanisms are fitted.

complex agitator horizontal   complex agitator  

In some factories the down-time for a complete CIP process is 21 minutes (7 minutes pre-rinse, 7 minutes detergent circulation, 7 minutes final fresh water rinse). The cycle time is dictated by the time needed for the rotating head to complete a full cycle (the residence time), in this case 7 minutes.

 multiple spray devices

Cleaning vessels and pipe work that has contained "particulates"  (rice, vegetables, meat, fruit) presents its own variety of problems. Solid objects can block valves, especially non-return valves. Pumps and filters often trap solid debris preventing it being flushed from the system by the CIP pre-rinse.

This is often tackled by pumping the pre-rinse liquid to drain in an area local to the equipment being cleaned. This of course means there have to be suitable drains in these areas. If the drains are not part of the original design for a project, adding them later is a time consuming and costly operation.


Cleaning of packing and filling equipment can also be problematic, many filling machines are not designed for CIP cleaning and careful selection is needed to ensure that the equipment purchased is capable of being cleaned without being dismantled.

The labour cost in many "ready meals" factories is staggeringly high due to the nature of the operation, and a few more staff to dismantle and clean equipment often go relatively un-noticed amongst all the others. The labour cost is only part of the story, dismantling and re-assembling the equipment is time consuming and almost inevitably leads to additional wear and breakages. Fully CIP capable equipment will reduce labour costs and down-time. Automated CIP techniques will also give a repeatable and reliable clean. 



N.E.M Business Solutions        Tel / Fax  : 01823 680119     Mobile   07768 981196 

E-mail   neil@nem.org.uk