Cleaning Food Processing Equipment: The Process

We live in a culture where foods and beverages are produced for mass consumption. Processed foods and beverages accommodate the lifestyles of many families. In fact, over half of the average American’s diet contains processed food and drink. In order to keep up with this demand, equipment must be used for processing and packaging in high volumes. For Production Managers, this means greater production and reduced downtimes, leaving little room for error, especially when food safety and quality are critical. The recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) law ensures companies follow basic control programs, including Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Pre-requisite Programs (PRP), Control Points (CP), and multiple others.

Routine Cleaning

Food and beverage plants should be performing routine equipment cleaning to guarantee a robust safety program. Depending on the production process, routine cleaning can vary from daily to weekly. However, it must be done. Why is routine cleaning so crucial? Safefood 360, Inc published a whitepaper that answers this question well: “Among the most important of these is the need to clean and sanitize your plant and equipment sufficient to produce food free of physical, allergenic, chemical and microbiological hazards.” Other reasons to routinely clean include:

  • Reduce food poisoning
  • Comply with customer requirements
  • Comply with legislation
  • Meet Global Food Safety Standards (GFSI)
  • Maximize productivity
  • Maintain positive audit results
  • Reduce pest infiltration
  • Prolong product shelf-life
  • Promote safe working conditions
  • Promote visually hygienic workspace

Safefood 360, Inc commented further on the importance of visual hygienics:

At the most basic level, the visual appearance of a food factory is an indication of the standards and culture of the company. It has a strong impact on the perception of an auditor or visitor and can influence the overall outcome of audits and securing new business. For this reason, the visual cleanliness of a company is as important as detailed HACCP plans.

Equipment cleaning focuses on surface areas in contact with the produced product; however simple this may sound; the process prevents multiple challenges.


The Challenges

Stainless steel tanks, ovens, and conveyors of various shapes and sizes are used for processing foods and beverages. Equipment manufacturers typically do not design equipment with accessible cleaning in mind. Therefore, equipment often must be disassembled by the operator to ensure that every surface area is properly cleaned, free of contaminants, visually hygienic, and compliant to GFSI.

This process, though important, is time consuming, expensive, and often dangerous for employees when manual labor is involved. Because cleaning is absolutely necessary, companies often consider it a necessary evil. Dangerous, costly, time-consuming – but necessary.

The good news for food and beverage processing companies is this: alternative solutions for aftermarket equipment cleaning are readily available.


Equipment Cleaning Solutions

Aftermarket products such as spray nozzles provide an alternative, efficient solution for cleaning and sanitizing equipment. Spray nozzles automate the cleaning process, ensure complete coverage of soiled surface areas, and eliminates the need for human involvement. Spray nozzles are also a cost-effective solution. A properly chosen spray nozzle can reduce water consumption, precisely clean entire surface areas, and increase production times via reduced manual cleaning. For example, rotating spray nozzles (discussed below) canreduce solvent consumption by 30% and shorten the entire cleaning cycle by 40%. With more cleaning responsibility placed into the mechanical component utilized, temperature, time, and solvent costs will consume less of the process.

The aftermarket installment is worth the investment and pays for itself over time.


Selecting the Right Nozzle for Equipment Cleaning

Various types of nozzles can be used for equipment cleaning. Choosing the right one depends largely on soil type, such as fats, oils, proteins, lime scale, dyes, algae, or fungi. At Lechler, we classify cleaning nozzles in five efficiency classes. Cleaning Efficiency Classes are defined based on soil type, including rinsing, light to medium soil, and persistent soil.

Cleaning Efficiency Class One: Nozzles classified in class one are low impact, excellent for light rinses. Static spray balls are suitable to class one cleaning because total spray coverage is not required in this case. Incidentally, static spray balls are perfect for use in hygienically sensitive environments. They are self-draining and easy to inspect. For more intense soils, though, the following cleaning efficiency classes should be considered.

Cleaning Efficiency Class Two: Utilizing free-spinning nozzles, class two solutions are perfect for removing light soils. Class two nozzles can cover tanks with a max. 10ft diameter.

Cleaning Efficiency Class Three: Class three nozzles deliver greater impact than class one or two, used primarily for medium soiling in tanks with a max. 18ft diameter.These nozzles are also considered free-spinning, like class two. This nozzle type is driven by the cleaning fluid used and can withstand extremely hot temperatures. They are also FDA-compliant.

Cleaning Efficiency Class Four: High-impact, controlled rotation nozzles are categorized in class four. Class four nozzles remove heavy soiling over the entire tank. Controlled rotation nozzles are high-intensity, guided by an internal turbine that moderates speed at varying pressures.

Cleaning Efficiency Class Five: Class five soil is most persistent, requiring high-impact, gear controlled rotation cleaning nozzles. Gear controlled nozzles are solid jet nozzles mounted on spray heads. They can operate in every direction possible and provide the greatest impact.

Controlled rotation and gear controlled nozzles are compatible withLechler’s rotation monitoring sensor. The monitoring sensors reassure operators that the nozzles are actually rotating inside the tank. The sensor is easily adjustable according to tank size, pressure requirements, and specific nozzle used.


Lechler: Your Aftermarket Equipment Cleaning Solution

AtLechler, we are equipment cleaning experts. If you are still unsure which nozzle is best for your application, we would be happy to walk you through every step of the process. We are dedicated to total customer satisfaction and success, determined to positively impact your bottom line. With any questions, contact us today via (800) 777-2926 or through our online contact form today!