Like most activities across the food processing industry, the testing of new products and processes has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with previously routine visits by customers to JBT testing centers or JBT visits to customers restricted by the ongoing situation. However, virtual monitoring and remote support are providing JBT customers with innovative solutions that are helping avoid delays to the implementation of new systems.
Like most international companies, JBT has had to find alternatives to travelling to meet customers and this includes JBT’s Tech Centers, among them the JBT Research Technology Center for In-Container Sterilization in Madera, CA, where the emphasis is on continuing to provide thorough support. “Even during these challenging times, we have been open and fully active, and are here to help customers,” says Narsi Ponagandla, JBT’s Madera-based RTC Manager for Liquid Foods.
The Madera center, he says, establishes processes for customers by performing tests and supplying the data to customers. It further has the added assurance of having FDA process authority-approved team members on hand to make sure all testing is up-to-date and compliant with current standards.
One such example of support provided to a customer was a canned coffee processor with a steam-water spray pilot retort used for establishing commercially sterile processes. With JBT process engineers unable to travel to the facility to conduct thermal studies and train personnel, the customer opted to ship ingredients to JBT’s Madera Process Technologies Laboratory to carry out thermal studies and design thermal processes without the need to travel.
“The customer chose to do this to decrease exposure of both the JBT process engineer as well as their personnel,” explains Ponagandla. “Heat penetration tests are conducted in the Madera Lab and processes established and sent to the customer. We have batch and continuous retort simulation systems and can run the test depending on what the customer needs.”
The Madera Process Technologies Laboratory, which is recognized by both the FDA and the USDA, provides a wide range of process authority services including in-container and aseptic processing expertise provided by a team of highly experienced thermal processing experts. The 8,000 ft² pilot plant and laboratory facility specializes in process establishment and consulting for batch or continuous in-container systems as well as aseptic systems, covering areas such as sterilization and thermobacteriology.
Process authority consulting services cover the validation of newly installed sterilization equipment and the re-validation of existing installed equipment, both JBT and non-JBT. The facility also works with customers to develop thermal processes for product-container combinations for every type of packaging from cans and glass to plastic and pouches.
The Tech Center further provides an Aseptic Processing Course covering continuous flow and filling technologies, as well as a five-day Thermal Processing Academy, which includes one day’s hands-on pilot plant experience and gives an overview of thermal processing from sterilization concepts to process calculation methods.