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JBT Tech Centers: supporting customers through challenging times

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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. 

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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.

Decreasing exposure
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.”

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Wide-ranging support
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.

Learn more about JBT Research & Technology Centers 

Learn more about the JBT Technical School

Meeting the seasonal challenge: how PRoCARE can make a difference

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JBT’s Preservation business unit supports container filling and seaming equipment as well as in-container sterilization technology such as rotary cooker/coolers, hydrostats and retorts. Products processed through this equipment includes everything from ready meals to canned vegetables and wet petfood. What makes this industry different to others covered by JBT is that it includes seasonal and year-round customers, both of which have a common need to avoid downtime and maximize productivity. This is where JBT’s PRoCARE® program has provided customers with a means of achieving that mutual goal.

“We have seasonal customers who have production windows of only three months a year and others who run year-round, and each of them have different sets of problems,” explains JBT Preservation’s Madera, California-based Service Manager Diego Ulloa. “With seasonal customers, the main problem is they don’t have staff and operators year-round, so the knowledge can be limited and things can get overlooked. With year-round customers, they often have very short, limited maintenance windows. Downtime is more critical for those customers, and unscheduled downtime can be a real challenge for them.”

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Avoiding downtime
There is often also a problem with operator turnover, according to Ulloa, with operators retiring and companies experiencing difficulties hiring replacements. A further difficulty is that a lot of customers in the industry are on a limited budget, which can sometimes act as a restraint on the amount of maintenance they would like to do. 

The advantage PRoCARE offers, he continues, is the option to train operators and avoid unscheduled downtime by carrying out audits ahead of time. “Highly-experienced JBT technicians are able to identify potential equipment problems and can plan ahead of time by ordering parts, so that if and when a shutdown happens, actual downtime is kept to a minimum,” explains Ulloa.

“By planning ahead, JBT maintenance visits become a lot cheaper, enabling companies to better control their budget. PRoCARE customers will also see discounts on services and parts, while JBT has furtherseasonal support to help those customers with limited staff.”

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Productivity increase
To give an example, Ulloa cites the case of two customers, both tomato processors, who work on a seasonal basis. After the season is completed, JBT engineers carry out an equipment evaluation, make recommendations and order parts where needed. The engineers then return to make sure the equipment is in optimal condition for the following season.

“They’ve told us that since they started with PRoCARE, they have seen a tremendous reduction in downtime and improvement in productivity,” says Ulloa. “Some of these customers might only be running production for two-three months, so those two-three months need to be as optimal as possible.”

Learn more about JBT’s PRoCARE program

New Proseal analysis platform maximizes production efficiencies

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JBT’s tray sealing specialist Proseal has launched an advanced automated platform that captures and analyzes valuable machine data to improve the efficiency and performance of the entire production line. The new Proseal ProVision™ system enables companies to maximize the benefits of Industry 4.0 and the fully automated factory.

Using cutting edge technology, the web-based analysis platform has been developed for Proseal’s GTe and GTs range of tray sealing machines to help identify and understand the causes of downtimeand other inefficiencies, in order to maximize the production capacity of the tray sealer and increase overall equipment effectiveness. Importantly, ProVision can also be easily integrated with existing third party equipment to accurately deliver information and drive improvements throughout the whole production line.

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ProVision’s easy to use reporting tools can be used to generate advanced reports that inspect machine data and compare historical performance analysis over any given time. This helps to identify any line inefficiencies and pinpoint factors that may affect productivity in terms of both personnel and operating procedures. Additionally, data patterns can be monitored to identify root causes of problems which could otherwise be hard to diagnose.

The versatile ProVision can be viewed on any web-enabled device, including a PC, smartphone and smart TV. The Live View function allows real time and remote performance monitoring, enabling operators to work away from the line and efficiently operate multiple machines, allowing engineers to check on machine performance and provide timely interventions if any problems are detected.

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ProVision is offered at no extra cost to all new Proseal GTe and GTs machines that are supplied with an Ewon device to allow internet connection. As part of Proseal’s futureproofing of its equipment, updated software and Ewon devices can be retrofitted to pre-existing GTe and GTs machines. In addition, a scaled down version of the platform, ProVision Lite, has been devised to deliver many of ProVision’s key benefits, to older legacy machines. 

“The development of our new Industry 4.0 advanced analysis platform demonstrates Proseal’s commitment to technological innovation,” says Rob Watson, Proseal Control Systems Manager. “ProVision offers benefits to all levels of factory personnel, from managers and engineers to line supervisors and operators, delivering invaluable, fine-detailed performance data that will help production lines to operate consistently at maximum efficiency.”

Learn more about Proseal’s new ProVision system

Remote testing gives JBT customers access to travel-free, filmed results

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Although restrictions on movement are gradually easing, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to throw up challenges for JBT customers when it comes to the testing and validation of equipment, including the sterilization and pasteurization of sensitive products and packaging. To overcome travel restrictions for JBT technicians and customers alike, JBT’s Process Technology Center (PTC) in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium has introduced a new, virtual testing service, which allows customers to view their products being tested at a safe distance.

Utilizing a high-definition camera attached to large viewing windows at the Technology Center’s new pilot retort installation, customers can remotely inspect the effects of high temperature and pressure on products and packaging during testing, helping identify how and why problems might occur.

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“We have simulators to replicate sterilization and pasteurization processes at JBT Belgium where we also build continuous and batch sterilizers,” explains PTC Manager, Jo Suys. “Customers often bring their products to us for testing or we do it on-site with their own machines, as well as carrying out validation of sterilization processes.

“Obviously with the pandemic, we cannot travel outside Belgium unless it is essential and even then it is still very limited to countries around us like Germany and the Netherlands. However, it isn’t always practical or easy to keep two metres apart when you are next to a noisy machine and need to speak with a customer. Also, testing in-house at our technical centre with a customer has become problematic because we cannot travel out and they cannot travel to us, making the process very difficult.”

The solution has come in the form of attaching a camera to the exterior of the pilot system and filming the process, so the customer can watch what is being done and view the result online. 

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Remote viewing
Most recently, filming was carried out for a Netherlands-based processor of corn on-the-cob who wanted to identify why damage was occurring to some areas of the corn during pasteurization and work out how this could be avoided. “During pasteurization, corn kernels become darker in color, but if you have damaged areas on the cob, these become very dark very quickly, so the customer wanted to see when this happens to find out if there was a way of preventing it,” says Suys.

“The retort at our new pilot installation has big viewing windows, so you can really see what is happening. As a personal visit from the customer was impossible, we used the camera to film every stage of the test and sent it to them. This approach was so successful, they have now asked for a second day of testing.”

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Effective results
A second successful example of the new system was when a customer from Saudi Arabia requested help in identifying a problem with the sterilization of plastic bottles filled with ready-to-drink milk formula for newborn babies. As Suys explains, pressure differences during the process were causing some bottles to lose their shape between heating and cooling, leaving the packages unsuitable for sale.

“Using the camera, we tried to find out at what exact moment the plastic became hard again and whether this caused any deformations in the bottle, and this helped us to find an effective solution for the customer,” he says. “Of course, you can already do a lot with simple photos through before and after evaluations, but this is a great approach if the customer needs to find out what is happening during processing, but – for whatever reason – is unable to travel or receive an on-site visit.”

Request more details about remote testing from JBT Belgium

JBT introduces augmented remote assistance and preventative maintenance for PRoCARE customers

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JBT has announced a major expansion to its PRoCARE® Service Agreements for customers to reflect the new challenges many food and beverage processors face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the incorporation of augmented remote support and preventative maintenance features.

Available for both new and existing customers, the PRoCARE packages feature innovations including PRoSIGHT™, JBT’s own augmented remote support service, which makes use of smart glasses to enable JBT technicians to inspect machinery and equipment at a distance. PRoSIGHT was fast-tracked into production in response to the pandemic and will now also be available to PRoCARE customers.

JBT iOPS®, a service offering real-time monitoring and analytics for enhanced machine reporting and preventative maintenance, also forms a key component in enhanced PRoCARE packages. Providing powerful, actionable insights that help prevent costly breakdowns, preventative maintenance from JBT iOPS can reduce the lifetime total cost of ownership, in the process increasing yield, throughput and uptime.

Ready-made replacements
Keeping downtime to a minimum also forms part of another key element in the new PRoCARE options in the form of Complete Spare Assemblies. “Recently, a number of leading companies in the infant formula industry signed up for PRoCARE as we were able to offer Complete Spare Assemblies as part of the package,” explains JBT Customer Care Sales Manager, Rex Pattyn.

“Complete Spare Assemblies can reduce downtime tremendously. The idea was triggered by powder industry customers who use seamers for cans of infant formula. This is a high value product, so downtime is very costly.”

In the event of a breakdown, JBT Complete Spare Assembles only take on average an hour and a half to put in place and get up-and-running, giving customers the piece of mind of having a ready-made replacement on hand to keep the lines running.

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Remote troubleshooting
Of course, one of the most headline-grabbing options now included with PRoCARE is PRoSIGHT augmented remote assistance. “The remote connection allows our experts to feel like they are right there with the customer,” says Pattyn. “This solution is the next best thing to being on-site on the production floor.”

PRoSIGHT can be used for immediate troubleshooting and breakdown repairs, as well as for maintenance operations, inspections and assessments – included as part of PRoCARE – commissioning and on-the-job training of Field Service Engineers. It facilitates these services in quarantine areas, dangerous conflict-zone areas and countries where time consuming entry visa and vaccination requirements are needed prior to entry.

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Added value
Such remote services have become increasingly important amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to JBT’s Customer Care Manager for Filling-Closing-Sterilization, Johan Van Riet, who says the development of PRoSIGHT was accelerated to overcome restrictions on most on-site activities, including inspections. 

“When the pandemic took hold around mid-March, we immediately started thinking about how we could best support our customers,” says Van Riet. “These options, which can now be included with PRoCARE Service Agreements, bring added value for customers by helping them maintain machinery and equipment in optimal condition and guarding against avoidable wear and tear to components.”

Learn more about PRoCARE Service Agreements

Proseal support helps keep food packaging lines running

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The fast-response service on which JBT’s tray sealing specialist Proseal has built its reputation is proving invaluable in enabling food customers globally to maintain production and output at a time of greatly increased demand, with the pandemic having placed immense pressure on food supply chains at a time when social distancing measures and absences from work are creating additional challenges on production lines.

Proseal continues to go above and beyond, doing its best to ensure that its existing industry-leading turnaround times are being maintained and to provide immediate help to customers to ensure machinery can run at peak optimum performance. The company’s in-house manufacturing teams are working flat out to meet the increased demand, liaising closely with the planning team to prioritise tasks dynamically throughout each day.

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This heightened manufacturing capacity has been made possible by the dedication of Proseal employees and the measures that have been put in place to ensure their health and safety in line with official protocols such as social distancing.

Spare part production and dispatch has been speeded up wherever possible and this has been aided by Proseal’s strategic stockholding of standard parts. Machine tooling production, which is normally completed within a two-week lead time, has also been accelerated; in several recent instances tooling has been designed, manufactured, tested and dispatched within a matter of days to meet customers’ emergency requirements.

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Equally important, Proseal continues to provide 24/7 phone support to diagnose and troubleshoot issues, providing a vital helpline to customer’s engineering teams. Allied to this, the company’s online and virtual Provision system helps to monitor downtime, OEE, and error management in order to proactively identify issues before they become problems.

For ongoing production matters, Proseal’s comprehensive Test Kitchen facilities also remain operational, enabling food companies to carry out shelf-life trials and seal integrity testing. As well as continuing to support new product development processes, the service can also assist companies having to adjust existing recipes, adopt new tray formats or materials to compensate for any shortages in their supply chains.

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The Test Kitchen has more than 15,000 trial plates in stock along with vast stores of trays and films in different materials. Testing facilities include a vacuum tank, gas cylinders for MAP and gas analysers. In addition, Proseal’s ProTest™ unit is able to measure how much force is required to peel a film lid from a tray, enabling the user to determine if the seal strength is suitable for the product’s lifecycle. 

To maintain safe working practices, tests are being carried out by the Test Kitchen team in isolation, with samples and reports sent back and forth between the customer and Proseal, rather than the customer coming to the Proseal site. “We have always recognised how essential it is for food companies to be able to maintain production and that is why we have continued to invest heavily in our range of support services,” explains Proseal’s Tony Burgess. “We are delighted that this investment means we have been able to provide the fastest response for customers during these very testing times.”

Request more information about Proseal solutions

JBT’s PRoCARE Service Agreements help maximize uptime for California produce companies

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Booth Ranches, Eco Farms, Ventura Pacific, and Fillmore Piru are just a few of JBT’s California, US produce customers that have benefited in recent years from PRoCARE® programs. A service which focuses on minimizing downtime and maximizing uptime, the PRoCARE proposition is an innovative customer care agreement which focuses on preventative maintenance, enabling customers to avoid breakdowns and budget the replacement of machinery parts.

For these kinds of produce customers, regularly scheduled PRoCARE service visits and in-house aftermarket parts management have kept equipment such as JBT Bin Scrubbers and Citrus Coatings Dryers running at 95% uptime by eliminating unscheduled downtime and unwanted breakdowns, explains William Wofford, JBT’s Sales & Service Manager, Fresh Produce Technologies & Fruit and Vegetable Processing.

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“PRoCARE service inspection reports keep the customer aware of the equipment conditions and upcoming wear parts cost for customer budgeting, while regular on-site training programs are conducted with the customer’s preventative maintenance teams, operational supervisors and lead personnel to ensure operational safety, sanitation and cost reduction,” he says.

The other major benefit from PRoCARE service agreements, according to Wofford, is helping ensure JBT equipment is kept running at optimal efficiency. “Just because the equipment is running does not mean it is running to its optimum performance condition,” he says. “To make this happen we need to understand the condition of the equipment at all times and customers’ requirements and equipment performance goals. And that’s where the PRoCARE service program comes in. We monitor the machines and we make sure items are replaced as needed. We make sure these machines run as they were manufactured to run.”

Learn more about JBT PRoCARE Service Agreements

Blow Molding Controls Upgrade brings old technology into modern era

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JBT Food & Dairy Systems has been producing high quality blow holding machines for over 100 years under the SF&DS brand. Their reliability is such that machines produced in 1971 are still in service today, but the very fact of their age – with many installed over 50 years ago – means they typically contain obsolete hardware and software. However, JBT has introduced a new solution which will enable customers to continue to benefit from the machines’ quality and reliability, while bringing them into the modern age.

The Blow Molding Controls Upgrade replaces essential parts of the machinery as an interesting alternative to replacement, which resolves many of the problems encountered when using old systems, including lengthy breakdowns due to a lack of spare parts.

To overcome such challenges, the Blow Molding Controls Upgrade introduces a new controls system using state-of-the-art software, trending and remote support. By replacing the HMI terminal, processing computer, mold control boxes and IO modules, an old machine is brought up to a modern standard. The new controls system significantly reduces the risk of breakdowns, but should one take place, JBT can swiftly supply spare parts to limit downtime.

JBT’s BottleTec™: the modern version of the Extrusion Blow-Molder.

Cost-effective solution
“Many of these machines are still out in the field and are being used by companies to produce sterile plastic bottles, but because the control system is obsolete, the possibilities to repair them and keep them running are becoming fewer,” explains Auke Bouwense, JBT’s Customer Care Manager for Blow Molding and Filling Systems.

“There is trade-off between investment in repair and investment in a new machine. Replacing the control system is a very invasive operation, so we have developed the Blow Molding Controls Upgrade to manage that risk.”

JBT carried out its first installation of the new controls system during the summer months of 2019 and it has proven to be both cost-effective and efficient. “The system is up and running and has become a very good example of a successful development project,” says Bouwense. The customer now has a year-over-year strategy to convert the rest of their blow molding machines.”

“The Blow Molding Controls Upgrade makes an old system relevant again and the investment is a lot lower than if they had bought a new machine,” he adds.

Learn more about the Blow Molding Controls Upgrade

JBT’s PRoCARE: helping keep HPP downtime to a minimum

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Being able to maximize efficiency is essential for any company using High Pressure Processing (HPP) from JBT Avure to increase shelf life and ensure food safety, which is why downtime must be kept to a minimum. This is where a PRoCARE program from JBT Avure comes into play. 

With PRoCARE, equipment is inspected and maintained per the manufacturing standards to optimize performance and maintenance technicians receive on-going training.  Maintenance employee turnover is an issue customers are faced with around the globe.  With the training offered as part of PRoCARE, employees will be kept current with the required maintenance practices.

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Preventative maintenance
The System Uptime Review Evaluation (SURE) from JBT Avure is one way of guarding against unnecessary HPP downtime and is available to Avure customers – free for the first year – as part of JBT’s PRoCARE preventative maintenance program.

As Tim Boyle, JBT Avure’s Director of Customer Care for HPP, explains, SURE focuses on carrying out a full visual inspection of machinery, measuring pre-stress levels and making sure all components are working at maximum efficiency. Another key element to the SURE inspection is ensuring all aspects of the HPP safety systems are working properly and customer personnel are following the correct safety protocols.     

“Safety is one of our main concerns in everything we do.  When you are running machines at 87,000 psi, we need to be sure the safety systems continue to perform as they were designed”, says Boyle. “HPP is a growing technology in the food industry and we want to ensure that it maintains its reputation for safety in terms of the food our customer’s process as well was with the operation of our equipment” he emphasizes.

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Identifying problems
SURE allows JBT technicians to identify areas where maintenance is not being performed properly, even finding instances where customers are prematurely discarding thousands of dollars of parts which could easily be re-lapped and reused. “With the maintenance employee turnover issues our customers face, we often find that new employees don’t fully understand the maintenance requirements and how to perform the work.  This level of uncertainty can lead to less efficient work time and more machine downtime,” explains Boyle.

“Through the PRoCARE program’s combination of the SURE inspection and immediate training, we can identify areas of improvement and spend time training both new and existing employees.  This real time feedback is extremely effective in showing not just what needs to be done on the machine, but why it is important.”

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The PRoCARE package of the SURE inspection and three days’ maintenance training is now included free for the first year when purchasing a new Avure HPP machine. For those customers that would like further support, JBT Avure can customize a PRoCARE Level 2 package to meet their specific needs. These options can be service visits from Avure technicians, custom parts kits for easy ordering, parts discounts, emergency service discounts and also the JBT iOPS (our internet of things) portal for enhanced machine reporting. “Our goal is to become an integral part of our customer’s success through exceptional customer service,” adds Boyle.

Learn more about PRoCARE options

JBT launches Hygienic Piping System Provider Buyers Guide

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JBT has introduced a free-of-charge Hygienic Piping System Provider Buyers Guide, which aims to walk customers and non-customers alike through the process of acquiring new solutions with the focus on avoiding all-too-common pitfalls. The guide, The Top 10 Questions To Ask When Choosing a Hygienic Piping System Installation Provider, will discuss the key questions and factors that need to be considered before making a decision.

Buck Evers, Director of Field Services at JBT’s A&B Process Systems, says the guide was put together to give companies a valuable resource before and during the decision making process, outlining steps that should be taken and hazards that must be avoided. “The guide is designed to help companies in making the buying decisions because it looks at the process from a customer’s perspective, outlining the questions they need to ask to make a decision,” he explains.

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“If you only look at price and don’t consider other factors, you could end up with a supplier that doesn’t have the experience, the certifications or the safety performance to execute a job or hit the budget,” Evers continues. “The total cost of selecting a low price could be higher because companies can end up paying through accidents or having to change orders during the project. Poor quality can also have repercussions later where companies are forced to make corrections because the suppliers weren’t skilled enough.”

From a JBT perspective, Evers says that one of JBT’s key strengths is that the company provides ongoing support during the lifetime of the system or machinery, ensuring piece-of-mind should mishaps occur. “Supporting customers long-term through JBT’s customer care program means we can stand behind them,” he adds.

Download a free copy of the Top 10 Questions To Ask When Choosing a Hygienic Piping System Installation Provider Buyers Guide