Providing customers with greater flexibility in continuous sterilization is an ongoing challenge for Rick Wilson, JBT’s Global Product Line Director for Retort & Rotary, when it comes to developing new systems and solutions that meet customer needs. Wilson, who oversees research and development in the segment, says the primary focus has been on systems that not only achieve faster sterilization, but which also improve product quality and throughput.
As well as being responsible for technical sales support, Wilson and his team are focused on both developing new products and improving existing systems in JBT’s rotary and retort product portfolio.
On the rotary side, key products are the Rotary Pressure Sterilizer – which is primarily for round metal cans that require pressurised sterilisation – and the Rotary Atmospheric Sterilizer for sterilizing high acid products, such as peppers in brine or tomatoes in sauce.
Retort meanwhile has two main product areas – those which use a static process for products that do not benefit from agitation such as tuna in a pouch, and those which do, such as dairy.
In the second category, JBT has a system – unique in the market – called the SuperAgi Agitating Batch Retort, a patented product, which makes use of spray nozzles mounted inside the reel; a feature that offers superior temperature distribution compared to other agitating retorts.
Wilson says JBT’s strategy is to develop systems that improve the quality of the product being sterilized, while at the same time increasing throughput.
“There are primarily two ways to do that,” he explains. “You either heat the product quicker (to sterilization temperature) and/or you cool the product quicker. All of what we are looking to develop are ways of compressing that cycle. By doing that, generally food quality is increased and throughput is increased because you can process more in a given day.”
JBT currently has several products in development that it is hoped will help achieve these aims by both increasing capacity and shortening the overall process. These, Wilson reveals, involve either optimizing the agitation process or combining different, complementary technologies. “The challenge is being able to heat the product up very quickly, so we are looking at technologies that allow us to do that,” he says. “These products are on our horizon for 2018.”
JBT’s other focus, Wilson continues, is examining the possibilities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT) for delivering a more complete picture of the operation and through analytics improve the overall efficiency of the canning line. “Customers are looking for flexibility in continuous sterilisation and that’s what we are trying to achieve,” he adds.