The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic caused difficulties for the food industry worldwide with key employees – or whole teams – having to undergo quarantine during peak production. In a country as big as South Africa, overcoming such problems posed an extra problem, but it is here that JBT’s PRoCARE preventative maintenance program stepped in to help.
As concern about Covid-19 grew, so – as in many other countries – consumers began to turn to packaged or canned foods due to their perceived safety, and this in turn provided a boon for South Africa’s canning industry. However, circumstances inevitably took their toll on the processors themselves in the form of enforced employee absences, placing pressure on companies to maintain production.
JBT’s PRoCARE preventative maintenance program has provided a solution for many companies in the industry by not just attending to issues before they become problems – and avoiding costly downtime in the process – but by enabling customers to better plan their maintenance budgets.
“Our PRoCARE customers have a fixed monthly amount and are able to avoid suddenly having a massive expense due to a breakdown that they didn’t budget for,” explains Martin Maree, JBT’s South Africa-based Customer Care Account Manager for Diversified Food & Health.
In fact, Maree says JBT has recently signed PRoCARE contacts with two customers to cover services and breakdowns, as well as discounts on parts and lubricants; the cost of which is typically spread over 12 months to make budgeting simpler. “We normally look at the customer’s history and based on that give them a contract that includes inspections, labor and travelling, so the customer has an even spread in their maintenance budget and it’s a lot easier to manage,” he says.
However, JBT has gone even further to help customers by supplying replacement technicians to cover periods of enforced quarantine. “During the pandemic, we’ve had some customers where their maintenance team had to go into quarantine, so we’ve supplied technicians at a specific rate so they didn’t have to worry about having any of their own technicians on site,” continues Maree. “We really did try everything we could to keep our customers running, especially in the canning industry because of a rise in demand for shelf-stable, non-perishable foods.”
Of course the pandemic brought its own challenges for JBT, particularly when it came to supplying spare parts with courier services and in-country logistics all under pressure. In response, JBT opened a second warehouse – to compliment the existing site in Cape Town – in the northern city of Johannesburg, with a view to more effectively supplying components to customers in the surrounding areas.
“South Africa is quite a big country; from Cape Town in the South to Johannesburg is about a two hour flight, so we opened up a warehouse in Johannesburg to have parts closer to customers and alleviate some of the transport issues we were experiencing,” explains Maree.
“These were all little things to make sure our customers weren’t caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s about making sure we have spare parts – especially long lead-time items – available, and when you are a PRoCARE customer and we do these inspections, we can advise well in advance what would be required in the near future and through the PRoCARE agreements improve maintenance planning for our customers.”