First established in 1982, JBT’s Sandusky, Ohio Food Processing Technology & Training Center, has long provided customers with the opportunity to watch equipment in action before installing it into their factories. However, far from resting on its figurative laurels, the center is now breaking new ground, explains facility manager John Arnold.
The Sandusky Tech Center was originally set-up almost four decades ago to focus on the Stein brand, but since then we have progressed enormously and now have the ability to demonstrate almost all JBT Protein equipment. Our on-site testing capability features portioning, marination, coating, frying, cooking, weighing, material handling, and mixing equipment. We also have substantial freezing technologies, which we are now complementing with a new Northfield CleanFREEZE spiral freezer that will be available for testing mid-summer 2021.
Customers come in for different reasons: they might be looking at new equipment and want to know how it performs, in which case we can run product testing and look at how the process works in a conveyorized system. Or it could be an R&D project and maybe they can’t get time on an actual production line and want to have a look at how their new product cooks or freezes. It could be a case of wanting to look at a different process with the aim of increasing yield and throughput. We also work with industry partners by providing the facility and equipment for clean label ingredients, new types of coatings or other processing aids that are used in the production of food items.
We can carry out testing for any combination of JBT protein equipment, so that could for example be running a DSI Portioner into Schröder marination system into a Stein Battered Bread fryer oven into a Northfield freezer. We can set-up and run the entire system.
Of course with Covid, travel has been tougher especially between countries, so we will video the process or use online platforms to make it a virtual visit. For people travelling internationally who can’t get here, using these technologies and platforms allows them to watch the equipment in action, even at a distance.
This is not to say the pandemic was not without its challenges. A key element of what we do – in-house, hands-on training – was effectively halted as a result of the situation, but the expectation is this will be back on track by mid to late summer 2021.