PTC, John Bean Technologies and Freshly Frozen Little Green Peas
Verdi Ogewell posted on November 04, 2020 |
On the surface, freezing freshly harvested green peas may not sound too advanced.

On the surface, freezing freshly harvested green peas may not sound too advanced. However, this is much more challenging than meets the eye—at least, if it is being done on an industrial scale.

Leif Olsson, PLM manager for the food tech division at American food technology company John Bean Technologies (JBT), knows what this is all about. He has the detailed knowledge of what it takes to freeze five kilos of peas per second under optimal hygienic conditions, while meeting high regulatory and consumer requirements. He also understands what kind of PLM support is needed to build JBT’s 20-meter-long conveyor belt-based industrial freezer and packaging machine for peas and many other machines related to frozen food.

With the help of PTC's Windchill suite, a proprietary configurator for variant management, Creo CAD design software including simulation solutions for CFD and a sharp development department, Olsson and his coworkers have created a platform for product realization that matches demand.

“New technologies like IoT and additive manufacturing are very interesting, but technology does not stand on its own,” says JBT’s Leif Olsson, responsible for PLM at the food tech division. “Theoretically, it is not a major problem to set up models that look good around new things. At the same time, this must be integrated into an existing context.”
“New technologies like IoT and additive manufacturing are very interesting, but technology does not stand on its own,” says JBT’s Leif Olsson, responsible for PLM at the food tech division. “Theoretically, it is not a major problem to set up models that look good around new things. At the same time, this must be integrated into an existing context.”

But is it enough in a tough, competitive world? Nothing stands still when it comes to the product realization and usage dynamics that characterize today's development environments.

“What benefit does a company like JBT have from modern PLM technology such as digital twins, threads, IoT, IIoT and Augmented Reality? How do we create sustainable business models around these pieces? And how do you combine the new with what you already got?”

These are hyper-interesting issues that Olsson is constantly thinking about, developing new solutions for and launching pilots around, together with the company's PLM partner PDSVISION, one of Europe's largest PTC consultants.

“Yes, this is how it is, but we must remember that technology does not stand on its own,” says Olsson, working at JBT's food tech facility. He continues, “Theoretically, it is not a major problem to set up models that look good around new things. At the same time, this must be integrated into an existing, historical context where technology, methodology, business, equipment and other things must compete for space in ‘landscapes’ that are rarely characterized by unlimited resources in terms of time, staff and money.”

Since JBT’s/Frigoscandias first installed FLoFREEZE back in 1962, millions of tons of fresh food products have been successfully and profitably frozen on FLoFREEZE fluidized bed linear freezers. The equipment provides true fluidization, using a patented air flow system that separates and freezes the most delicate products, while simultaneously fulfilling the industry’s toughest requirements. Generally, a lot has changed in terms of product realization of these production units. The innovation journey is an ongoing process and right now JBT is moving away from the image of a distinct mechanical industry to instead develop solutions where the mechanical content decreases and electronics, sensors, software, IoT control and predictive maintenance increase radically.
Since JBT’s/Frigoscandias first installed FLoFREEZE back in 1962, millions of tons of fresh food products have been successfully and profitably frozen on FLoFREEZE fluidized bed linear freezers. The equipment provides true fluidization, using a patented air flow system that separates and freezes the most delicate products, while simultaneously fulfilling the industry’s toughest requirements. Generally, a lot has changed in terms of product realization of these production units. The innovation journey is an ongoing process and right now JBT is moving away from the image of a distinct mechanical industry to instead develop solutions where the mechanical content decreases and electronics, sensors, software, IoT control and predictive maintenance increase radically.

Balancing the Old Against the New

Developing successful models is obviously about balancing and integrating new technology investments with older technology, finding profitable business cases while convincing customers of the value of something new—while at the same time having space to manage the regular product development and production streams.

“There´s undeniably a lot of complexity in this,” asserts Olsson, pointing to the fact that these days no one can afford to lean back and be happy with what you have. If you want to sharpen your competitiveness, you must constantly be on your toes so as not to be run over.

“Our journey towards innovative solutions is therefore an ongoing process and right now we are moving away from the image of a distinct mechanical industry to instead develop solutions where the mechanical content decreases and electronics, sensors, software, IoT control and predictive maintenance increase radically,” Olsson adds.

Working in PTC Environments

So, what is it that puts food on the JBT table? The company has two divisions: Food Technology, where the emphasis is on industrial freezing equipment for everything from vegetables such as peas to bread, salmon filé and chicken nuggets; and the Aero Technology division, which produces airport equipment such as the transport vehicles that move aircrafts on the ground, as well as a variety of other services.

This is not a bad mix, considering the tough situation faced by the aerospace industry under the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

JBT has 6,000 employees in total, of which a group works on the development and production of industrial freezing equipment and in fact also ovens.

Collaboration between the company's development center facilities in Sweden; Scotland; the headquarters in Ohio, USA; and the site in Brazil, currently uses the Windchill/PDM Link system as a common platform, mainly to exchange CAD data.

When it comes to PLM tools, JBT generally works in PTC-dominated environments, with Windchill as a cPDm platform and the proprietary configurator mentioned above. Right now, however, this configurator is in the process of being integrated into Windchill.

On the CAD and simulation side, JBT uses PTC CREO, with some support from ANSYS in terms of simulation. The ovens, on the other hand, are designed digitally in Autodesk's 3D CAD software Inventor.

What standards do most organizations need to have in place to become a leading player within their market sector? For JBT, these standards are commitment, cooperation, credibility and putting the customer first, explains Leif Olsson. This recipe for success has made JBT one of the leading players in the food industry for more than 100 years, and they are today at the cutting edge of global development of customized industrial solutions and food processing services. If JBT is to remain one of the global leaders at what they do, a world class PLM partner in terms of software tools and related services is paramount, adds Otto Wetterling, CEO of PTC’s channel partner PDSVISION. He claims that the cooperation with PDSVISION has resulted in examples where JBT has been able to reduce design time by about 50 percent on customized equipment. JBT’s food tech divisions work primarily in PTC environments; one example is the 3D CAD area where PTC’s Creo is used. The image above shows a design produced in this software.
What standards do most organizations need to have in place to become a leading player within their market sector? For JBT, these standards are commitment, cooperation, credibility and putting the customer first, explains Leif Olsson. This recipe for success has made JBT one of the leading players in the food industry for more than 100 years, and they are today at the cutting edge of global development of customized industrial solutions and food processing services. If JBT is to remain one of the global leaders at what they do, a world class PLM partner in terms of software tools and related services is paramount, adds Otto Wetterling, CEO of PTC’s channel partner PDSVISION. He claims that the cooperation with PDSVISION has resulted in examples where JBT has been able to reduce design time by about 50 percent on customized equipment. JBT’s food tech divisions work primarily in PTC environments; one example is the 3D CAD area where PTC’s Creo is used. The image above shows a design produced in this software.

The Importance of a Sharp PLM Partner

JBT’s PLM partner PDSVISION also plays a key role.

“An interesting question,” says Otto Wetterlin, CEO of PTC’s channel partner PDSVISION, about the challenges connected to new technologies.

“An interesting question,” says Otto Wetterlin, CEO of PTC’s channel partner PDSVISION, about the challenges connected to new technologies.

I asked PDSVISION’s CEO, Otto Wetterlin, why a competent consultant is of such crucial importance.

“It all has to do with the product development world's current dramatic change in technology. The range of services related to such things as PLM, IoT and sharpened user experiences are strongly affected by this,” Wetterlin says, and adds that the need for qualified advice is therefore becoming more necessary and more important than ever.

But how is the advice provided by consultants being affected by digitalization, new out-of-the-box solutions, the explosion of new platforms, the Internet of Things and growing product complexity?

“It’s an interesting question,” Wetterlin states. The tempo is quick, and he points to a number of challenges. “What you believe in at some point in time is one thing, but the development dynamics in the next step can lead much further than you could imagine in your wildest imagination,” he concludes.

Where does it all lead? At some point you’ve got to jump on the train of development to get started. “With IoT, AR, additive technology and other things, there will be many alternatives,” says Wetterlin. “But as much as all new technology affects the production processes, 'PLM legacy' must be included in the equation for the whole thing to be successful. Integration between old and new is a business-critical survival factor and successful transformation requires efficient bridges. We have worked a lot with JBT on data migration of legacy, integration and in parallel on what can be achieved with new technologies.”

The product development of machines depends a great deal on variant management, which is connected with adapting each machine's capabilities to what needs to be frozen, as well as adapting the equipment to the factory layout.

The product development of machines depends a great deal on variant management, which is connected with adapting each machine's capabilities to what needs to be frozen, as well as adapting the equipment to the factory layout.

Wetterlin’s point is that the road to success is paced with a correctly balanced and step-by-step implementation. Leif Olsson agrees.

“If you have done the same thing for 25 years, in an organization where everything works well, it can be difficult to change the existing train of thought. At the same time, successful investments in new technology are a must. PDSVISION is responsive and good at guiding things back to the right path when things run off the plan. We discuss most things about processes, design methodology, configuration and the test pieces with them, and it helps us to move faster.”

Why Freezing Technology is a Technical Complex Challenge

Armed with this powerful artillery and consulting support, Leif Olsson's team attacks and develops solutions to tough technical and manufacturing challenges related to JBT's production.

But why is freezing fresh vegetables a challenge?

“Several reasons,” says Olsson. “It's not about a few peas in a package, but about tons of freshly harvested peas. In the 20-meter-long and 6-meter-wide process line that we develop for freezing peas, speed is essential. Time is money and the peas themselves are fragile and must be handled carefully within tight time frames when the harvest arrives at the food process factory. Speed ​​is therefore critical to success.”

But there are several challenges. Freezing freshly baked bread is one thing; freezing peas is quite another. Bread contains a lot of air and therefore has a completely different density than the much more solid peas. Freezing thus requires different air flows.

“The air content in bread means that it freezes slowly, while the denser peas freeze faster,” says Olsson. “This means that you have to handle cooling air currents in different ways in the equipment. For the peas this is, among other things, about blowing away the air layer closest to the surface of the peas. The temperature there differs and is an obstacle to direct effects from the cooling air. It must be removed for the freezing process to be effective.”

In turn, this means that the product development of machines depends a great deal on variant management, which is connected with adapting each machine's capabilities to what is to be frozen, as well as adapting the equipment to the factory layout. Furthermore, the development work contains CFD simulation for air flows, which is used to optimize the cooling effects related to the food to be frozen.

“Exactly,” says Leif Olsson. “Variant and configuration management is one of the challenges in product development. We’ve solved the problem with a solution based on modules, which match different configuration requirements. In this, the machine equipment must not only meet different products for freezing but must also be matched to varying factory layouts.”

Customers deliver their specifications to JBT and based on this JBT decides which configuration to use.

“We have developed calculation solutions to match the needs. These calculations are then fed into the design program Creo, where the dimensions are then adapted according to their needs,” Olsson adds.

On the Way to Become Integrated into Windchill

But as stated above, nothing stands still in product development and manufacturing. Today, JBT’s PLM crew and other coworkers have several projects in the pipeline, including the proprietary configurator which is in the process of being integrated into Windchill. JBT also has a sales configurator in the process of being connected directly to Windchill.

In the latter case, the thought is that the salespeople should be able to configure the customer’s requirements—for example with regard to voltages, complimentary products and other things. The choices are then to be entered into Windchill to tailor a product.

“We believe that there is a lot to be gained here in terms of shorter development times, and configuration solutions definitely have the potential to contribute to this. When it comes to discussions with customers and the road to manufacturing, we have so far succeeded well. But of course, there is more to gain—based, among other things, on getting the configuration pieces started earlier in the process. Here, the sales configurator is a promising step in that direction.”

Towards Sharper eBOM and mBOM Management

Other areas where JBT and Olsson are working proactively focus on new and sharper solutions around BOM generation.

“Like many others today, we have a mix of eBOM’s (engineering Bill of Materials), created in the PLM system, such as a production-adapted eBOMs, and mBOMs (manufacturing BOMs) issued by the ERP system. We are working towards refining them so that we have a clearer eBOM that is broken down to an mBOM before production. This is driven by the fact that we have more sites that have different production processes. The approach is to do this in Windchill because we see a powerful and, at the same time, easy-to-use tool for this.”

JBT’s current ERP system is INFOR’s Movex, which in 2021 will be replaced by INFOR LN—basically the same, system as Movex, but improved.

3D Printing is a Giant Step in Development

In the type of mechanical food tech equipment that JBT produces, sheet metal forming and the technologies for this have traditionally been an important part of the development and manufacturing work—but this may not be where the major development steps forward are hidden. On the component side, things have happened that can be very important, not least of which have come as a result of the emergence of additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology.

When it comes to components in shorter manufacturing series—which is the case for JBT, which builds larger food technology production lines—this technology is exactly what can contribute to increased rationality.

“Absolutely,” agrees Leif Olsson. “Just such a thing is that with additive manufacturing you can create a single component in one run, where previously maybe ten smaller parts, often CNC machined, were put together for this component. Weeks can turn into hours, so of course this can have a huge impact on lead time gains. Naturally, we are actively looking at this, as well as being able to create models for local spare parts production. Even there, we think there is a lot to pick up. On the bottom line, you can achieve things that you never thought of even as an opportunity.”

“Development when it comes to sensors is extremely exciting, where we are moving towards being able to put them in at any temperature. In areas such as maintenance, spare parts can be changed before they break,” says JBT’s PLM responsible for food tech, Leif Olsson.
“Development when it comes to sensors is extremely exciting, where we are moving towards being able to put them in at any temperature. In areas such as maintenance, spare parts can be changed before they break,” says JBT’s PLM responsible for food tech, Leif Olsson.

Explosive Development with IoT, Digital Twins and Augmented Reality

An interesting question in this context is: what does it look like with things like digital twins, IoT, automation and augmented reality? All these pieces have developed explosively in recent years, and today we are on our way from theoretical hype towards the implementation of these technologies in real business applications. Implementation of these technologies has ended up higher and higher on the agenda in many companies—but at the same time, a problem has been finding good business models.

What are Leif Olsson’s and the JBT team’s thoughts and plans around this?

“The possibilities are absolutely extremely interesting, and we look at them from slightly varying perspectives,” Olsson says. “It is clear that things such as IoT and automation are just at the beginning of their evolutionary journeys. Development when it comes to sensors is extremely exciting, where we are moving towards being able to put them in at any temperature. In areas such as maintenance, spare parts can be changed before they break.”

“Predictive maintenance has fantastic opportunities to contribute to longer life for equipment. In the same way, maintenance measures can be much easier to perform when, with the help of wearables and AR technology at a distance, you can guide people who are not experts in performing, for example, a component replacement. We are looking at this, and the same goes for digital twins which are also included in our plans for the future and we have already started pilot projects here,” he adds.

Olsson points to the automotive industry's journey towards the future as an excellent example of where development is heading. This industrial segment, together with the aerospace segment, has always been at the forefront of development.

JBT does not intend to take their ambitions lightly.

“Just as cars have gone from being mostly a matter of sheet metal and mechanics, they have moved towards becoming software and electronics on four wheels. We are now heading in the same direction,” he says.

Apart from the wheels, of course.

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