At the heart of the Piñabar
From fresh pineapple to bite-size portions of fruit in a resealable bucket. The Piñabar makes it possible in less than 20 seconds. For a customer in a supermarket it is just a matter of pressing a button. For Pierre van de Braak, director at Dutch International Manufacturing (DIM) and the inventor of the Piñabar, a complex process preceded it. Being a machine manufacturer, he got support from Schneider Electric, S2 and itsme for the electrotechnical section of the machine.
DIM seeks cooperation in the development of operating system
“A number of years ago, we responded to a request from Dutch supermarket chain COOP. They were looking for a solution to peal and slice fresh pineapples in their shops. We were already developing machines and separate components, so this was music to my ears. The Piñabar came into being out of a cooperation with an engineering firm”, says Pierre enthusiastically. When America came into view as a sales market, one hurdle had to be taken: UL certification. This American quality label focuses on (fire) safety for humans, animals and the environment and is mandatory. Moreover, not only the individual components had to be UL-certified, but also the machine as a whole. And precisely on those points DIM got stuck.
At that time, itsme was already involved in the project as a supplier of the LED lighting. Frank Eijkenboom, account manager at itsme: “At first, it was all about the UL inspection of the lighting, but as we went along we started talking about the heart of the machine, namely the operating system. This turned out to be built of products from various manufacturers, while standardisation at one single brand offers so many advantages. Think only of one single contact person. We probed deeper in order to understand exactly what it was DIM needed and what the machine had to do. And because we are independent, we search for as long as is needed until we have a solution that fits in seamlessly with a specific customer’s situation. And then we link the appropriate brand to it. In this case, it brought us to Schneider Electric.”
“We search for as long as is needed until we have a solution that fits in seamlessly”
Willy Hendriks, account manager OEM at Schneider Electric: “With a local presence in more than a hundred countries we offer a worldwide availability of products and an extensive support for national and international projects. And on top of that, we offer a complete range of UL-certified products for the American market.” For DIM this turned out to be a great choice, because itsme could supply Schneider Electric’s complete package of components for the control of the machine. S2 from Margraten, the Netherlands, a customer in itsme’s network, joined the project for the electrotechnical engineering and for writing the software program. This technical automation company manufactures the operating panel and manages the machine’s software.
Paul Mullenders, project manager at itsme: “During the preliminary phase itsme selected the components with the correct specifications. Schneider Electric’s application engineers assisted in fine-tuning the frequency converters and the controls and S2 took care of the engineering.” Pierre has an example of this fine-tuning: “At first, we had to decide early on in the production process whether the voltage should be 220 or 110, for the European and American markets respectively, whereas I like to determine that as late in the process as possible. Therefore, we now produce only one kind of operating panel, so that we can easily switch between 110 and 220 volts; we just swap the frequency converter.”
Logistical relief – plug and play end result
itsme set up the logistical flows: all the components needed for the control platform are held in stock at their location. They supply them to MBT, where the platform is assembled. From there it is sent to S2. Frank Steins, owner of S2: “After having programmed and tested everything, we assign a version number to the software. This allows us to build up a history. That way, you can quickly solve any issues that might arise.”
Subsequently, the complete operating module is delivered to DIM by itsme. “itsme monitors both the stock and the logistical process. And because we also manage the stock, we can intervene on time. That way, we always deliver on time and DIM receives control systems that are plug and play from an electrotechnical point of view. The only thing they need to do is connect the Piñabar. And of course we see to it that all the components are UL-certified. Also when a component has to be replaced”, explains Paul.
The latter is essential for DIM. “Under revision, electrical components change quickly. But our UL certification always needs to be up to date. If during an audit it is found that a component has been replaced by one that wasn’t approved, I have a problem. So it is a matter of trust that everyone stays alert”, says Pierre
“This cooperation gives us, as a production company, breathing power”
In times of pressure, other companies can be engaged to manufacture the control module. In such cases itsme also manages the logistical flow from components to fully assembled controls. “As a production company you have to be able to scale up, but just as easily scale down again. This breathing power is very important to us and it’s exactly what I find in this structure of cooperation. No matter how well you know your market, that same market doesn’t let you dictate to it. There are so many external implications influencing production”, says Pierre.
In its present form, the Piñabar is a finished product. Pierre: “There is always something you come across that could be improved, but at a certain point you must make the decision that this is it. We are already working on a table model for the catering industry and food corners. And the team works so well in its present line-up that itsme as well as Schneider Electric and S2 will be involved.”
About DIM and S2DIM from Roermond, the Netherlands, employs 18 staff. They are engaged in developing and implementing solutions in the field of machine building, machine maintenance and the production of machine components. A team of five is constantly working on the Piñabar.
This pineapple peeling and slicing machine can easily be operated by customers themselves and is exported to 30 countries. About 700 machines are installed in-store worldwide, including supermarket chains such as Walmart (USA) and EDEKA (Germany).
S2 Technische Automatisering BV, is part of the S2 Group in Margraten, the Netherlands. A team of 15 people supplies services and complete solutions for automating machines, production processes and for building intelligent robotic systems to optimise production. In addition, under the name of S2 Technische Installaties BV, they provide services to utility, health care and industry in the field of data infrastructure and access systems.