Riding the wave of confectionery equipment digitalisation

Daisy Phillipson dives into Industry 4.0 and the technologies leading the way for the digitalisation of the confectionery sector.

When the first Industrial Revolution emerged in the late 18th century, mechanisation, steam and water power replaced manual labour in factory settings, thus changing the face of the workplace forever. Then came the Technological Revolution, which enabled the adoption of preexisting technological systems to spread across the globe along with the uptake of electricity, telephones and the birth of mass production.

The third era, known as Industry 3.0, came to the fore with the arrival of computer technology and automation, as machinery and robots began to replace human labourers in the workplace. It is widely considered the bridge between the second revolution’s move towards intelligent processes that we are now seeing rise under the current era: Industry 4.0.

The 101 on Industry 4.0

For a factory to be categorised as Industry 4.0 it must adhere to four design principles: interoperability, meaning machines, devices, and people that connect and communicate with each other; information transparency, regarding systems that create a virtual copy of the physical world through sensor data in order to contextualise it; technical assistance, referring to machines that can help humans to complete difficult jobs, make decisions, and solve problems; and finally decentralised decision-making, meaning cyber-physical systems that are as autonomous as possible.

Central to the new revolution is that these transformative digital technologies are adopted across all sectors in order to improve productivity, promote flexible production capability, create high-value jobs, decrease workplace safety issues, promote transparency and supply chain control across all production lines and support national economic growth.

Of course, the implementation of such widespread uptake of new technologies is no simple feat. But already countries across the globe are adopting their own Industry 4.0 roadmap so that regional companies can make the most of the opportunities it offers.

Digitisation made smarter
In the UK alone, the Made Smarter Review led by professor Juergen Maier, CEO Siemens UK, has been released to outline how UK manufacturing can be transformed through the adoption of industrial digital technology (IDT).

The review predicts that with a combination of leadership, adoption and innovation in this sector, ten years of industrial digitalisation could boost UK manufacturing by £455bn, increase sector growth up to 3% per year and create a net gain of 175,000 jobs while reducing CO2 emissions by 4.5%.

Already a number of recommendations are being made not just in the UK, but across the world, offering industrial strategies to achieve these goals and reap the benefits of a digitised industry.
The global confectionery market is a growing sector and has been a key voice in the discussions of Industry 4.0, particularly in relation to the investment in equipment required to deliver these changes. Digitisation is slowly taking over and a number of confectionery industry figures have adopted automated technologies in line with the promises of the new digital revolution.

Consistent quality
As outlined by Robert van Mol, Product Manager Vertical Machines EMEA at Bosch Packaging Technology, automation can fulfil strict quality requirements and minimise errors. “Because in contrast to a person, a machine can perform long-term, monotonous work and simultaneously deliver reliable, consistent quality.”

A good example of a successful automation installation of its secondary packaging is Bridgetown Natural Foods and its investment in Sigpack TTM topload cartoners from Bosch. Many SMEs still rely on manual loading, particularly when it comes to secondary packaging, but thanks to the higher level of automation the company was able to increase productivity, as fewer planned and unplanned downtimes occurred.

Higher output was also made possible – during a 24-hour operation, products are packaged safely in up to 90 cartons per minute. This is just one example where even small to mid-sized enterprises are investing in more automated production lines to boost productivity, flexibility and to adhere to industry standards.

Integration station
Similarly, Livetech recently selected Rockwell Automation solutions to build a secondary packaging line for Galbusera-Tre Marie, an Italian brand with a long history in the bakery industry. The challenge was for the bakery producer to find an upgrade path that balanced modern automation agility with delicate handling of its baked products.To provide the solution, Livetech designed a multi-format line for Galbusera in order to form, fill and close the trays. The first station comprises an automatic unit that loads and forms the die-cut cardboard. Three robotic islands are the centre of the line, taking the products coming from the conveyor belt – which is connected to the primary packaging machine – and placing them on the tray in the correct numbers.

The tray then passes to a weighing station, where a cell verifies weight parameters. If they’re correct, they’re moved to the next robotic isle, where the robot forms a containment perimeter and then another piece of cardboard is placed above to cover the products. The trays are stacked one on top of the other and move to the palletising station.

The automation architecture implemented by Livetech is based on an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 1769-L36 programmable automation controller (PAC) from Rockwell
Automation. This automation platform helped to minimise installation and start-up time in the Galbusera plant thanks to a common software environment and an integrated axis
control, which met the precision and speed requirements of the robotic islands.

“Quality, integration and ease of use are the values we share with Rockwell Automation when it comes to selecting the right technology for a specific application,” Federico Scornaienchi, Area Manager at Livetech, explained. “The CompactLogix platform helped us to build a flexible multi-format line.”

Overcoming the challenges of Industry 4.0
While there are numerous benefits for confectionery manufacturers investing in autonomous equipment, it is crucial to consider total cost of ownership and find the right partner before investing to ensure the machinery will deliver the proposed advantages.

Mr. Joachim Essig, Head of Market Segment Cocoa, Bühler, described how the challenges of automation and digitalisation are key focus topics for manufacturers within the global confectionery industry and these are challenges Bühler is continuously focusing on and tackling head on with its innovative solutions for the food sector.

Old systems with non-integrated controls can make it difficult to include new components and process steps. Automated production lines allow the user to monitor the entire process, reduce waste, control temperature and flavour and provide a higher quality end product.

“For example, we presented our latest development, the DoMiReCo 4.0, at Interpack 2017,” said Essig. “Not only does this flexible dosing, mixing, refining and conching system provide no limit to the variety of forms and flavours for chocolate producers, but we displayed a fully autonomous production line which adjusts itself during the process, all based on sensors, cameras and programmed algorithms.”

Automation innovations like this allow users to precisely observe and adjust the process in order to reduce the waste of energy, materials and other resources in double digit percentage. With the self-optimising intelligent factory made by innovations such as the DoMiReCo 4.0, Bühler paves the way for the era of Industry 4.0 in chocolate production.

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