Swizzels Matlow automates sorting process with Tomra Nimbus
UK confectionery business Swizzels Matlow, has reported that it has selected Tomra’s Nimbus optical sorter to automate the sorting process of its ‘Drumstick Squashies’ in order to meet growing demand for the range.
The brand is one of the longest-running sugar confectionery factories in the world, having celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2018. They produce much-loved heritage brands, such as the iconic ‘Love Hearts’, as well as new innovations. The factory, based in Derbyshire, employs more than 500 people and covers over 20,000 square metres. In 2018, it produced 20,000 tonnes of Love Hearts, Refreshers, Drumstick Lollies, Double Lollies, Parma Violets, Rainbow Drops and Drumstick Squashies.
As the company explained, it has selected Tomra’s Nimbus optical sorter to handle the delicate sorting operation of their ‘Drumstick Squashies’, whose growing popularity has led to a fast increase in demand: “We used manual labour to remove any imperfect sweets that may have been created during the process. Our desire to provide only product of the highest quality to our consumers drove us to seek an alternative solution to manual sorting in order to improve the effectiveness whilst also delivering cost benefits to the business,” explains Matt Whatcott, Business Unit Manager (Jellies) at Swizzels Matlow.
The proof is in the confectionery
Nicolas Stein, Director of Stein Solutions, Tomra’s agent in the UK, knew that the Nimbus optical sorter represented a strong solution for Swizzels: “We invited them to the Tomra Demonstration Centre in Belgium, so they could try the Nimbus on their product and see first-hand how effective and easy to use it is. The Nimbus is used for a variety of products, but Swizzels were one of the first to test the machine in this specific application.”
“The visit to the demo facility was highly beneficial and allowed us to see the equipment running with our product and to witness the results first-hand. We were able to make observations, ask questions and build a rapport with the team in Belgium. Having invested substantial effort in researching various alternative solutions, the demonstration provided us with confidence that this was the best and most appropriate solution for our process and allowed us to make an informed decision on progressing to purchase.”
The machine was delivered very quickly and has been operating at the Swizzels’ facility for a year to their great satisfaction. The Nimbus represents a new generation of sorting solutions that separate products in free-fall. The product is fed onto a vibratory conveyor that spreads the ‘Drumstick Squashies’ evenly and in a single layer. It then goes into a free-fall and passes the scanning area, where several technologies are combined to detect different types of defects such as mis-shaped sweets or multiple sweets joined together.
During the free-fall, the product is inspected with laser scanning technology to identify contaminated products or foreign objects that are not visible to the naked eye. Special high-resolution cameras developed by Tomra sort the product based on colour and outline. In addition, the Nimbus can separate the articles by biological characteristics. This combination of technologies perfectly addresses the challenge of reliably detecting imperfect products.
When a defect is detected, a powerful burst of air removes the imperfect product from the stream. It is then inspected a second time to make sure no good product is rejected.
Matt Whatcott explains: “Before using a Tomra sorter, we used manual labor to remove any imperfect sweets that may have been created during the process. The task was challenging due to sweets passing by the manual inspection operators with one side face-down on a conveyor. This meant that it was not always possible for them to identify a defect as the inspection only covered around 60% of the surface area of the sweets. The inspection task was also monotonous, meaning that focus could wane over time.
“Tomra’s Nimbus has enabled us to establish a more automated production line with greater rigour around the quality inspection of our product. We have much higher confidence in our ability to supply sweets that are only of the optimum standard to our consumers,” added the manager, who said the sorter also fitted with its space and operational requirements.