As sales volumes increase, Clever Sweets have engaged with the COTEMACO SME support programme to assist with basic automated equipment layouts in the new facility, and identify how to support further sales growth with the minimum of staff.
The basic production stages are:
- Ingredients blending and heating.
- Deposit blended mixture to moulds.
- Add sticks before mixture hardens.
Clever Sweets desire to keep ingredients blending and heating (step 1) as a manual process for the present time for ‘artisanal’ control over the process, and further development of the precise temperature protocols required for product texture, and to avoid heat damage to sensitive ingredients.
Although flavours vary, the format for all LouLou Lollies are a standard 9g, 23mm ball on a 4mm diameter, 89mm long bio-degradable round stick. This allows for dedicated automation to be implemented for deposition into moulds (step 2), and wrapping (step 3). The selected depositor (Figure 1) can be readily adapted with different nozzle plates and piston configurations to accept a range of different moulds and is capable of depositing outer and inner product parts separately for two-colour or two-component products. These capabilities allow for an increase in Clever Sweets product range at a later stage. An Indexing mechanism will take moulds through the machine and make the deposit. Initially moulds are fed to the machine and removed manually to be set aside for cooling. The depositor is capable of 30kg/h, representing a production rate of c.3300 lollies/h. The selected dedicated bunch wrapper (Figure 2) can operate at up to 115 lollies per minute (6,900 lolly/h) and would be able to wrap the maximum output rate from the depositor, and additionally be able to also support a 2nd depositor added at later stages when production throughput grows beyond the capacity of the single depositor.
The initial production layout incorporating the desired manual blending and heating and utilising the dedicated depositing and wrapping automation is shown in Figure 3. This configuration for continuous production would require 3 staff; operator A for blending loading product and moulds into the depositor, operator B for collecting moulds from depositor output, adding sticks and placing onto cooling tables, operator C for demoulding, and filling the wrapper infeed hopper, and returning empty moulds to the depositor infeed.
Since the wrapper outputs to a tote bin holding approximately 1h of production this is a process buffer and does not need continual attendance. Totes of wrapped lollies can be accumulated in the boxing area until end of the production batch and all staff can combine to execute the boxing.
Alternatively, the system could be run on a batch basis with one operator performing activities A, B C in sequence.