Chocolat Frey picks robot to boost productivity

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Related tags: Manufacturing

Leading Swiss chocolate manufacturer Chocolat Frey has installed a
high-speed robotic packaging line, as part of an ongoing attempt to
consolidate product quality and productivity amidst a declining
Swiss chocolate market, Tom Armitage reports.

Chocolat Frey, a subsidiary of Switzerland's largest retailer Migros, commissioned Sigpack Systems to install the equipment line at its Buchs factory - the largest in Switzerland.

According to manufacturers, the new machinery line will load chocolate into an assortment of up to 40 different plastic packaging formats each day, and is designed to reduce manual handling.

The project manager who oversaw the installation at Chocolat Frey, told ConfectioneryNews.com​ that the new equipment line "operates at two and a half times the speed of the machinery it replaced"​ and will "increase productivity by up to 30 per cent."

The equipment line relies on the use of highly advanced optical vision technology, which has the ability to recognise unique product packaging formats and selects them to be filled accordingly.

Although the new equipment line replaces a number of preceding equipment lines, it still operates alongside existing cartoners and closers. It will also allow the handling of so-called blister packs - favoured by confectioners because of their aesthetic and practical appeal to consumers.

The project manager denied suggestions that the robotic machinery would replace the need for manual labour, adding that "we currently manufacture around 1,500 products, so it simply would not be economical to install automated equipment lines to manufacture something like a seasonal product with a run of just 5,000 items."

"In fact, we reverted back to using manual labour in our quality control systems, after finding that machinery could not provide 100 per cent accuracy,"​ he added.

Chocolat Frey chose Sigpack Systems as it is "a local company, which is able to provide the appropriate post-installation support,"​ he said.

According to Chocosuisse, the Swiss chocolate manufacturers' association, Switzerland's 17 chocolate manufacturing companies produced a total of 139,663 tons of chocolate during 2003, a 1.8 per cent drop compared to the previous year, while value sales dropped 2.4 per cent to SF1.25 billion.

Currently Chocolat Frey has an estimated 35 per cent share in the Swiss chocolate market and employs around 850 people.

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