Simulation software unwraps benefits for Cadbury

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Sweet solution online: Using Witness software cut costs and boosted productivity, said Cadbury.
Sweet solution online: Using Witness software cut costs and boosted productivity, said Cadbury.

Related tags: Cadbury dairy milk, Chocolate, Cadbury

Improved productivity, reduced cardboard consumption and the elimination of waste have followed the installation of Witness simulation software at Kraft’s Cadbury plant in Bournville, according to the company.

The Witness system, developed by Lanner, visually represents real-world processes in a computer-generated model. The model allows planners to test ‘what-if’ scenarios to identify the best solutions to production and processing problems.

The system is like “a real-world crystal ball​”, Tony Waller, Lanner’s director of products, told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

It can look at processes and variables involved in a particular area and, through mapping and changing these in a dynamic environment, tell you exactly how they will operate, and what the outcome will be​.”

Cadbury used the system to find the best way of automating the handling of confectionery boxes before making big investments in equipment. Specifically, the firm wanted to test the practicality of using robots to feed different chocolates into appropriate boxes. Special focus was placed on refining robots’ timing and sequences, conveyor delivery and the nature of operational control.

Validate the investment

Beccy Smith, Cadbury’s associate principal scientist, said: “Simulation was brought on board to validate the investment and make sure it would do what we needed it to. However, it was not just about proving the business case.

“The control logic for robots is incredibly complex and even something as seemingly simple as four robot arms soon develops a great deal of sophistication.That means time spent simulating and optimising the control logic can make a real difference to productivity​.”

Before the study, Cadbury required a large amount of manual labour and a buffer stock of 170,000 boxes to pack 10 types of chocolates into its Roses and Heroes brand boxes.

Smith said introducing the robots had eliminated wasteful manual processes. “We have gone from multiple cases of manual unloading of boxes to the single automatic tipping of polypans​ [industrial-sized containers] that carry 5.5 kg of chocolate​,” she said. “We have also reduced our cardboard usage and transport requirement enormously​…”

Productivity had also been improved. “By simulating and optimising the new equipment and the associated processes prior to implementation, we have ensured a streamlined efficient process, that has been implemented smoothly.​”

Seasonal spikes

Smith said the software will continue to benefit Cadbury’s plant. “There are always changes to be made, new trends and initiatives to follow and factors such as seasonal spikes in production to contend with. Simulation will be critical in helping us to plan and react in the future​.”

Witness can be used to model any production processes in the food and beverage industry, said Waller. “This level of insight​ [provided by the software] is crucial for food manufacturers if they are to preserve margins and remain competitive in today’s fast-paced, complex environments.”

Kraft’s iconic Bournville plant manufactures Cadbury Dairy Milk, Creme Egg, Wispa and Roses.

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