Robots speed up chocolate packaging

16 July 2021

Automation of a packaging operation with robotics has increased productivity by 40% at BOLÇI.

BOLÇI Bolu Chocolate produces over 200 tons of chocolate items each month, with over 800 product varieties. To ensure it is able to meet its promise of delivering chocolate products that are ‘untouched by human hands’, the company set out to find an automated solution for the packaging section of the factory’s production line. 

Traditionally, the chocolates were placed manually into dividers in the packaging area. However, the company faces seasonal variations in demand and as a result, sales fluctuate on a daily basis and production levels need to adjust accordingly. 

Innovas, a food industry systems integrator, was asked to help find a robot-based automated solution. Before the robots were commissioned, Innovas analysed the filling time for the different dividers that would be used when the line of robots was established. It also carried out feasibility studies on issues such as whether robots would be a suitable solution for picking and placing the chocolates. 

Innovas also looked at the production capacity required and the range of products to be used. Based on the results, it developed the robot application in conjunction with Omron, while also embracing the importance of BOLÇI developing a culture of its operators working alongside the robots. 

Chocolates on the production line vary and these variations need to be arranged rapidly in the same style of box. Omron suggested its four-arm Quattro robot, which is compact and has a kinematic structure. This model was selected as it due to its speed and flexibility, as well as its ability to cope with the variety of products. Omron also recommended its PackXpert programme, which utilises a wizard-based user interface and meets the needs of applications in the packaging sector. 

The robots pick and place the chocolates into the dividers, saving time and minimising labour requirements. The three robots work in sync with each other as part of an integrated system that includes visual inspection, safety and the robotic systems. Because chocolate is a very delicate material, it is important that its shape doesn’t deteriorate during the process. This requires accurate positioning and a precise handling of the product. 

The robots determine how many pieces will be put into the system each day and enable a repeatable quality and standard to be achieved. The PackXpert solution allows faster and more efficient production to be achieved by providing tasks to personnel that are simple to carry out – even if they have no experience with robotics. 

In practice
In practice, The operation requires one person to place the dividers on the conveyor and another feeds chocolates through the 12 feed channels. There is also a final visual check on the output of chocolates before they are sent to packaging. 

The chocolates are brought to the robots via conveyors and a camera system checks their arrangement. If the products are in the wrong position, the robots captures them using a vacuum system and rearranges them. 

In the packaging area, the three robots place the chocolates into boxes and dividers. BOLÇI has approximately 40 boxes of different sizes and types. On a user-friendly screen, the operator chooses the boxes to be filled and the appropriate mechanical adjustments are made. The system has four different chocolate feeding entry points for each robot, where up to 12 different chocolates can be stacked in four boxes at the same time. 

The new robots have resulted in a 40% increase in production capacity and a 20% workforce saving. They have also enabled BOLÇI to provide shorter deadlines to its customers. In addition, the company has been able to re-route the savings in manpower to non-automated areas of the factory. Ultimately, the system has helped BOLÇI to reach its required production quality standards by minimising production errors and enabling the company to provide quality, hygienic products that are untouched by human hands to its customers.

The future
In the future, BOLÇI plans to increase its production capacity by extending the number of robots on the existing line. BOLÇI Chocolate Vice Chairman, Deniz Aksoy, said: “Innovas and the Omron robots met all of our expectations and we have increased the efficiency of the line in a short period of time. 

“This investment is an important step towards our goal to transition the factory to Industry 4.0. This project has transformed one of our business processes by automating it has provided a good start that will help us to apply concepts such as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 as we move towards the full automation of all our processes in the future.”

Contact Details and Archive...

Related Articles...

Print this page | E-mail this page