Reducing the cost of production downtime in the confectionery industry

Production downtime costs Britain’s manufacturers more than £180bn each year. With the price of raw ingredients rising, and increasing pressure to reduce sugar in Brits’ diets, confectionery manufacturers must find new ways to improve efficiency to facilitate growth.

Facing industry challenges

Despite the UK’s position as the largest consumer of snacks in Europe, eating habits are changing. Healthy eating initiatives to tackle obesity, like the Change4Life programme, are having an impact on the way we shop and live.

The UK’s ‘Sugar Tax’ levy on drinks with high levels of sugar, introduced earlier this year, has also put the spotlight on the reduction of sugar in our diets.

The result? The confectionery industry has seen several years of decline. While figures for 2018 look more promising, forecasts predict only modest growth with revenue to increase by just 1.4%.

Additional factors influencing confectionery production include fluctuations in the price of raw materials such as cocoa, which is seeing smaller pack sizes, and a growth in quality/artisan chocolate products as consumers seek premium products with a higher cocoa percentage. Linked to this is a rise in shorter production runs of personalised chocolate products.

As sector growth is predicted to slow, confectionery manufacturers must explore new avenues to grow their business, and adapt to changes in consumer behaviour. Lean manufacturing solutions can play an important role in driving confectionery manufacturing efficiency to reduce unnecessary costs and become more competitive.

Embrace smarter ways of working

Many companies struggle to implement lean manufacturing processes. The IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), part of Industry 4.0, creates smarter, more efficient ways of working by using big data and machine-to-machine technologies.

The technology is more accessible than you may think. You don’t need a big IT department or to invest in major infrastructure, as long as you have an internet connection and the right printers.

A cloud-based IIoT solution from Linx provides manufacturers with a valuable tool to manage their coding and marking printers, and making their production more efficient.

With Printernet, you can see the real-time status of your Linx printers from anywhere. You can also control them remotely which means no more walking the line to change messages on your printers. If there’s an issue on the production line out of hours this smart technology means you can be more responsive and manage operations even if you’re at a different location.

Coding machines may be one of the most intelligent parts of the production line and can provide valuable data about a line’s performance. This greater insight supports better decision-making and enhanced control.

The benefits of IIoT equipment

  • No more walking the line to check on individual printer status. You can access this information via a laptop or tablet.
  • Instantly check that a line is running correctly, view the number of products printed, and accurately predict when a batch will finish so the next one can be up and running quickly.
  • Early notification of any maintenance requirements means action can be taken quickly, minimising downtime.

The benefits of this level of connectivity include more uptime, which means more production and better planning, enabling greater efficiency and more time for managers to focus their energies elsewhere.

Choose the right coding solution

Finding the right fit when it comes to coding and marking products is key to avoiding bottlenecks in the production line and improving confectionery manufacturing efficiency. The best option will depend on your company’s own individual needs. To avoid downtime, think about reliability of the equipment you’re looking at and select one that prioritises uptime.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider:

  • Will your coder perform reliably if there is sugar dust on your production line? Ensure your coder is IP65 protected to maintain your printer uptime
  • Similarly, IP55 rated stainless steel enclosures are ideal for food production lines where washdowns are performed – IP55 will protect your printer from water ingress and ensure a first time start after every washdown
  • How easy is it to make code changes? Given the increased number of shorter runs in the confectionery industry, your coder needs to have a simple user interface, with only a few button presses for each code change, saving you time between production runs
  • How frequently does your coder need servicing? Printers with up to two years between services will minimise your downtime
  • Choose a coding solution to meet your production line speeds. Laser coding operates at high speeds; up to around 600 bars a minute, depending on the application.

While there are many challenges facing confectionery manufacturers, we are beginning to see tentative growth in the industry, with chocolate leading the way. By designing lean manufacturing processes through the power of the IIoT and choosing the right equipment for your production line, you can streamline your operations, reduce waste and ultimately improve your bottom line.