Duva goes for automatic handling of chocolate products

Duva Choc-O-Fruits is specialised in chocolate coated candied fruit. For one of its products the SME considered automating one or more production steps. The manipulation of these natural products entails specific challenges, which require a special approach.

Duva Choc-O-Fruits in Deinze delivers chocolate products to large and small customers. The chocolates are made according to traditional methods, a process which requires a large amount of manual operations. In order to remain competitive and profitable, the efficiency of the production line must be increased. Duva wanted to find out if the output could be increased by means of flexible automation and if an operator could at the same time be deployed in a different place.

It seemed to be possible to automate some aspects of the production process, because of the amount of manual work, while the quality and speed of these tasks depends on the operators.

Advice and intermediary

Duva called on Sirris to investigate to what extent this line could be automated and to find a suitable partner for the implementation. Sirris first mapped out the entire existing process: preparation, process characteristics, organisation, quality control, etc. The study revealed that three steps in the process are suitable for automation.

The preferred step for automation is the supply of products on the conveyor belt. This also involves quality control. The assignment is a bit of a challenge, because it involves handling flexible natural products with irregular shapes. Several automation options were investigated and based on Duva’s wishes and possibilities three integrators were contacted. In their search for a suitable solution a wide scope of different options was investigated. The integrators were provided with the necessary information about the current situation and Duva’s wishes. Sirris supported Duva with advice and as an intermediary in the contact with integrators.

Achievable solution

Because Duva does not have its own technical personnel, it was also looking for a permanent automation partner, which it could also rely on in the future, for the further automation of the production process. The proposals of the three integrators were considered and compared, and tested against Duva’s needs and wishes. The selected integrator is absolutely dedicated to innovation and is helping the food producer to think about the future. Together we searched for a suitable solution, which is feasible and tailored to an SME.

A test set-up has already been developed now.

This article has been written with the support of Agentschap Innoveren en Ondernemen (project 'VISiv-Flexibele automatisering').