Crazy about chocolate

SIMATIC HMI in compact and ultraflexible chocolate machine
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A process and a philosophy on display

A small door with a blue ornament marks the entrance to one of Amsterdam’s sweetest secrets – the Tony’s Chocolonely Super Store. But it is not just chocolate lovers who can get a kick out of visiting. Behind a huge custom-made window works a neat showcase for digitalization: a fully automatic chocolate machine that takes orders directly from customers via tablets installed in the store: Tony’s Unlimiteds. Unlimited, because the customer can choose any 3 of 20 ingredients. The extra-compact, extremely flexible, and integrated production solution was designed by Belgian chocolate specialist HACOS and is based on the latest SIMATIC technology.

100 percent slave-free chocolate, made to order right before your eyes

Of course, the Tony’s Chocolonely Super Store has shelves and racks full of chocolate, but it is also much more than just a store: it also features books and magazines about the global chocolate business and why Tony’s Chocolonely decided to make its chocolate different. Tony’s is on a mission to ensure 100% slave-free chocolate. Not just its own chocolate, but all chocolate worldwide. Visitors are asked to share not only the chocolate but the story as well. For this purpose, the company ordered a state-of-the-art chocolate machine from machine builder HACOS that makes truly unique bars in a two-in-one packaging: one for yourself, and one to share while telling the story of the unequally divided chocolate industry. Special requirement: the machine had to fit inside the available space, behind a large window, to blend with the store. The machine produces the bars to order, receiving the orders from customers who enter their specific recipe on tablets in the store; then, after 40 minutes, they can pick up their custom chocolate. The HACOS team members used both their deep expertise with chocolate machines and the latest automation technology to fit an industrial machine into an artisan production setting.

Tony’s Chocolonely sources its cocoa beans from Ghana and Ivory Coast, countries where an estimated 2.1 million children work under illegal conditions on cocoa farms. Root cause: poverty. Their parents just do not earn enough to hire help – while at the end of the process, chocolate brands make large profits. The cocoa chain is unequally divided. Tony’s Chocolonely exists to change that. To change the conditions at the beginning of the supply chain, Tony’s works according to five sourcing principles: traceable beans, a higher price based on a living income, long-term commitments, strong farmers and professional cooperatives, and higher productivity per hectare. 

About HACOS nv

The chocolate machine factory

Tony’s supplier of choice for this ambitious project – basically, designing an artisan chocolate machine that has all the features of a fully automatic industrial machine – was the Belgian chocolate machine specialist HACOS. One of the top five manufacturers of chocolate machines worldwide, HACOS accepted the challenge and fitted a complete molding line into a mere 20-square-meter space.

Fitting a full-size industrial machine into an artisan-type process

For HACOS sales and marketing manager Raf Tuytelaars, the request from Tony’s posed both a challenge and an opportunity: “We serve customers of all sizes, from small patisseries to global chocolate companies, so we have a solution for almost every chocolate processing challenge. However, the solution for Tony’s was special, in that we needed to design a fully automated process with a high level of data integration in a footprint more typical of an artisan or midrange machine – which we rarely sell with such a sophisticated automation solution.” In addition, the machine for Tony’s produces chocolate with a batch size of one. Each bar is made to order, so the automation solution and process had to be extremely flexible and integrate with an advanced real-time ordering and tracking system. “With this project, we created a showcase not only for Tony’s but for us as well – demonstrating what can be done with a modern automation solution in the age of digitalization,” says Tuytelaars.

With this project, we created a showcase for what can be done with a modern automation solution in the age of digitalization.
Raf Tuytelaars, Sales & Marketing Manager, HACOS nv
A one-of-a-kind solution

Chocolate made to order

The basic concept of the bars produced on the machine at the super store is one of sharing: sharing the chocolate with a friend and sharing the story of Tony’s Chocolonely with it. Each bar consists of two identical half-bars that are made and packaged to order according to the recipe that the visitor creates via a tablet in the store: chocolate of choice, additional ingredients, and another layer of chocolate, wrapped individually in the appropriate packaging. The customer can watch the process live or receive updates as text messages. The machine’s automation solution receives, updates, and shares the required data with the customer, the store manager, and the operator.

Tracking exactly where each order is in the process

The automation solution that HACOS proposed for this unique machine is based entirely on Siemens products: a SIMATIC S7-1200 Basic Controller receives the recipe data from the store’s ordering and tracking system, writes the recipe data and status to the RFID tags on the molds, updates the data, monitors and controls the cooling process, and notifies the store system when the batch – that is, the set of two chocolate half-bars – is ready for packaging.

“In this process, we have two crucial requirements: First, we need to have perfect temperature control in the process, and we have to monitor all the steps. With the state-of-the-art automation solution in our molding line, we can achieve optimum quality for each individual bar,” explains Jaap Leuijerink, who works for Ijssel Technologies and was contracted as the project leader by Tony’s. “Next, we need to make sure the operator always knows where each bar is in the process and when it is ready for packaging. Interaction with the process has to be extremely intuitive and precise, as the staff at the super store have no industry background.” This interaction takes place via a sleek 12˝ SIMATIC HMI Comfort Panel PRO. Operators can turn the device to match their point of view, and the crisp and detailed representation of the machine makes sure they have all the information they need. An added bonus: this panel has an IP65 degree of protection on all sides and can be installed with no additional housing, which saves space – essential for this machine that was custom-fitted into the back of the store. “Integrating all this functionality and fitting the machine into the available space was quite a challenge, and we had some initial problems, but in the end, we managed to implement a successful solution,” concludes Leuijerink.

This solution makes sure the right bar gets to the right customer.
Jaap Leuijerink, Project Leader, Ijssel Technologies

Quality automation products with efficient engineering

Despite the machine’s very unusual properties, creating the automation project was actually very straightforward, says Kristof Van Genechten, automation engineer at HACOS: “We benefit from the fact that we have basically standardized on Siemens for the automation and drive technology. We use SIMATIC controllers and HMI devices and SINAMICS drives on our machines as the preferred solution, and we have established certain standards for projects that we can reuse and adapt.” The machine for Tony’s uses a SIMATIC S7-1200 controller and a 12˝ SIMATIC Comfort Panel PRO as the main HMI, plus several local SIMATIC HMI Comfort Panels on the units for tempering and depositing. Larger lines are typically equipped with SIMATIC S7-1500 controllers and 19˝ Comfort Panels, while for small machines a 7˝ SIMATIC Comfort Panel is the solution of choice. Thanks to its comprehensive portfolio, HACOS can offer industrial-grade components on all its machines, no matter the size. “We deliver a state-of-the-art solution that is robust and suitable for 24-hour-a-day operation, and that offers excellent quality and serviceability. And our customers do notice this,” explains Tuytelaars.

For Van Genechten, another benefit of the integrated solution from Siemens is the efficient engineering of all the systems and functions, including diagnostics and remote servicing of machines. “We engineer the entire automation solution in the TIA Portal framework, which is very easy to use and provides a lot of features for efficient engineering. Take, for example, the alarm handling: All alarm messages are implemented as standard function blocks that we can just drag and drop into the project. No manual coding at all. This saves several hours of engineering work per machine.”

With the SIMATIC HMI Comfort Panel PRO, HACOS provides customers with an HMI solution that is compact, efficient, and easy to operate. And what’s more, Genechten continues, “The PRO devices come ready for installation on the machine, so they are also more cost-effective than an HMI solution with a cabinet.”

We can engineer the entire automation solution in the TIA Portal framework, which is very easy to use, and we have established certain standards for projects that we can reuse and adapt.
Kristof Van Genechten, Automation Engineer, HACOS nv
Customer benefits

Maximum efficiency, optimum control

The molding line at the super store may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with a full set of features. The state-of-the-art automation and visualization solution enables operation with a batch size of one, data integration with an ordering and tracking system, and excellent process visibility – all hallmarks of the factory of the future.
Further References

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