Formed in 1992, BOLÇI Bolu Chocolate produces over 200 tons of chocolate items each month, with over 800 product varieties and 300 employees. The BOLÇI Bolu factory covers an area of 20,000 square metres, half of which is the production area, warehouses and additional departments.
BOLÇI needed to meet its promise of delivering chocolate products that are ‘untouched by human hands’. Omron and Innovas joined forces to commission a line of three Omron robots in the packaging section of the factory’s production line, with the aim of enhancing production quality and reducing labour costs.
THE CHALLENGE: IMPROVING PRODUCTION CAPACITY AND EFFICIENCY
Currently exporting to 13 countries, BOLÇI wanted to increase their production capacity and efficiency, improve its infrastructure and minimise production errors.
Prior to introducing the Omron robots, 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 is one of the leading integrators in the food industry and the system integrator for the project. 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. The company also carried out feasibility studies on issues such as whether robots would be a suitable solution for picking and placing the chocolates.
Innovas looked at the production capacity required and the range of products to be used. Based on the results, the firm developed the robot application in conjunction with Omron while also embracing the importance of BOLÇI developing a culture of working alongside the robots.
Opting for the ideal solution
The integrator looked for a compact solution for this project with the aim to supply everything from a single channel. Innovas has been using Omron products for many applications over the years, including programmable logic controllers and servo systems, and knew that it could meet the criteria for the project. Omron also has considerable experience in pick and place applications for food products.
The type of products on the production line vary and BOLÇI required the variations to be arranged rapidly in the same style of box. Omron therefore suggested its four-arm Quattro robot, which is compact and has a unique 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 subsequently recommended its Pack-Xpert programme, which utilises a wizard-based user interface and meets the needs of applications in the packaging sector.
Omron has brought its innovations, including its robots, together in the form of i-Automation! – a concept based on developing the intelligent, integrated and interactive automation systems of the future. These systems will help manufacturers to achieve higher levels of efficiency, flexibility, safety, integration, quality and connectivity.
The robots pick and place the chocolates into the dividers, saving time and minimising the amount of labour required. 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’s 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. Omron’s PackXpert solution is user-friendly, allowing 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.
THE BENEFITS: PUTTING THE SOLUTION INTO PRACTICE
How does the new system work in practice? One person places 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 capture them using a vacuum system and arranges them accordingly.
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: MOVING TOWARDS INDUSTRY 4.0
In the future, BOLÇI plans to increase its production capacity by extending the number of Omron robots it uses on the existing line. The company aims to complete its automation processes by implementing similar projects, with the ultimate objective of becoming a smart factory that can comply with Industry 4.0 principles.
BOLÇI Chocolate Vice Chairman, Deniz Aksoy, comments: “Innovas and the Omron robots met all of our expectations. Due to their meticulous approach during the analysis, we have increased the efficiency of the line in a short period of time.
“This investment is an important step towards our goal of the transition of our factory to Industry 4.0. Through this project, we have transformed one of our business processes by automating it. This 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.”