An Upgrade Instead of a New Acquisition: Line Tuning for Bar Packers

Switzerland is the home of irresistible chocolate. Since the 19th century, the chocolatiers from the highly respected Chocolat Frey AG have been crafting delectable treats out of cocoa. The cornerstone for the sweet success of the current market leader in Swiss chocolate is an uncompromising focus on exceptional quality – this applies to the raw materials used, as well as the processes and processing machines involved.

Chocolat Frey had invested in a Schubert packaging machine back in 2002: since then, the machine has reliably grouped and packed various types of chocolate bars into cartons. The chocolatier requested that Schubert upgrade the machine in line with the latest technological standards so that production could be secured over the long term. As a result of the upgrade, the machine received state-of-the-art control technology and was amended to fulfil all current occupational safety requirements. The upgrade also ensures that all necessary components and spare parts can be supplied for years to come.

Trust in a long-term partner

Chocolat Frey has been working together with Schubert since the early 1980s. Schubert delivered a case packer for chocolate bars in 1982, which was later replaced by an F2 packer for bar products. The chocolatier invested in the first TLM system for packing chocolate bars in shelf-ready cartons in 2002. After more than 15 years, it was time to bring the machine up to date.

“I’ve known of Schubert for a very long time – back to the days when I worked in other companies within Migros,” explains Technical Director Marcel Bieri. “That’s why from the very beginning of our project, I was convinced that Schubert could reliably and quickly handle the requirements of our demanding task.”

Modernization of control technology possible

After the analysis, it was confirmed that an upgrade of the TLM machine to the latest state of the art in control technology would be possible. Following a planning phase lasting several weeks, the conversion was carried out at the customer’s site.

The pilot project was a complete success for both the customer and for Schubert.

“We were able to demonstrate that the mechanisms on the older machine were compatible with a new control system – and also that this is a cost-effective solution. The most important part was to determine which assemblies could be reused in an upgrade,” said René Gollmitzer, who used this project as the topic of his graduate thesis in electrical engineering at Schubert.

Other mechanical components and the function of the machine remained unaffected and were to be reused after the upgrade as they had been before. The use of as many standard modules as possible was a prerequisite for fast and cost-effective implementation.

At the control level, the same approaches were followed for the reprogramming of the packaging machine control system. In addition to the latest control technology, the customer now has entirely new service options for maintenance, repair and expansion.

Enhanced customer service

Customer service is one of the cornerstones of Schubert’s corporate philosophy. Schubert guarantees a long-term and sustainable investment through various packages with different services. With the possibility of a complete control and safety upgrade of a machine, the range of services offered to customers is further expanded. In addition to remote maintenance options, this also includes measures such as predictive maintenance and spare parts service. Especially with older machine generations, the spare parts issue can become a challenge. Suppliers may remove certain components from the product range or older assemblies may no longer be produced due to technical innovations. This also affects the VMS modules of older generations, for example.

“Due to the lack of components from suppliers, the old models of the control system can no longer be remanufactured. With the upgrade, the latest VMS technology was installed. This means that spare parts availability for the future can now also be ensured,” said Schubert Team Leader Service Expert Center, Klaus Pelzer.

Apart from the control system, the upgrade focused on improving safety aspects. The guarding already present on the machine was extended and adapted to meet current safety legislation. Contactless safety door sensors further improve occupational safety – if the contact is not closed, the system cannot be started. As a result of these measures, machine operators at Chocolat Frey are safer than ever before.

The machine upgrade is cost-efficient

The full modification and the upgrade were completed within five weeks. The combination of new control and safety technology with the old mechanics resulted in a machine with state-of-the-art electrical engineering. These measures proved to be cost-effective for Chocolat Frey as the company benefited from considerable cost savings of around 370,000 euros, compared to buying a new machine. This successful result was also reflected in positive customer feedback received during and after the modifications. Nevertheless – or precisely because of the successful upgrade – Chocolat Frey is already planning to purchase a new TLM system in the near future. A long-term and secure investment, as this project proves.