How digital solutions can help optimize ice cream production

Digitalization opens up new opportunities. That is a truism you probably have heard and read plenty of times over the last few years. But what does it really mean? Let’s dig a little deeper and look into what digitalization can do for the the ice cream industry specifically. What are the tangible benefits ice cream producers can get from using digital tools?

Product Manager Steen Gyldenloev and Automation & Product Manager Rasmus Laerke discuss digital improvements with Tetra Pak customers on an almost daily basis. 

“Digital tools open up a completely new world of information. We can actually show customers all the details on a specific production run, what the temperature was, exact timings and so on. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and think ‘OK, how can I use all this information?’. Because it is possible to gather a lot of data. And we also see it as our task to help customers relate to the data, see the benefit of it, and understand that this is data they can trust,” says Steen.

In other words: data provides insights. And those insights can be used to improve, to optimize, to make operations more efficient. Steen continues:

In other words: data provides insights. And those insights can be used to improve, to optimize, to make operations more efficient. Steen continues:

“The use of data offers a lot of possibilities when it comes to optimizing lines, and it can help operators when there is some kind of problem on the line. So we are collecting all this data with, for instance, our Ice Cream Line Insight solution. This is a great help to localize errors, and also to see which production areas that can or should be optimized.”

From a data point of view, the digital solutions can be used on any type of line. 

“An extrusion line and a moulding line are of course producing somewhat different products. But the principles, the way our digital solutions gather data and how the customer can benefit from it, are the same.”

From manual to digital

Changing established ways of working can be painful. So it is important that the changes come with a clear reward. Such as time saved and errors reduced. Rasmus gives a hands-on example.

“Let’s say a customer uses manual registration to record data of production stops. So an operator writes things down on a clipboard and delivers it to a data entry office, where someone else puts it into the system. That consumes time, and there is also a risk of mistakes.”

There is also a broader perspective.

“If there is a problem, a major event, the operator will report it. But that might not tell the whole story. What was the chain of events leading to the major event? With the right digital tools, customers don’t have to observe the line all the time to be able to make manual registrations. They can consult their system instead – and have access to more information.”

“That is one of the big advantages here. We can take two or three steps back and go deeper than what’s on that clipboard,” adds Steen.

Rasmus reiterates the purpose of collecting data:

“It is not about some kind of surveillance or Big Brother system. It is about understanding what needs to be done to optimize the production.”

Lead times

The implementation and test process is reasonably quick. Customers can expect to be up and running with a solution such as  Ice Cream Line Insight within a couple of weeks.

“But the more upgrades to existing lines we install, the faster it will be as there is a level of reusability and standardization,” says Rasmus.

And at the same time, every customer is unique. One size might not fit all. So are the solutions customized to make sure they meet specific needs and requirements? Steen explains: 

“After installation, we do regular follow-up sessions with the customer to make sure they get the right data as specified for their production lines. And we may visit the customer on-site again to implement the reports. Depending on the ice cream type they are producing, what kind of wrapping material they are using and so on, there can be different parts they need to monitor and learn from. And every customer has their own way of gathering data and putting it into their system. When we install our solution, we try to help the customer onwards to make sure they get full use of it.”

The digital solutions are available both as upgrades of existing lines and as a part of the installation of a new line.

Bringing in the skills the customer needs

New products are added to the portfolio of digital solutions for ice cream on a continuous basis. The products are well-defined and generally support an ‘easy-to-get-started’ approach – implementing them is not a question of re-arranging the entire IT infrastructure for a factory. However, Rasmus and Steen make sure to also make use of the strength, expertise and cutting-edge competence of the entire Tetra Pak organization.

“Within Tetra Pak, we have solutions like Tetra Pak® PlantMaster . We can of course leverage on that in our business unit for ice cream,” says Steen.

“When we are in discussions with customers around greenfield factories, we always team up with other people in our organization. We do that to better understand the customer's requirements, and also to provide potential solutions. Some still see us primarily as machine builders, but I think that more and more people are starting to realize that we are also solution providers and integrators. To continue on that path, we still need good machines though,” adds Rasmus.

What’s next?

“It will be really interesting to see where we are one or two years down the road. Right now, customers are approaching us saying they want data. But how will they use it? And will customers that have access to data today use it more actively and see how it can add value? It is a journey, and it will be interesting to see where it takes us and our customers.”

Woman in lab

Bringing in the skills the customer needs

New products are added to the portfolio of digital solutions for ice cream on a continuous basis. The products are well-defined and generally support an ‘easy-to-get-started’ approach – implementing them is not a question of re-arranging the entire IT infrastructure for a factory. However, Rasmus and Steen make sure to also make use of the strength, expertise and cutting-edge competence of the entire Tetra Pak organization.

“Within Tetra Pak, we have solutions like Tetra Pak® PlantMaster . We can of course leverage on that in our business unit for ice cream,” says Steen.

“When we are in discussions with customers around greenfield factories, we always team up with other people in our organization. We do that to better understand the customer's requirements, and also to provide potential solutions. Some still see us primarily as machine builders, but I think that more and more people are starting to realize that we are also solution providers and integrators. To continue on that path, we still need good machines though,” adds Rasmus.

What’s next?

“It will be really interesting to see where we are one or two years down the road. Right now, customers are approaching us saying they want data. But how will they use it? And will customers that have access to data today use it more actively and see how it can add value? It is a journey, and it will be interesting to see where it takes us and our customers.”

Man and woman looking at screen

Ice cream production, the digital way

Tetra Pak’s approach to digitalization within the ice cream industries help producers optimize production.

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