Top challenges for medium-sized ice cream producers, and how to overcome them

Reduced raw material costs, easy and reliable operation, flexibility for different products and low cost of ownership top the wish list of medium-sized ice cream producers with filler capacities of up to 18,000 units/hour. What should they be looking for in their production equipment in order to achieve this? And which are the main challenges they face?

A general trend in ice cream production is towards reducing raw material costs in order to increase earnings for a given product. But cheaper raw materials also risk tolerance increase, e.g., in distances between cones in a stack, and deviation of material consistency between batches. This could result in the purchasing department reaching its goal of achieving low cost supply, but the technical department being blamed by the production department for equipment not performing up to standard. The solution is to invest in robust and proven processing equipment that can cope with deviations and flaws in raw materials and deliver ice cream products of consistent quality.

Easy to operate

Since labour costs can be a substantial part of total production cost, it is essential that production equipment can be run and operated with little specific know-how and training. Typical for medium-sized producers is that production planning often changes rapidly to meet new demands in sales channels. To accommodate this, it is crucial that equipment operation is easy enough to allow more or less any operator to make quick changeovers, start up equipment and handle optimization of sub-processes such as chocolate spraying on the fly.

Easy to change product type​

Many producers in this segment have the need and ambition to offer many different products to the market without over-spending on the production equipment. And in cases where there is simply not space for a second line, one machine needs to be able to produce a range of different products. This requires a machine that can be easily re-configured for new products – whether a minor size change (such as from one cone size to another) and options such as products with or without toppings, or a totally different product type such as a changeover from cones to cups with snap-on lids.

Reliable operation with a low investment cost​

To cope with all of these demands, and to deliver on quality and the bottom line, ice cream fillers must combine a high level of flexibility with easy operation and robustness – all at a reasonable investment cost. A complicated and expensive machine would most probably deliver reliable operation, but might lack flexibility and put high demands on qualified operators to run, serve and maintain it. A simpler machine, on the other hand, might offer a lower investment cost, but at the expense of both flexibility and robustness. The problems would probably begin with the cone dispenser being unable to cope with deviations in the raw materials. The result? All the trouble and waste could potentially turn that cheap investment into a nightmare.

Overcoming the main challenges facing ice cream producers in the small and medium segments really boils down to a few key things.

  • Make sure the machine you choose is robust, reliable and easily configured for different products – and can be run by operators with minimal training.
  • Go for a machine with uncomplicated and reliable features – cone dispenser, chocolate sprayer and lid dispenser, etc. – and ensure that these can be perfectly adapted to the raw materials you are using and cope with actual deviations.

The bottom line? Choose the machine that provides all of the above, and you will end up with the lowest total cost of ownership and the high flexibility you need.

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