Ice cream filling, like other complex processes, is never stronger than its weakest link. For ice cream manufacturers aiming for effective, trouble-free operation and high, consistent yield, it is important to invest in a machine that offers robust and reliable solutions to the traditionally “weak” links of the process. These are often identified as the cone dispenser and the chocolate spray unit. The more robust and less complicated these are, the greater the chance that the filling machine will deliver the specified quantity and quality with a minimum of waste. It is important to keep in mind that waste is not only defined as the direct waste of cones, ice cream, chocolate, etc. that have to be thrown away. It also comprises the energy input and operator hours that are the same, or greater, in a less robust process. The result is a considerably higher production cost.
Under ideal circumstances, most ice cream fillers can deliver decent uptimes. But real conditions often include raw materials with a number of defects that can result in jams and subsequent production stops. It is therefore important to use equipment that can deal with minor deviations in raw materials – cones, lids, chocolate – in a way that does not disturb the production by calling for unplanned downtime.
It is equally important to focus on giveaways in ice cream and chocolate caused by fluctuations in accuracy across a filling row. Since customers are guaranteed specific volumes and weights, the equipment needs to secure a minimum fill level in each cone or cup. The lower the fluctuation, and the more exact filling of each unit, the lower the giveaway.
For fillers with flexible production planning especially, operator time and raw materials wasted in start-ups and shutdowns are important cost drivers. These must be taken into account when evaluating machine performance. Start-up and shutdown sequences should be designed to minimize this waste, e.g., by offering quick and easy changeovers, solutions to prevent clogging of the chocolate spray unit and assurance that all cones and cups are equally filled – from the first row to the last.
Finally, since the filling machine is part of a line, it needs to be a perfect fit with the other processing units – including ingredient feeders, freezers and the hardening tunnel. Surrounding equipment with insufficient capacity will slow production down, while equipment such as a freezer or hardening tunnel not being used to its full potential means both over-investment and a waste of energy and labour costs.
To conclude, there are many different ways to reduce waste in the ice cream filling business. A good start is to find a machine that offers robust solutions for high uptime, minimized giveaways and a high level of flexibility – and is a good match with upstream and downstream processing equipment. The result will be less wasted raw material, less wasted time, less wasted energy and less wasted capacity.
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