Using the right melter can help you innovate and adapt in a fast-moving industry

Food manufacturing moves at warp speed – is your business keeping up? With consumers constantly on the lookout for new products and innovative flavor combinations, manufacturers are in a race to get new products to market. More and more factories are manufacturing huge product lines and introducing new SKUs frequently – impossible if your machinery doesn’t allow efficient change-overs and cleaning. 

If you’re using older machinery designed for one or two product lines, it can be difficult to introduce new SKUs efficiently – by the time you set up new equipment or implemented new systems, you’ve fallen behind your competition. You need machinery that’s flexible enough to let you introduce new products frequently, and do it all without compromising the efficiency or quality of your production process.  

Why flexibility matters

This new normal means that your production facility and machinery set-up can’t be set in stone. Equipment needs to handle a wider range of products, with shorter run lengths and increased changeovers. If your equipment isn’t up to speed, your business may fall behind as your competitors process far more bars in a shorter time.  

Fred Grep, Director of Engineering at US-based Hearthside Food Solutions, switched the business to PTL equipment shortly after the business launched. He explains that using efficient machinery, customized to the unique product range, gave a competitive advantage right from the start.  

“It worked out well because our modifications were changes our customers wanted to see. By getting them first, it meant Hearthside was ahead of the game,” he says.  

More bars, similar costs 

As with almost every business, manufacturers need to maximize efficiency if they want to succeed. There’s no point in producing a huge range of bars if the process is slow and costly – passing the price on to consumers is usually a no-go. That’s why flexibility needs to be backed up with efficiency, so new processes and production methods can be completed rapidly, and frequent changeovers between SKUs don’t slow down the process.  

PTL’s new V2O melter was designed to do just that, with features built around efficiency and fast changeovers. Instant melt functionality and continuous supply mean fewer delays and faster processing, while removable melt grids and easy-wash design make it simple to clean between products – even if you’re dealing with allergens. The whole unit is more compact than older models, making it easy to move around your production floor to be used in different processes. The ‘plug and play’ design means that it can be set up next to other equipment as needed, eliminating long product pipe runs, which can slow production time and be cumbersome to clean afterwards.   

Ready for innovation  

Every manufacturer wants to make the latest bar – the one consumers go crazy for – but introducing amazing, innovative products means changing manufacturing lines and, in some cases, even investing in new machinery before a product goes to market.  

Newer chocolate manufacturing equipment – like the V20 – is designed with innovation in mind. Built-in flexibility makes it much easier to configure production lines and produce new bars without buying costly new machinery. This means you can create products that combine ingredients in surprising new ways, use different texture profiles to stand out, or appeal to demographics with specific dietary needs.  

In many cases, you can also customize equipment to suit your production goals. That’s what Hearthside did when it wanted to create a specific range of bars and other products. As Fred explains, the company worked with PTL to customize equipment that fit its unique needs.  

“By [PTL] being open to our modifications and design change requests, we can create superior solutions for customers and gain increased flexibility in our operations,” he enthuses.  

Flexibility, efficiency, innovation

As more products hit the market every day, it’s becoming near-impossible to succeed with a limited range of SKUs. New, interesting products are a must-have – and your production facilities need flexible, efficient, and reliable machinery to turn those innovative ideas into a reality.  

That’s where PTL’s V20 Melter, along with other chocolate & bar -manufacturing equipment, comes in. The V20 is a unique piece of machinery, designed to fit the modern manufacturing environment. Rather than a set piece of equipment that can’t be modified or changed without a large time investment, it’s a flexible, hyper-efficient unit that can adapt to meet your changing needs.  

Here’s how it works:  

  • Efficiency – accelerate production speed 
  • Flexibility – customization and quick changeovers make the V20 ideal for producing a wider range of bars and other products.  
  • Changeover speed – efficiency continues with high-speed changeovers and ease of cleaning – even for allergens.  
  • Size and portability – the smaller footprint makes the V20 easy to slot in anywhere on your manufacturing floor, and move around as needed.  
  • Innovation – flexible, customizable functions mean that manufacturers can create and develop new, innovative bars without the need for a whole new equipment set-up.  

In an industry obsessed with innovation, it could be just what you need to get ahead.  

Want to know more? Download our eBook ‘How SKU-ed up is your chocolate and bar production process?’ for insights, statistics, and more detail.    



Support SKU proliferation with smarter hygiene practice

Hygienic production is a basic requirement – a must-have, rather than a value add. It’s something that holds production back, an annoying box to check as quickly as possible. 

But we look at hygiene differently. When production equipment is engineered to minimize the possibility of contamination, it frees your production capability. Hygiene design can and should be supporting your efficiency and SKU proliferation.

At its most simple, faster changeovers mean more flexibility and more SKUs.

Added to that, food safety incidents cost an estimated US$77.7 billion in 2012, making preventative action a worthwhile investment.

Making best-practice hygiene simple

Proactive contamination prevention comes down to making it part of your BAU, rather than something you must do in addition. The most important part of that? The design of your equipment. As a baseline, your equipment must be built around the ten principles of hygienic design. This is equipment that:

  • Can be cleaned to a microbiological level
  • Is made of materials that are compatible with food products, the environment, and sanitizing products
  • Can be easily inspected, maintained, and cleaned
  • Is self-draining
  • Has hollow areas like frames or rollers hermetically sealed
  • Doesn’t have pits, cracks, corrosion, or protruding edges where product can collect
  • Doesn’t work against sanitary conditions by harboring or growing bacteria
  • Has hygienic maintenance enclosures (like electrical control panels or chain guards) and human/machine interfaces (like pushbuttons and valve handles)
  • Doesn’t work against the hygienic performance of your other equipment and systems

Any decent production equipment should meet these basic requirements. But to turn hygiene processes into a streamlined part of your operations, give you the flexibility to grow your SKU numbers, and a competitive edge, you’ll need to go farther than that.

Invest in team training and instruction

The best-designed equipment is only as good as the team operating it. That’s why your equipment should be supported with on-site training and easy-to-follow instructions. As part of any installation, we make sure the wider team is well-versed in the use of the equipment and include large, picture-based instructions with all our machines.

“PTL truly cares about your success,” says Fred Grep, Hearthside Food Solutions’ Director of Engineering.

Source customized equipment

The reality is that off-the-shelf equipment won’t perfectly suit the way you work or your existing equipment. That means you’ll have to find workarounds to achieve even minimum hygiene standards. With equipment that suits your requirements, you’re not faced with those compromises. That’s why we follow a ‘creating together’ process. After understanding your unique requirements, space, and existing equipment, we produce basic models, sketches, layouts, and process-flow diagrams for you to review.

That collaborative approach meant Hearthside Food Solutions got equipment that slotted right into their existing line. That, says Fred, is what gave them their competitive advantage.

“PTL’s equipment and approach to customer service enables us to create a competitive advantage. By [PTL] being open to our modifications and design change requests, we can create superior solutions for customers and gain increased flexibility in our operations.”

Smart design features

When it comes to equipment that streamlines your hygiene practices, details matter. For example, in PTL’s V20 Melter, non-product contact surfaces are also designed with hygiene in mind. That’s because even with the highest standards of containment, bacteria can still travel from one part of the facility to another.

That attention to detail was part of what impressed Tru Food Manufacturing.

“What was obvious was the amount of time and thought that had been put into all aspects of the machine. This equates to ease of use, ease of sanitation, minimal downtime for sanitation, and flexibility to switch between products, to keep up with our customers’ demands.” – Mike Berko, Project Engineer.

Clever innovations

Other design elements that make hygiene practice far simpler are the v20’s uniquely small footprint and portability. Its self-contained, removable melt grid and accessible stirrer drive make processes more flexible and compliant with regulations. Like all PTL equipment, it also keeps the number of swap-out parts to a minimum. And any that remain are tool-less, easily stored, and handled on hygienic storage and wash-down carts.

“The short length of piping means the circuit can be broken down into easy-to-handle, individual components that can be easily and thoroughly sanitized in a fraction of the time that would be required with a traditional setup,” adds Mike.

Another feature is multiple safety zones along a process line, so sanitation starts in one zone as it completes production. Similarly, secondary swap-out assemblies allow for quick changes. For example, an enrober with two swap-out reservoir assemblies means fast change times, and cleaning can be done when production is up and running again.

“Their equipment reliability and exceptional sanitary design are outstanding,” says Fred.

Your hygiene could be your edge

SKU proliferation comes down to flexibility, which must include impeccable hygiene. With hygiene practices built into processes and equipment as standard, it becomes a competitive advantage, rather than a step that’s holding you back. Achieving that requires a mix of steps, including sourcing equipment that’s customized to your requirements, making use of innovative hygiene features, and rigorous team training. The result? Your facility will be free to rapidly shift between SKUs, knowing that customers, consumers, and the reputation of your business are safe.

For a more in-depth discussion on hygiene principles in manufacturing equipment, click here to download our ebook.