Published on

March 5, 2021


Nick Halliday

Supporting new SKUs without added production pressure

SKU proliferation is one of our industry’s biggest challenges and it continues to impact on production. How do you respond and adapt as an engineering leader?

As our recent report into SKU proliferation identified, quantitative and qualitative evidence from the industry demonstrates that across the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sector, including chocolate and bar manufacturing, businesses are adding to their inventory and product range in order to meet an increased and diversified demand. This has a significant impact on how you plan and operate your production process.

The challenge of supporting new SKUs without adding production pressure is down to agile manufacturing, which will enable your facility to embrace SKU proliferation while lowering the cost of production. We’ve got three ideas to help you make it happen.

1: Improving the speed and efficiency of changeovers

Key to achieving this is through scheduling. For example, when enrobing bars, it’s important to ensure coating and ingredient compatibility, e.g. starting with white chocolate and following up with compatible milk or dark chocolate.

Then there’s the machiney should include features that are designed to facilitate swift changeovers, such as:

  • A minimum of swap-out parts
  • Tool-less swap-out parts
  • Neat and easy storing and handling of swap-out parts on compact and hygienic storage and wash-down carts
  • Easy, simple center lining and location for swap-out parts
  • Easy-to-follow instructions in large picture-based formats on display for operators to refer to

A key aspect is ensuring multiple safety zones along a process line. This enables sanitation to commence on a zone as it completes production. For example, once all product has passed through the forming and slab cooling section, the Lockout / Tagout can be done in sanitation mode, and cleaning can commence while the cutting and coating processes continue.

It’s also a good idea to have secondary swap-out assemblies for quick changes. For example, an enrober with two swap-out reservoir assemblies enables fast change times, and cleaning can be done when production is up and running again.

Remember too that local drains allow more equipment to be washed on the line, and self-draining surfaces should be used as much as possible.

2: Minimising downtime

Again, efficient scheduling plays an important part here, in that a regular preventative maintenance schedule is critical for minimising equipment downtime. So too does the cleanability of your equipment, which comes down to it being designed with allergen and pathogen hygiene in mind – such as consideration as to how the machinery is dried as well as cleaned.

You can also minimise equipment downtime by:

  • Ensuring the ability to remove equipment parts for cleaning offline
  • Making use of secondary changeover parts as per the above point
  • Ensuring the fast priming of equipment

Key to inimising downtime is ensuring your personnel are constantly trained. Production facility jobs often see high turnover; as new employees come into the production facility, they need to be properly trained in all standard operating procedures (SOPs). Your equipment supplier should offer training to those who will then go on to train employees. Make sure that everyone is aware of all line requirements, because if you reduce or even eliminate damage to the line, you’ll significantly reduce downtime.

3: Managing allergens efficiently

Once again, scheduling and following SOPs – which need to be clear and consistent – is key to managing allergens.

Just as crucial is hygienic equipment design, so that you’re working with production equipment that will minimise the possibility of contamination from pathogens or allergens, while enabling maximum production capacity. It needs to meet stringent allergen standards, ensuring:

  • No bacterial build-up
  • Fast and easy changeovers and wash-down options

It’s also important to ensure that non-product contact surfaces are also designed with hygiene in mind because even with the highest standards of containment, bacteria can still travel from one part of the facility to another.

The PTL approach to dealing with production pressure

Production machinery and equipment shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Off-the-shelf equipment won’t have the flexibility to adapt to the individual needs of a food processing facility. Every organisation has different requirements, meaning the equipment they use should be able to change to fit those requirements, not the other way around.

PTL machinery is designed to be modular, flexible and hygienic. We also focus on waste reduction capabilities while gaining production efficiencies. From full production lines to individual machines, PTL can design a tailored solution for a facility’s specific needs.

Once installed in your facility, the unique design of PTL equipment will enhance performance efficiency and will reduce production pressure, allowing you to support more SKUs as needed. When it comes to production output, our equipment includes features that improve that output; specifically cleaning reduction, changeover reduction and end product accuracy, again resulting in increased uptime and reduced pressure.

When it comes to hygiene and managing allergens, our equipment is designed to several international standards; our focus goes beyond the equipment itself, as sanitation and hygiene are primary factors for us. We also provide direction and guidance on how best to clean the equipment post-deployment, to ensure that hygiene standards are always met.

For any food manufacturing organisation, the number of SKUs is going to increase as consumers’ needs and desires grow. However, as long as your facility is geared towards reducing production pressure while managing SKU proliferation, you’ll experience positive business growth along with an enhanced reputation and of course, a boost to your profitability.

Discover our collaborative ‘Creating Together‘ approach – combining our experience and expertise with your exact requirements, resulting in fit for purpose machinery every time.