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.



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.

Increasing SKUs will allow you to offer a more diverse range of products for your customers. Product portfolios do develop some ‘middle aged spread’, especially since desire for more product choice leads to more changeovers and, possibly, smaller batches. 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 machinery itself. Ideally, your machinery 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.



Nutritional bars have steadily grown in popularity since first conception in the early 1960’s. They were first formulated by Nasa, in partnership with Pillsbury, as a solution to provide astronauts their required daily nutrition in a compact and convenient way.

Steadily growing in popularity over the years, nutritional bars are now consumed by a wide demographic and as a result this functional food category is valued at US$6.875 million and is expected to reach $7.735 million by 2022.

While nutritional bars provide significant health benefits to a variety of consumers – from high performing athletes to school children – the ever-growing ingredient list and accompanying marketing tactics (all natural, organic, paleo, genetically modified organism free and gluten free), has left the nutritional bar and functional food category open to a growing list of quality assurance (QA) and compliance concerns.

This article, ‘Nutrition bar manufacturing: A quality assurance perspective’ by Natural Products Insider, discusses the growing QA and compliance concerns felt by bar manufacturers today and offers valuable tactics manufacturers can implement to overcome them.

We’ve outlined the key challenges they addressed below, but if you’d like to read the article you can do so here.

The key challenges bar manufacturers are faced with today

Increasing food safety regulations mean that bar manufacturers need to tighten their food hazard prevention rather than just controlling critical points. But that’s easier said than done. As consumers yearn for more variety, bar manufacturers have been inundated with the need to produce assortment whilst adhering to the list of growing regulations – causing headaches for many bar manufacturers today.

  1. Identifying regulatory compliance throughout the supply chain.

Raw material suppliers are a critical step in purchasing raw ingredients for bars. However, it is now necessary for raw ingredients (domestic and foreign) to meet FSMA rules, meaning the ingredients manufacturers use must be compliant. While this reduces time spent testing ingredients, manufacturers must now be more vigilant when purchasing and managing their raw material supply.

  1. Hygiene and handling critical to offering SKU variation.

With more and more consumers looking for variety, whether that be to cater to an allergy, a specific diet or add additional nutrition, bar manufacturers need to provide assortment at pace. As most bar manufacturing production lines host a multitude of equipment that comes into direct contact with a product as it completes its process to form a bar, cross contamination and cross contact become a huge issue – specifically with allergens and microbial contamination. A cause for concern for manufacturers as failure to adequately clean production machinery can result in costly product recalls from undisclosed allergens or adulterants.

The growing demand for nutritional variety in convenience bars alongside growing compliance demands has created a wealth of challenges for bar manufacturers today. However, if addressed with deliberate focus and assistance from management throughout operations, these challenges can help manufacturers to produce a quality and compliant finished bar product.

Here at PTL, we design and build industry-leading bar and chocolate manufacturing machinery and as result, know all too well the challenges manufacturers face, especially around hygiene control.

In our eBook, 10 Hygienic Design Principles for Food Manufacturing Equipment, we provide an introduction to the subject of hygienic design of food manufacturing equipment – from the factors driving changes, regulatory response and industry requirements, to best practices in terms of equipment design. If you would like a copy, you can download one here.



In August 2020, we launched the new PTL Melter V20. The result of extensive R&D, the V20 is the latest generation in a melter range we’ve been developing and building since 1994. By fusing the latest design technology with decades of practical industry experience each iteration of PTL Melters have evolved to better meet customer needs and regulatory requirements.

The V20 marks our most significant and innovative advancement so far, focused around increasing melt rate, decreasing footprint, and maximising flexibility.

Powerful, flexible and compact, the V20 increases melt rate by up to 125 percent, while decreasing footprint by up to 45 percent. Large melt rates are achieved by maximizing the product contact surface area, and optimizing water flow through the melt grid.



Boost melt rates by up to 125%

  • Instant melting
  • Continuous process supply
  • Increase downstream production rates
  • Increased efficiency through revolutionary design
  • Eliminate large tanks and long pipe runs



Transform changeovers

  • Switch masses/coatings quickly
  • Removable melt grid
  • Wash down design
  • Manage allergen changeovers
  • Fast, simple cleaning
  • Melt non-core products
  • Future proof production
  • Reduce down time



Reduce footprint by up to 45%

  • Portable
  • Self-contained
  • Plug and play
  • Radically smaller footprint than tank/kettle strategy
  • Locate next to use-point (no long pipe runs)

Using flow simulation software (CFD) the melt grid has been designed to provide even, high velocity flow through each tube to maximize the heat transfer coefficient.

The V20 also features a unique grid agitator, which dramatically increases the melt rate of wafers and buttons.

The heating power can be scaled to meet your production requirements – up to 72kW (245,000 BTU/hr) as standard or even more if required.

The modular heating system design means the power source can be tailored to site specific needs, options include self-contained electric elements, plant hot water supply and gas fired boilers.

The V20 also boasts significant sanitation improvements:

  • The melt grid is easily removable, allowing full access to the interior for cleaning or change-overs
  • Simple, tool-less removal of the stirrer motor allows complete removal of seal cartridges for easy allergen cleaning
  • The machine is designed to be fully washed down with waterproof components and sloped surfaces for water run-off

Watch this recording of the live launch event highlights, and get an exclusive look at the PTL Melter V20:

Powerful, flexible and compact – the PTL V20 Melter is optimized to increase production output, eliminate process bottlenecks and ultimately boost your bottom-line.



Rather than focus on one major SKU, companies can shift towards multiple product variations to cater to a wider range of people. A popular product could have extensions like a milk chocolate version, a ruby chocolate offshoot, a sugar-free option, dairy-free variations and more. Rather than stick with limited flavors that define the product, the product can offer a wide range of flavors, nutritional values and omitted ingredients to appeal to a much wider segment of the market. With product quality improvements and new options continually emerging, companies can drive higher profits and increase their word-of-mouth reach from excited consumers.

Innovative changes in bar and chocolate machinery design are enabling plants to be more flexible and adaptable. Being able to quickly change between product coatings is a key requirement. Increased agility of product lines allows for faster changeover and better speed to market. Utilizing continuous melters that are built to ensure this level of flexibility are a key component in manufacturing lines that help multinational brands and co-manufacturing outfits keep up with the rapidly changing consumer trends and boost their bottom line.

Emerging trends of product variations

There is a major shift towards more product variations among food manufacturers, including the bar and chocolate industry. A popular product used to be ran in large batches. Now, that same product might have a handful of flavor variations and even special seasonal runs, causing manufacturers to shorten product cycles. Bar and chocolate manufacturers are looking to increase SKUs that provide variations on flavors, health benefits and ingredients.

In 2019, the value of domestic food market shipments in the US was $794.4 billion and healthy variations of food are currently driving growth. Companies are also working to plan ahead by examining the shifts in popular flavors. Being prepared to test product ideas and take new products to market faster will allow your plant to adapt to consumer trends as they are changing.

Cracking the challenges of changeovers

With trends moving to more product variants, frequent and efficient product changeovers are crucial. This can be incredibly time-consuming with large machines and melters that are difficult to clean. Typically, older equipment isn’t made with sanitation in mind, which means they aren’t equipped for the required level of production flexibility.

Rapid melting, ease of sanitation (especially allergen cleanability) and minimal downtime are the three pillars of producing multiple SKUs. If bar and chocolate manufacturers are going to move towards product variations, they will need to replace their old machines with agile chocolate processing machines that are hygienically built for easy cleaning and accessibility.

Allergen Threats

Trying to push old equipment through fast changeovers can lead to dangerous cross contamination of ingredients. Allergen cleaning is crucial to customer health, avoiding reputational damage to brands and expensive product recalls. Nuts, dairy and gluten are all very high on the list of ingredients that can be dangerous to certain people, even in their trace forms. Changeovers require all surfaces of the melter that comes into contact with the product needs to be completely sanitized.

A flexible melter will allow for fast and simple cleaning, improved allergen changeovers and the ability to switch between masses and coatings quickly.

Thorough allergen cleaning is time-consuming and interrupts production scheduling. Chocolate melters that are optimised for cleaning offer innovative designs for rapid removal of product-contact parts. When chocolate melters are easy to clean, downtime is minimized and productivity can stay high.

Mobile features for flexible positioning

A portable and compact melter will allow cleaning away from the line for less disruption and avoids the need to water in sensitive production areas. It also saves space and allows for designing an efficient plant process flow

Introducing our newest highly flexible and compact Melter V20

As a bar or chocolate manufacturer, you’re probably already planning ahead by and preparing for the changing trends of tomorrow’s market. It is very challenging to find continuous chocolate melters that are able to offer easy cleaning features and fast, efficient melting capabilities.

PTL designs for the flexibility you need.

Designed to effectively melt multiple SKUs, manage allergens and minimize downtime, the new Melter V20 is compact and flexible, so you can count on them to be fast and cost-effective. The special hygienic grid design provides high melt rates while being removable for thorough cleaning.

Enhance your production flexibility with the PTL Melter V20

The PTL Melter V20 is designed to help you meet the industry challenges of shorter product cycles and multiple product variations by supporting:

  • Easy accessibility for cleaning and changeovers
  • Supplement existing melting equipment for increased throughput
  • Shorter runs for testing specialty product variations
  • Non-core product melting
  • Short product pipelines
  • Reduced downtime

With up to 72 kilowatts of power and innovative design, we can help you improve production speed while saving energy and reducing your production downtime. Get ready for a new level of melting performance and flexibility with the PTL Melter V20.