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.



Register for the PTL Melter V20 global virtual launch  – 10 August 2020 at 4:00 pm EST. 

28 July 2020. Auckland, NZ. Globally respected bar and chocolate machinery designer and manufacturer PTL have announced the launch of their latest industrial chocolate melter, the PTL Melter V20, on August 10, 2020 (EST).

‘’Our customers, especially the multinational brands we work with, were telling us they needed to make their production process faster and more flexible, as they were producing more SKUs with shorter lifecycles,’’ says PTL’s Managing Director Nick Halliday,

‘’Product melting capability is central to this, so we looked at our melter from the ground up, with the aim of delivering a machine that could support increased production, lower costs and greater agility.’’

‘’With a melt rate that is upto 125% higher than previous melters our customers can significantly boost their bottomline, achieving instant melting as well as continuous process supply, improving their downstream production rates.


“Changeovers are an area that restrict production efficiency and the ability of our customers to be flexible, so we’ve addressed that in the V20 by transforming the changeover process. Masses/coatings can be quickly switched and wash down is fast and simple, with a focus on allergen cleanability. For example, all product contact surfaces are removable or accessible for cleaning.’’

‘’With upto a 45% smaller footprint and a self-contained, plug and play design, the V20 is easy to fit into any production area. It eliminates the need for a tank/kettle strategy and for long pipe runs, as it can be situated next to use-point,’’ says Mr Halliday.

Designed to melt multiple SKUs, manage allergens and minimize downtime, the Melter V20 is the result of research with multinationals and co-manufacturer customers throughout the US and other markets, and intense R&D by PTL’s expert team. ‘’We’ve been designing and manufacturing melters with our customers since 1994, and the Melter V20 represents another significant leap for the industry that will deliver real advantages to our customers.’’

The PTL Melter V20 will be launched at a virtual event on August 10, 2020 at 4:00pm EST 

About the PTL Melter V20

The Melter V20 offers a new level of continuous melting performance and flexibility, backed by the same uniquely collaborative approach for which PTL is so well known in the industry.

Melting capacity

Up to 125% higher melt rate
Varies depending on mass
Example rates can be provided on request
Rates confirmed after testing

Up to 45% smaller footprint
S1 model-Width 1.70m [67″] x Depth 1.19m [47″]
S3 model-Width 2.32m [91″] x Depth 1.81m [71″]
D3 model-Width 3.99m [157″] x Depth 1.81m [71″]
Plus custom sizes

Products Chocolate
Cocoa liquor
Cocoa butter
Dairy butter
Various other fats
Formats Chips/wafers/buttons
One-ton blocks (different melter design)

More information here



A tool to calculate the financial returns possible when you invest in new equipment for your facility.

Chocolate and bar manufacturing equipment is not one-size-fits-all. PTL’s philosophy is to work with our clients’ individual needs to create innovative equipment solutions.

We believe it’s important to outfit your facility with equipment that has the flexibility to adapt to your specific needs. Not only that, but in our highly competitive industry, it’s essential to be using equipment that will help you gain an edge, while adhering to food safety regulations.

Achieving this takes money, and justifying investment in our industry of tight margins requires building a business case. You need to prove to your stakeholders the dollar value of investing in that new machinery, as well as provide a detailed justification of why the investment will ultimately benefit your business and its profitability.

To help, PTL have developed a new calculator to determine the financial value you can expect to achieve when investing in new equipment. We’ve also created an accompanying guide to help you understand not only the return on investment, but how to use the results to justify outlaying for new equipment and machinery.

The guide covers four key areas:

1. The benefits of investing in new equipment or upgrades – from hygiene and safety to maximizing production and efficiency, there are manifold benefits to ensuring your facility is equipped with the latest technology.

2. Calculating the return on investment (ROI) – the ROI calculator has been built using industry studies and our own extensive experience with our existing customer base. The guide outlines how to use the calculator, so that you can estimate how many months it would take to recoup the investment through the potential increase in bar production and profit and possible reduction in labor costs.

3. Making smart equipment investment decisions – it’s key to outfit your food manufacturing facility with customized solutions that meet individual business needs as well as give your company the competitive edge needed to stay relevant in a constantly evolving industry.

4. Customized chocolate and bar machinery – a look at how PTL uses a collaborative approach to understand your business and equipment needs. From your first contact with us, we make sure you’re an integral part of the process.

Remaining competitive in the industry is not about running the cheapest operation possible. As a chocolate or bar manufacturer, maintaining a good reputation is critical, and if your products have been created using innovative machinery and equipment, that has a big impact on your ROI.

This guide and our accompanying ROI calculator provide a very clear picture of the value you can typically expect when investing in new and upgraded equipment.

Start calculating your ROI now



PTL’s bar line equipment is designed to combat the margin eroding impact of waste in the bar manufacturing process.

Waste. It’s something that chocolate and bar manufacturers are driven to avoid. Recent research estimated that globally, food manufacturing collectively face billions in costs when it comes to waste. Not only does reducing waste boost profits, but it’s an environmentally sustainable approach as well.

One of the biggest root causes of waste is human error, usually the result of a lack of standardised procedures and training. Failing to stick to the formula is one of the main reasons food manufacturers produce more waste than they should, and it comes down to a simple concept: there’s no such thing as taking shortcuts when producing something like granola bars. For example, if the product going into the bar line isn’t of the correct consistency – because the formula hasn’t been stuck to – then the outcome will be one of total waste. Not only will the product not be able to be sold, but the failure means wasted raw materials and energy.

Equipment cleanliness is another risk factor for waste. Food manufacturers can’t take shortcuts here either, because what gets wasted is time. With particularly sticky ingredients, production may need to be halted regularly to allow for cleaning, meaning it’s important to be using equipment that’s designed to handle these sticky products, and at the same time be easy and fast to clean.

Waste is maximised in chocolate and bar manufacturing when people bend the rules and try to take shortcuts. This is basic human nature, but when it comes to minimising waste in food production, deviating from formulation or not following cleanliness procedures to the letter are the two main contributors. And in the end, it’s not a shortcut after all, because the time it takes to correct mistakes is another form of waste.

Every food manufacturer needs to have comprehensive guidelines for their employees to follow during the bar manufacturing process. These guidelines are the key factor in reducing waste: if they don’t get it right, there’ll be an increase in waste. There are specifications for every recipe and if they’re not stuck to, what’s being produced can’t be sold. The ingredients have been wasted, energy has been wasted, and time has been wasted. There are no profits to show for it, and if a manufacturer produces excessive waste, it could become common knowledge in the industry and their reputation will be damaged.

Having the right equipment in place is another essential for minimising waste. The design should be such that it takes waste into account, and functions to produce as little of it as possible.

PTL’s bar line machinery includes features that reduce and even eliminate waste that is often typical in the bar manufacturing process, such as eliminating the side trim from bars, if they don’t need it. It’s true that most manufacturers do need to trim the bars so they are all of a standard size and have straight edges, but what’s cut from the bars can be significantly reduced so waste is minimised, and on PTL equipment, this design feature is known as slab-tracking.

If a slab is running with no side trim (a protein bar for example) slab tracking ensures that the outside bars are the correct width/weight, eliminating waste.

If a slab is running with side trim (nut, granola bar for example) accurate slab tracking allows the side trim to be kept to a minimum, reducing waste. The guillotines on our bar line machinery also ensures that each bar is of a standard length and weight

When the bar needs to be enrobed in chocolate or some other coating, the changeover from one type or colour – say from dark chocolate to white – can be done very quickly. And the enrobing product can be conserved and used again, if the recipe allows for it.

A main feature of PTL’s bar line equipment is the hygienic design. They’re easier to clean due to their flexibility, wash-down capability and removable components. Because the cleaning process is so fast, this reduces downtime and increases productivity.

The more a manufacturer can reduce waste the better their margins. There are also important environmental considerations that drive waste reduction, and PTL’s equipment takes this into account. We focus on waste reduction capabilities and on gaining efficiencies, and we work with our customers individually to tailor our equipment design for their specific production and waste reduction needs.

If you’d like to find out more about how our equipment can reduce or even eliminate waste in your operation, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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For anyone with experience in the chocolate and bar manufacturing industry, they would have seen many different technologies and trends come and go. Industry 4.0 is another looming trend – but what is it and what does it mean for you?

Industry 4.0’ (i.e. the fourth industrial revolution) is a catch-all phrase for the next generation of manufacturing. It’s where the power of the internet, sensors and software can be combined to improve manufacturing operations. But what is it and how does it apply to chocolate and bar manufacturing?

Most of the building blocks for this industry movement exist today, particularly within large, established manufacturers. The energy and excitement of the 4.0 term comes from the combination of these elements in new ways. It’s useful to think of industry 4.0 encompassing three linked elements:

  1. Physical matter or energy: e.g. the chocolate and component ingredients, the manufacturing equipment, the energy required to drive them etc.
  2. Sensors and display: the technology that gathers information (e.g. machine speed, product temperature) and displays it (via mobile devices or other interfaces).
  3. Analytics and algorithms: software that takes all the information and has the intelligence to make decisions about it, or guide humans to make decisions.

In practical terms applications for chocolate and bar manufacturers include:

  • Replacing humans in the quality control process, e.g. machine detection of defects in the shape or size of a bar product, or debris in a chocolate product. Technology with the right level of sensitivity and accuracy will do a far better job at repetitive task like these than a human operator. Those people can then be freed up to focus on higher value tasks.
  • Increasing speed of detecting sanitation issues. Technology is becoming available that will enable almost instant detection of sanitation issues with food manufacturing equipment. Currently, this process can be time consuming, as it involves a person taking a swab and sending it to a lab for analysis.
  • Augmented and virtual reality could be applied in many areas of the chocolate manufacturing process, but training is a logical one. Instead of having to find and understand operating manuals, a new staffer could use AR enabled mobile device (e.g. a tablet) to simply point it at a machine and understand how it operates and what they need to do to complete their task.
  • Operators could be empowered with much richer data than the traditional fixed terminal on manufacturing equipment. A mobile device linked with sensors could tell them whether there was a product temperature issue with a particular batch of bars or monitor machine speed for a chocolate bar line against their standard benchmarks.

How quickly will these new ideas come into the chocolate and bar manufacturing sector? A useful way for thinking about new waves of technology is a model from IT advisers the Gartner Group. Their hype cycle suggests technologies typically come into an industry with much hype and publicity, but are used relatively sparingly at first. Over time, businesses see their value and slowly start integrating them into normal practice.

Take the humble microwave oven. Microwaves went from scary and expensive technology to something many households desired, as more consumer-oriented manufacturers made products that were simpler and cheaper. A mass market of people started to understand that this invention delivered a faster, easier way of cooking food. According to Wikipedia, microwave sales increased from 40,000 per annum in 1970 to 1 million a year by 1975. Now market penetration is estimated to be 90% and you can buy one at the supermarket with your bread and milk.

On a much broader scale, industry 4.0 has to go through the same cycle for chocolate manufacturers. According to Industry Today magazine, only 13 percent of manufacturers are implementing industry 4.0-type approaches such as using the internet of things or smart manufacturing techniques. It has to go from hard to understand and expensive, to something that can be integrated into daily operations.

Chocolate manufacturers want product that is of good quality, is the right size and shape and is safe to eat. And they want to achieve these outcomes as efficiently as possible. How industry 4.0 technologies can help achieve these outcomes is what counts and varies widely depending on the particular manufacturer.

A tailored approach to applying 4.0 is key. Large, mature manufacturers and co-packers will be looking at how to achieve efficiencies while maintaining quality within the scope of their existing operations. Start-up food manufacturing businesses will look at applying at broader mix of 4.0 technologies to try and disrupt the status quo.

PTL’s approach to industry 4.0 is what we call purposeful innovation. We actively monitor developments with new technologies, and combinations of technologies, and where they could fit into our customer’s requirements. Engaging with customers around their specific needs and applying design thinking is key, as tailored solutions are critical to realising a return on investment in these types of technologies. It’s easy to waste investment if new technology isn’t tightly aligned to manufacturing process.

We also have some world class partners like Rockwell Automation that are operating at the sharp end with AR/VR, diagnostic technologies and so on. With their size, resource and reputation, they can provide technology that is proven and cost-effective.

In a technology sense, the complexity is not necessarily in implementing some of these technologies but understanding how they are best applied in your specific situation. PTL’s deep knowledge and experience in the chocolate and bar manufacturing industry is where we can add real value in helping you understand how to apply the exciting suite of industry 4.0 technologies to your manufacturing process.

Interested in learning more about trends in chocolate manufacturing? Check out the free resources we have on offer.