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MediaService Industries September 2018
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Chocolate heaven
Industry and research cooperate to enable customized chocolate production

Buchs/Canton of Aargau, Switzerland. Although it’s been a buzzword for some time now, “Industrie 4.0” remains little more than an abstract concept to many. In a bid to make the term more tangible to students, planners, production managers and so on, the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Chocolat Frey AG (Chocolat Frey), automation specialist Autexis Holding AG (Autexis) and the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) recently launched a shared project: a pick system which puts together individually selected chocolate assortments. To implement the system, the partners opted to use products and solutions from the Siemens portfolio. The pick system allows the different facets of Industrie 4.0 to be clearly illustrated and also maps out the entire value chain.
We’re all familiar with those miniature chocolate thins called naps, set out to tempt us in surgeries or on trade fair booths. Annoyingly, it usually seems that all your favorites have already been picked out of the bowl. A solution to this age-old problem has been devised by Chocolat Frey in the form of a new pick system. Customers can order an assortment of their own personal chocolate favorites from Chocolat Frey over Twitter at any time. Their order is then entered into the system’s production program fully automatically with no human intervention at all. The individual assortments are put together and packaged for shipping entirely by a robot.

Integrated solution
All those involved pulled together to implement the project. “Even our professors took a hand in the programming, which is something of a rare event,” recalls Markus Krack, Head of Technology Transfer FITT at the FHNW. Right from the start, only Siemens components were considered when it came to implementing the project. “We use MindSphere, the open Cloud eco system from Siemens, as the platform for our Autexis apps,” says Autexis owner Philippe Ramseier. The data gathered from sensors and actuators is transferred over MindConnect to MindSphere. The robots are controlled by a Simatic S7-1500 controller, and engineering takes place in the TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) Portal V15. The pick system is operated using two Simatic KTP900F mobile panels. There are plans in place to generate a digital twin of the plant, which will initially learn from the real world. The medium-term goal is to create a cyber-physical system which will enable mutual learning between the virtual and real worlds, allowing new production processes to be digitally simulated prior to commissioning and any potential errors detected and fixed in advance. 

Clearly envisaged potential
While Chocolat Frey is currently using this production method for demonstration purposes, the company does envisage the potential it holds for customized mass production in the future. The system is currently being treated by Chocolat Frey as an innovation platform for process testing.



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