Candy maker preps for the digital enterprise

Many established food manufacturers adopt unified automation platform strategies — one automation vendor — to support interoperability among equipment, work centers and plants and move machine data to the enterprise level. A unified automation strategy can establish a solid automation foundation that optimizes operations for the near term, but also future-proofs a small plant.

Queen City Candy, a full-service company specializing in manufacturing, custom packaging, private labeling, wholesale distribution and retail, decided on a unified automation strategy as it retooled its business model and began to manufacture its candy products in 2015.

This Greendale, Indiana, manufacturer discarded its bulk-distributor model due to recurring supply chain issues and desperate attempts to find other suppliers to fulfill customer orders. In some processes, Queen City would buy six-month supplies of product to take care of the demand for their customers.

“A manufacturer can sell a confectionery product once if it looks good, but won’t sell it twice if the candy doesn’t taste good,” says Vincent Clee, president and CEO of Queen City Candy.

With a new business model in place, Queen City enlisted Bosch Packaging Technology equipment for its new 10,500-sq.-ft. processing facility. Bosch Packaging Technology produces both process and packaging equipment and provides full line solutions to manufacturers. Besides processing equipment for candy making, the equipment manufacturer enlisted Siemens Industry, Inc. to supply automation and control components.

The new automation platform allows this candy producer to create a consistent product by way of repeatable processes, but also lays the foundation for a customer-centric and demand-driven organization and  digital enterprise. According to Queen City, one of the objectives of the new equipment was to install systems with the capacity to keep hoppers full of product, canisters full of flavors, and deliver product day in and day out to meet demand.

The automation and equipment solution includes production kitchen confectionery equipment and a starch molding (mogul) machine, along with conditioning rooms. Bosch designed and installed the equipment for these three areas while Siemens’ PLCs are the backbone for the automation component. The compact SIMATIC ET 200S PLCs control the weighing of base mass ingredients, pressure cooking process and post-cook process.  

Candy processing blends raw ingredients, depending on different batch recipes, to create jelly mass with colors and flavors added. From there, the jelly mass reaches a mogul point — form ready — and moves into the starch trays.

“Choosing a single provider for all systems was attractive to Queen City as a one-stop source, rather than two manufacturers for mission-critical equipment and process controllers,” says Anthony Habib, global consultant and head process engineer for the Queen City Candy integration.

The candy plant also employs SIMATIC HMI panels for the processing equipment, including the TP1900 19-in. and TP1200 12-in. versions. The medium-size candy manufacturer also created a custom ERP system to audit product planning, inventory management, shipping day and time of production, raw materials used by lot number versus manufacturing orders, and other critical production data. The custom ERP relies on HMIs to provide work center data, and the industrial networking includes PROFINET or PROFIBUS protocols.