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Weighing in to meet growing demand

13 April 2023

Find out how a multihead weighing solution has helped Hotel Chocolat achieve a four-fold increase in capacity of its Velvetiser drinking chocolate brand.

The Hotel Chocolate Velvetiser brand, which was launched in 2018, has been one of the company’s greatest successes, offering a drinking chocolate that uses sachets of pure chocolate flakes.

In order to meet growing consumer demand for the product, Hotel Chocolat made the decision to convert existing warehouse space into a dedicated production line for the flakes, to give it a four-fold increase in capacity.

Coming in a wide range of sizes – from retail packs to larger variants aimed at cafés and businesses, and over a dozen distinct flavours – weighing accuracy was a critical requirement for the success of the packing lines that were part of the project.

Simon Wood, Head of UK Manufacturing Projects at Hotel Chocolat, had used Ishida in a previous food production role so he turned to the company once again for a weighing solution.

“Chocolate is understandably temperature-sensitive, the flakes used in the Velvetiser are small but non-uniform in size, and there’s always a residue of cocoa dust created during production,” explained Wood. “Our choice of weigher had to cope with these factors, as well as delivering the required speed, accuracy and ease of changeovers during 24-hour operation.”

Low weight but high speed
Two Ishida 28-head multihead weighers with 500 cc hoppers were specified, to handle smaller target weights at high speeds. This is made possible thanks to Ishida’s feeder technology, which uses pulse width modulation and an integrated Automatic Feeder Drive (AFD) system to ensure precise control of product flow through the weigher. 

The weigher’s triple combination calculation software is able to calculate three optimal weight combinations, double check them and then select the one nearest to the target weight in a single cycle. This delivers accurate weighing at speeds of up to 210 weighments per minute.

The multihead weighers have formed part of a multi-level system for Velvetiser flakes, installed and commissioned in 2021. “The Ishida weighers sit at the centre of a three-level facility, created from scratch in what used to be a warehouse,” explained Sylwia Zmuda, Manufacturing Site Manager, Velvetiser. “On the top floor, the chocolate is mixed, extruded and chilled, before being broken into flakes by rollers.

“The flaked chocolate is conveyed to the middle level, where the multihead weighers weigh them into the required portion sizes, before they drop down to ground level to be bagged and inspected,” she said.

Given the high production volume, the conveying system is able to transfer the chocolate flakes to two weighers in order to provide additional capacity, as well as uninterrupted production in the event of machine maintenance.

The final word goes to Snieguole Kaikaryte, Operations Shift Manager at Hotel Chocolat. “It is a highly efficient system and Ishida provided exceptional training to help our team get the best out of the weighers.” 

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