Why digital transformation is the golden ticket to better chocolate
Excited to see a new flavour of chocolate by the cash register at your local supermarket? It probably arrived there after a long and complex journey that began in cocoa farms halfway around the world.
Every step along the confectionary value chain increasingly relies on digital technology.
While the chocolate manufacturing industry is known for its rich history and traditional methods, connected industrial ecosystems are helping the sector push the boundaries of what’s possible.
B2B manufacturer Barry Callebaut offers an inspiring example of the power of digital transformation in manufacturing operations management.
The Swiss-Belgian company manufactures more than 2.2 million tons of confectionery every year in their 64 factories, making it the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa with approximately 25% of the world’s chocolate production.
But the manufacturer must contend with complex processes and variable supply quality daily. Milk powder, for example, can vary in consistency from one batch to another, requiring machines to be constantly recalibrated to ensure a quality product – whether that is an existing or new formulation.
Scale that variability across the value chain and you have an idea of what it takes to consistently deliver the same great taste consumers know and love.
A smart factory model
Over the past few years, Barry Callebaut has leveraged digital transformation to support product innovation, enhance consistency, leverage cost reductions, and improve sustainability outcomes. At the core of its approach is a smart factory model that brings together people, processes, and technology.
The company uses a next-generation Manufacturing Execution System (MES) to pull together existing HMI/SCADA plant data into a connected, real-time standardised digital backbone that is available to the appropriate teams across the organisation.
Leveraging this single source of truth on an industrial data platform and focusing on their most important value drivers, these teams can test new use cases at carefully chosen pilot sites – and learn from the results.
Successes and lessons are captured using a modular approach to improve the smart factory standard, so best practices can quickly be shared and scaled across the company’s global network.
Immediate results from this accurate data stream have allowed the team to conduct higher quality analyses of their run rates.
In addition, the technology makes it easier to design and maintain systems with a strong focus on the user interfaces and experience design (UI/UX) to give operators a better understanding of what’s happening across the organisation.
With these new insights, Barry Callebaut has been able to reduce variability and uncover hidden capacity, improving overall productivity by more than 10% – equal to a whole new production line.
Data is the golden ticket for this network of chocolate factories.
Because teams can view processes, events, and historical data across a single digital thread, they can optimise operations in real time.
The overlay of artificial intelligence analytics further improves decision-making and process analyses. And when this information is scaled across global enterprises—and internal and external stakeholders—the result is an array of exponential gains.
At Barry Callebaut, the team now wants to crystallise existing gains across its network. By 2025, the company hopes that autonomous production lines will be able to consistently produce fully automated batches with zero quality defects at maximum capacity. Think of it as future-proofing the taste of every chocolate bar in your neighborhood supermarket.
Connected industrial ecosystems are transforming operations management and outcomes in a wide range of manufacturing industries, from chocolate to chemicals and from electrical cars to components for energy systems.
At a time when manufacturers are seeing every link in their value chain being disrupted, data-led digital technologies are supporting the growth of more resilient, competitive, and demand-driven businesses, and unlocking new possibilities for innovation, efficiency, and sustainability in the process.
With digital technology, manufacturers can rest assured that nearly every aspect of the value chain can be predicted, controlled, and used to advance competitive advantages.
Whether in chocolate or other areas of manufacturing, the integration of digital technology will continue to drive advancements and deliver delightful experiences to consumers worldwide.
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