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Delicious Super...visions
Article taken from "Automazione Industriale", issue 136 - May 2006

Immagine 1
The largest Gianduiotti in the world (1.80 m x 4 m): a mountain of 4,000 kg of precious Gianduia chocolate with its unmistakeable flavour and which just melts in your mouth

To produce its “delicacies”, Novi-Elah-Dufour looks for select and highly qualified suppliers. One of these is Giovanni Lagni, an Italian professional in the automation field, who has used Automa’s Super-Flash to develop the supervision software for the delicate chocolate making process.

by Maurizio Ristori - Head of New Plants, Giovanni Lagni - Expert in Industrial Automation, Elena Bertillo - Automa Marketing

Sometimes reality beats the imagination … and this is often so in Novi! Only those who have an irrepressible passion for chocolate could think of making a Gianduiotto (made with “Gianduia” chocolate) measuring 1.80 m by 4 m: a mountain of 4,000 kg of precious Gianduia chocolate cream with its unmistakeable flavour which melts in your mouth. And that’s not all. The company has also certified the largest “nut” chocolate bar in the world – 2,400 kg of very fine mixture of cocoa, gianduia cream, milk and hazelnuts. However, Novi chocolate is not only large, but above all good. This is thanks to the constant commitment and experience of more than 100 years’ of confectionery tradition, which has led the company to see to all the stages in the delicate process of chocolate making, from the raw materials down to the wrapped chocolate bars and bon-bons.

Immagine 2
Pouring the chocolate: the product is put into large containers (conches) fitted with rotating paddles which work the paste for several hours

The fermented and dried cocoa beans (the seeds of the cacao tree pods) arrive from plantations in central Africa and south America. Each lot is controlled by means of laboratory tests to check that the size, degree of fermentation and taste meet the foreseen quality standards. In fact, Novi places great importance on selection of the raw materials and, for example, only uses the prized Piedmont hazelnuts for its nut chocolate. To get the chocolate ready, the process goes through 3 stages: toasting the beans to produce the cocoa liquor, preparation of the chocolate paste according to different recipes and modelling and wrapping to obtain chocolate bars and bonbons ready to be savoured. During the first stage, the impurities (leaves, stones, etc.) are removed from the cocoa beans which are then sterilised in a machine in order to eliminate any bacteria. The beans are then roasted in the vertical roaster where, during this extremely delicate process, the cocoa aroma is formed. The beans are then skinned to separate the husks from their hearts. The latter, finely ground, are turned into a paste, in a liquid state due to their high content of cocoa butter. This paste, called cocoa liquor, is the basis for producing all the varieties of chocolate.

Immagine 3
Production of chocolate creams: once cooled and solidified, the chocolate bars and bon-bons pass on to the wrapping stage

The second stage now starts. According to the type of recipe to be used, the cocoa liquor is mixed with various ingredients (sugar, powdered milk, hazelnuts, etc.). The paste is then refined by passing it through cylindrical mills, which finely grind the components. After the refining process the product passes on to conching, where it is put into large containers (conches) fitted with rotating paddles, which work the paste for several hours at controlled speed and temperature, in order to blend the chocolate well, eliminate any unwanted volatile substances and obtain the ideal amount of fluidity for the following processes. Before being poured into the moulds, the liquid chocolate undergoes a hardening treatment, in order to give the finished product its characteristic properties of firmness, glossiness and melting in the mouth. Finally there is the modelling stage: the melted chocolate is poured into moulds of various shapes and sizes and the filling is added (raisins, fillings, hazelnuts, etc.). Once cooled and solidified, the bars and individual chocolate bon-bons pass on to the wrapping stage. The whole process is fully automated from when the cocoa beans arrive to when the pallets of finished products come out ready for distribution. What is it that makes Novi chocolate so delicious and so fine? The secret lies in selecting the best raw materials and, above all, in the processing technology. In fact, the delicate process for preparing chocolate bars and bon-bons requires constant supervision, which keeps a large number of parameters under strict control.

Immagine 4
Synoptic diagram of dosing: video screen of the supervision software

This is why Mr. Lagni, who has proven experience in the field of automation in the food sector, was entrusted with making the supervision system. Giovanni Lagni found himself up against a rather difficult challenge: to create a highly reliable system to manage an existing and above all complex plant, also taking into consideration that he had to operate on a particularly delicate and strategic stage in the production of chocolate. With the backing of the technical personnel in charge of processing, in less than six months he managed to come up with a customised system with an intuitive interface, based on the true needs of its users. To make the software he chose Super-Flash - Automa’s development system, which is already well-known in the food sector for its reliability, especially in plants working round the clock 7 days a week. Two applications manage the system, with a total of more than 100 software pages in order to: manage arrival of raw materials, control the dosing stations, define dosing parameters and settings, set a high number of recipes (15 today, but no limits have been set), supervise the kneader, refining machines and above all the conching machines. And that’s not all: the instructions for machine operators are set and sent by the applications to an operator panel placed on the plant so that they can operate in real time.

Immagine 5
Loading the refining machines: another video screen of the supervision software made by Mr. Lagni

The work done by Lagni is greatly appreciated at Novi. This is why they have also entrusted him with remaking the automation system of the whole process for making Elah creamy desserts. In fact, apart from the company’shallmark - Novi chocolate, the factory in Novi Ligure also produces Dufour sweets, as well as Elah creamy desserts and toffees. Novi-Elah-Dufour: three different brand names, a single great company.
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