Suzanne Callander finds out more about what makes a successful turnkey solution. 

Put simply, a turnkey solution is a solution that makes the user independent. In practice it requires the process to be handled from beginning to end. The technology employed within the solution should be diversified in order to support any materials and processes the user may wish to include, without the need to involve other suppliers. The builder also needs to possess all the expertise needed to design, build and commission the system. Last, but not least, it is important that the system provides the data related to its own operations. “A system that is not able to do this cannot be considered to be a turnkey solution,” argues Riccardo Satta, R&D and Area Manager for Africa at CEPI. “CEPI was founded on, and has grown around the very idea of, being a turnkey provider of storage and dosing systems. 

“The benefits of a turnkey solution should be immediately clear to the end user,” continues Riccardo. “They are using a tailor-made installation that has been designed specifically to meet their needs. We automate and optimise production, enabling systems to grow in a modular way without ever overturning the process. This means that a confectionery manufacturer will never need to adapt to a pre-made solution but rather the opposite happens.” 

Aside from the obvious considerations over reduced costs, working with a single provider also means only talking to one provider who should have a good understanding of the whole system, and who is responsible for its design, build and commissioning. 

“Turnkey means solutions – not just products – that are designed to deliver high outputs and low downtimes and cost of ownership over time”

Every ingredient employed in confectionery and bakery products brings its own unique storage and handling challenges – fats, milk derivatives and creams require temperature management through storing and dosing, while dehumidified air needs to be used for hygroscopic materials such as sugar and salt requires the use of dehumidified air. Viscous ingredients require specific transport and dosage methods. A turnkey partner should be able to identify all such needs and provide the solutions required. Crucially, all these issues need to be managed organically, coordinating complex processes in the most efficient way and producing data that is already integrated. 

Riccardo believes that gathering, storing and creating data about the materials available is crucial to a healthy process. “It allows traceability and ensures food security, by having knowledge about which ingredient lot from the warehouse was dosed into each final unit, and this makes it possible to verify the efficiency of a system,” he says. 

CEPI’s tracking system software provides process control, warehouse management and full traceability with digitalisation of all material movements. “It gives users a complete picture of the production process in real time. Ingredients can be monitored from the moment they enter the warehouse, carrying a virtual label through all the way through production, with new information being added to the system every time an operation is performed on the ingredient,” explains Riccardo. “All our data can be easily integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), to achieve organisation-wide traceability. This requires the process control software to be open with the information immediately available for the user,” continues Riccardo.  

The data should also be able to be used in as many ways as the customer wants. For example, allowing mass production balances to be quickly carried out and the information generated for quality control purposes and enabling purchase projections for future production to be optimised.  

A customer-centric approach 
One of the key elements when it comes to specifying turnkey solutions is to select a partner that is customer-centric in its approach. “An in-depth understanding of a customer’s goals is essential to enable those objectives to be achieved, and the aim must always be to exceed expectations,” says Edward Smagarinsky, Group Product Manager – Mogul at TNA. 

“Turnkey means solutions – not just products – that are designed to deliver high outputs and low downtimes and cost of ownership over time,” he says. “To achieve this the turnkey supplier will need to have deep process knowledge and expertise, enabling the effective coordination of any trusted third-party suppliers to deliver alongside its own portfolio, with a single point of contact.” 
Affordability is also paramount. Streamlined production processes are essential to meet high demand, while remaining competitive and ensuring timely delivery. “Specifying production line equipment and controls that are optimised on a customer-by-customer basis ensures this efficiency can be achieved. Importantly, the supplier should also have a good aftermarket offer to ensure that the chosen solution continues to deliver on an ongoing basis,” continues Edward. 
Flexibility, too, is important due to the need to cater to be able to produce an ever-wider range of products using the same production line. Having the capability to manufacture diverse products such as gummies, jellies, marshmallows, fondant cremes, centre-in-shell sweets, and liquorice, all of which have unique characteristics and formulations, is paramount to meet market demands, to stay competitive, and at the same time satisfy consumer preferences. 
“I don’t believe it is possible to talk about confectionery producers’ priorities without touching on digitalisation,” adds Edward. “Employing smart technology can help improve efficiency as well as offering resource savings and advances connectivity, and smart digital tools such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) confectionery producers can remotely commission, train, and service their equipment. This digital transformation empowers producers to streamline their processes, reduce downtime, and deliver high-quality confectionery products to meet the demands of an ever-evolving sector.” 

Unique solutions 

“A turnkey project will generally start long before any ground is broken and it rarely ends when the keys are handed over,” says Günther Sauerschnig, Head of Global Sales Consumer Foods at Bühler.  

Günther went on to point out that no two turnkey projects will be the same.  “Projects can range from confectionery manufacturers who would like to produce their own chocolate bar, through to projects that aim to ensure food security for entire regions or countries,” he says. “What they all have in common though, is that they start with the product development, which we take on with them.”  

The decision-making process usually starts with the confectioner answering questions such as: What kind of product can do I want to produce and where do I want to position myself with the new product? What technologies are needed to produce my product and what other products might I want to create using the technology in the future, without needing any further major investment?  

“In a dynamic market, strongly influenced by fast changing food trends flexible production is key,” points out Günther. “Assessing these needs and taking local market peculiarities into consideration are an important part of the process. Currently we are experiencing a strong push towards more healthy snacks, an increasing demand for alternatives to traditional ingredients and an ongoing hunger for protein. To address all these needs flexibility, in combination with an accelerated discussion about alternative energy sources, requires a great deal of forward-looking planning – on the part of both the confectionery producer and the provider of the turnkey solution.”  

Digitalisation of processes, smart and user-friendly automation, as well as solutions for predictive maintenance for all, consistent quality, transparency, and highest possible efficiency are all typical requirements for turnkey solutions today. “Depending on the region and the availability of trained staff, or even a turnkey solution can also include the hiring or training of a well co-ordinated operator team or even permanent in-plant service engineers,” says Günther. “Bühler runs a global network of Application and Training Centres that allows customers or teams to develop products or try solutions before staring production at their own factory. The operator teams can also attend customised training with Bühler’s process experts. 

“After handover of the keys, a long-term service agreement will help ensure the factory continues to run smoothly – that the assets are managed and maintenance undertaken in a timely way to ensures that both and the lifecycle of the plant and solutions are maximised.”  

Of course, the most important element of any turnkey project will always be the final product that comes off the end of the line, but having a flexible and future-proofed setup, which is able to take into account relevant and changing market needs, will certainly help ensure that a turnkey solution pays for itself time and time again.  

Editorial contact:
Editor: Kiran Grewal