The history of Nutresa dates back to 1920, when the Compañía Nacional de Chocolates Cruz Roja –
later renamed as Compañía Nacional de Chocolates S.A. – was founded in Colombia.
Nutresa México automates packaging of Muibon and Cremino production lines using Cama Group machines Over the years, and after its consolidation in the domestic and Latin American market, the company changed its name to Grupo Nutresa. This name refers to the whole offering of the group, and strengthens its bond with its health, nutrition, and wellness brands. Currently, the company operates in Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, the US, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Africa. Carlos Toro, Operations Manager at Nutresa Mexico, explains: “our vision aims to encourage the progress and development for everyone. We are inspired by the human being and the sustainable development, so we use the appropriate capacities to reduce environmental impact and foster prosperity for the communities served by Grupo Nutresa”. The company shows its commitment being part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which evaluates the sustainability of thousands of organizations listed in the main global stock markets.
The chocolate offering
The company has nine food product lines, most notably chocolate products. The production of this sweet offering is carried out in five plants: two in Colombia, one in Peru, one in Costa Rica, and one in Mexico. The latter provides more than $60 million a year in revenues – about a 10% of its total business – as the subsidiary with the biggest growth potential in this segment.
Aiming to meet its business goals, Nutresa Mexico has been working closely with packaging machinery specialist Cama Group for the last ten years. These years have allowed Nutresa to check the reliability of the equipment provided by this Italian manufacturer. “We knew their machines since had tested them in our chocolate lines. This provided us all the assurance to acquire new equipment for other production lines, such as Cremino and Muibon”, states Toro. Cremino is a praline made of hazelnuts and cocoa. “Its size and texture are really unique, so this cream stands out in all markets thanks to its appealing look, fine taste, and competitive price”, recognizes Toro, who adds: “For its part, Muibon is a wafer filled with hazelnut cream, covered with chocolate and peanuts”.
In both cases, the Nutresa Mexico managers had to face a couple of manufacturing challenges to implement these machines. The first one was increasing productivity, “which means more kilograms of product output for a specific number of man-hours”. The second challenge consisted of removing the pressure of these products on workforce acting on end of lines, very labor-intensive, particularly for the packaging process. “This has compelled us to search and explore new alternatives to the IG270 machines for Cremino and IF296 for Muibon”. For this reason, they decided to take the step and automate one of the two Muibon lines, and the only Cremino line, in both cases with great advantages according to Toro: “These Cama Group machines enable us to pack all chocolate bars in different formats intended for different channels: sweet wholesalers, supermarkets, and membership-only retail stores. In other words, “these machines are very flexible, comprehensive solutions that allow us to cover these three formats”, he claims.
However, during this rollout process they had to overcome some hurdles. According to Toro, it is critical to synchronize the new machines with the existing solutions implemented in the line to thermoform the trays where chocolate bars will be deposited. Furthermore, this should be done with the highest feasible speed, since they had installed four units that wrap chocolate and feed the Cama Group machines. “Fortunately, we found the way, so everything worked properly”, recognizes Toro. During the process they also had the support of two Cama Group technicians for two weeks, who helped on the implementation. They offered also training sessions for the maintenance teams – so they were able to understand the operating principles of the machines – and the operators who would handle the machines. The operation process of both machines is simple. For Cremino, the Nutresa Mexico teams thermoform the trays, the IG270 model takes those trays from a feeder, and by means of robotic arms, grabs the chocolates transported on belts, and put pieces on the trays. Regarding Muibon, the IF296 machine is a monobloc unit that assemblies the display-box that contains the wafers, loads the wafers inside the box, and then seals it with hot glue.
Benefits of the machines
Once installed, both machines provided several benefits to Nutresa Mexico. “First of all, it should be emphasized the reliability of the equipment; next, its flexibility to include different formats; and, finally, this equipment is easy to operate and service”, says the manager. He also remarks two critical issues. The first one is about innocuousness and food safety; and the second, work-related health and safety. “We want the equipment to comply all regulations about risks, contamination and innocuousness; but we also want machines that ensure that our operators do not suffer any risk of accident when the equipment is in operation”. Accordingly, both machines are supplied with an enhanced security, with stainless parts, safety guards to avoid the risk of entrapment, blows, and the operators having access to moving parts of the machines. “The aim is to avoid any accident to happen”, summarizes Toro. And they are succeeding so far. In fact, as the manager explains, the risk of zero for musculosketelal diseases due to repetitive movements. “This is very valuable to us, since our first priority is taking care of our workers”. These are not the only positive figures underscored by the Nutresa Mexico manager about these machines. Its global efficiency measured with the Global Efficient Equipment has changed from a global efficiency of the line of 84% to 86%. Furthermore, the installation of these machines has enabled them a 14% increase of the line productivity. This translates into the production of 300 chocolate bars per minute for Muibon. Since there are two lines, that means 600 units per minute at the Nutresa Mexico plant. For Cremino, they are able to produce 1080 units per minute. Added to the other chocolate products sold by the company in Mexico, the total amount exceeds 300 million chocolate pieces per month. “We are still growing our chocolate business in all countries where we have our own production plants, not only above our competitors but also over the growth of the market segments we serve”.
Further acquisitions in 2023
It is not surprise that Nutresa Mexico is planning for next year to acquire additional Cama Group machines to keep automating its chocolate production lines. In particular, the Muibon twin line operating manually nowadays. Indeed, the company considers the Italian manufacturer as a relevant partner to develop and consolidate the Grupo Nutresa in Mexico. What is more, Toro defines the relationship between both companies with two words: proximity and service. “The Cama Group executive team has been always there when we needed their support, at any day and at any time. Locally we relied on Huapaq – the company associated to Cama Group – that provides support and immediate reply to all our needs”, states Toro. He adds: “We have benefited from spaces in local trade shows where Cama Group attended as exhibitor, and additional contact points with the sales team of the manufacturer”. Therefore, the manager greatly appreciates the work made by Cama Group and how its machines can help them to be more competitive in a market like chocolate in which differentiation is crucial.
Features of IG270 and IF296
The model IG270 is an automated loading unit that includes two Triaflex robots. These robots with carbon fiber arms are suitable for the quick and smart handling of products. An intelligent vision system allows these robots to sort and pick loose products in a production line and puts them in a container, box, or conveyor by means of a preset pattern. “Triaflex robots implement the technology patented by Cama, which enables the IG270 to be one of the machines with the smallest footprint in the market. This machine also offers an enhanced modularity and dynamic features which are part of our Break Through Generation (BTG) technology”, explains Óscar Hidalgo, Sales Manager for the Latin American market at Cama Group. Therefore, this machine is optimal for packaged and unpackaged products, allowing a very quick format changeover. Finally, the machine enables the energy and pneumatic consumption to be monitored and controlled through a user interface – data as humidity, vibration and temperature can be verified in real time – and in some cases it can replicate the process performance, that is, “see what is happening in the machine in real time”, adds Hidalgo. On the other hand, the IF296 is a high-speed monobloc machine integrating robotic units to assemble, load and wrap up boxes, as well as to handle wrapped products and flowpack. This machine guarantees a smooth handling of the product, features format changeover parts for a quick release and a reduced footprint.