Kägi Söhne AG
Everyone in Switzerland knows Kägi. It’s both the name of a company and the name of a crunchy treat that they produce, enjoyed by generations of Swiss families. In recent years, it’s become recognized around the world. The wafers and cookies made by this chocolate wafer manufacturer are in great demand. To maintain its cutting edge, Kägi continuously invests in superior product quality and innovation. Today, Bühler supports Kägi on its journey to becoming a Smart Factory.
Bianca Richle, February 2023
Genuine Swiss chocolate, crispy wafers, and a creamy mousse filling – these three ingredients in the right balance give Kägi’s traditional Kägi Frets the traits for which they are known and loved. They are crunchy, light-as-air, and melt-in-your-mouth at the same time. To produce this unmistakable taste experience efficiently and ensure the continuity of quality, the company based in the Toggenburg region of Switzerland relies on experienced chocolatiers and pâtissiers. They have been preserving the Kägi tradition since the factory was founded in 1934 and today are combining it with modern production processes. “We are very proud of our recipe. It takes a lot of know-how to achieve the perfect balance in the final product,” says Pascal Grin, Chief Operating Officer of Kägi Söhne AG.
While Kägi can rely on its experts and their years of experience, the company’s own high demands for its products regularly present it with challenges. “Our chocolate wafers are delicate products where small variations in production can cause big differences,” Grin explains. For example, when temperatures fluctuate, Kägi found it difficult to maintain the process stability necessary to meet its high-quality standards. This led to losses in performance.
We set ourselves the goal of being able to make important decisions in the production process increasingly on the basis of figures, data, and facts.
Pascal Grin, COO at Kägi
“Our vision is to produce the perfect Kägi every day, whether it’s 30°C in summer or minus 10°C in winter,” says Grin. “That’s why we decided to turn over a new leaf for our operation, by seizing the opportunities offered by today’s digital technologies. More specifically, we have sought to make production data measurable and thereby optimize our process so that we can produce the perfect Kägi at any time of the day or night.”
This chapter started in 2019. Together, Kägi and the Bühler service team conducted a Performance Assessment Workshop to discover where improvements could be made in the production process.
All factors relevant to production were analyzed and translated into a detailed process analysis. Based on this, the team identified potential areas for improvement and drew up individual action plans, which formed the basis for the production optimization. “For example, we were able to determine where we could optimize resources and where there was potential to improve variations in quality and efficiency,” Grin explains. “The quality of our outgoing products has always been high; our concern was to ensure that we could maintain this without interruption and with fewer rejects.”
The two teams were able to find a variety of optimization opportunities across the value chain, which, once implemented, resulted in higher process stability and improved plant performance. “Our core competence at Bühler is the conversion of raw materials into end products, which gives us a broad range of expertise,” says Christian Salvatori, Sales Manager at Bühler, who led the service project from the Bühler side. With Bühler acting as a partner at Kägi’s side, the implementation of the action plan started, and further projects emerged.
The workshop revealed that the occasional fluctuations in quality stemmed from the fact that decisions in production were often made based on experience and intuition. “We set ourselves the goal of being able to make such important decisions in the production process increasingly on the basis of figures, data, and facts,” says Grin. “That’s why we decided on a new strategy: the journey to Smart Factory 2024, in which the entire machine park is digitally networked and all process data is visualized.”
To implement this vision, Kägi is now using the Bühler Insights digital platform. “Connecting Kägi to our Bühler Insights platform creates unique transparency on process and machine data. From raw materials, to baking and filling of wafer sheets, and to chocolate coating, data can now be recorded, analyzed, and interpreted at any time,” says Judith Spreitzer, Project Manager Bühler Services. In each machine an average of 25 to 30 data points are connected to Bühler Insights. “The fact that Kägi also has machines in operation that are not from Bühler did not pose a problem for us either in our assessment or in visualizing the entire process data with Bühler Insights. This enables Kägi to obtain a holistic picture of current production and product quality at any time and from any location.”
Our core competence at Bühler is the conversion of raw materials into end products, which gives us a broad range of expert knowledge.
Christian Salvatori, Sales Manager at Bühler
All process-relevant data and KPIs (key performance indicators) for each production step are visualized via dashboards. This allows each operator to see how well the respective sub-process is performing and to directly influence it. “This helps us significantly in increasing machine performance and optimizing processes. We are already using the data in real time and our employees can react immediately to fluctuations in quality, thus preventing unplanned downtime,” says Grin. “For us, this leads to cost savings and an uncomplicated overview of the processes.” Kägi expects an OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) increase of between 5 and 8 percent just through the act of linking and visualizing the data in Bühler Insights.
Sustainability is an important pillar in Kägi’s strategy. The company manufactures all its products in Lichtensteig, Switzerland. To keep transport distances as short as possible, Kägi also uses raw materials produced regionally in Switzerland whenever possible, such as flour, butter, or milk powder. Kägi also focuses on sustainability in logistics and works with partners who are pushing the adoption of clean electric and hydrogen vehicles in their truck fleets. It is also using the journey to the Smart Factory, therefore, to invest more in sustainability.
“The collected data not only helps us in traceability and transparency, but we are also working with Bühler on a CO2e quantification of the entire factory, which gives us an overview of where there is potential for optimization to make our production more sustainable,” says Grin.
To implement its Smart Factory 2024 vision, Kägi has not only invested in a Bühler Insights data monitoring system, but also in its machinery. Based on the results of the Performance Assessment Workshop, Bühler was able to provide Kägi with ideal advice regarding new investment and offer a customized and future-oriented solution. Based on the findings of the workshop as well as product tests in the Bühler Wafer Innovation Center, Kägi decided to invest in a fully automatic BM-W 180-H batter mixing plant, a highly efficient SWAKT-80 wafer baking oven, and a fully automatic WIS-EAGLE In-Line wafer inspection system.
The connection of Kägi to our Bühler Insights platform creates unique transparency on process and machine data.
Judith Spreitzer, Project Manager Bühler Services
The new machines are ideally suited to Kägi’s needs, enabling the company to meet the highest demands in terms of quality and availability while keeping workforce requirements to a minimum.
In the development of new products, too, a strong partnership has emerged over the past few years. “We have a full range of new, innovative products planned. We have enough ideas,” says Franziska Babst, Head of Quality & Development at Kägi. “With this plant and Bühler at our side, we are now ready to scale up new products to high quality and large volumes.”
We seized the opportunities offered by digital technologies to make production data measurable and optimize our process so that we can produce the perfect Kägi at any time of the day or night.
Pascal Grin, COO at Kägi
The Smart Factory is about more than just machinery, process stability, and quality for Kägi. Using artificial intelligence, the company has been able to automate its production planning. Employee scheduling, which previously took up to a whole working day, is now available within minutes. “Especially when it comes to working hours, time balances, and shift assignments, automated employee scheduling brings more transparency and fairness,” explains Grin. “Comprehensive decisions ensure greater employee satisfaction. Feedback on automated workforce scheduling has been positive, not least because our teams now get their schedules immediately after production schedules are completed, rather than the previous day long delay, so they are getting it 12 hours earlier.”
And that’s just the beginning. Other projects on the journey toward the Smart Factory are in the pipeline. “Collecting data makes sense for us because it’s ongoing. It’s knowledge that we can acquire, store, and use later,” Grin says. “We are already excited to see where else our journey together with Bühler will take us.”
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