In a 24/7-production environment, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates optimizes production and quality by switching to a new self-cleaning filter system that eliminates production stoppage due to filter cleaning and blocking. When Gertrude Hawk began making chocolates in the family kitchen almost 70 years ago, she had no idea what it would lead to. Today, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, based in Dunmore, Pa., is still a family run business but sells assorted chocolate products in markets ranging from retail and wholesale to contract manufacturing, fundraising and ice cream inclusions for major brands.
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Explore this issueFebruary/March 2006
But unlike the chocolate factory Roald Dahl wrote about in his famed children’s book, there are no singing Oompah Loompas producing chocolate at the Gertrude Hawk factory. Instead, three shifts work 24/7 all year round, depending on critical equipment to meet high volume demand while producing consistently high quality results.
For Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, the right equipment must not only minimize downtime and deliver required throughput but also meet strict hygiene and safety standards. This includes HACCP, FDA inspection, kosher certification, physical and micro tests as well as satisfying competitive pressures such as JIT delivery schedules.
“While in production, we need to run as much as we can, as fast as we can, as long as we can,” says Bill Alfano, maintenance foreman and lead mechanic at Gertrude Hawk Chocolates. “Even a single filter element clogging can disrupt production, requiring reassignment of up to 30 employees to other tasks. And quality, of course, can never be compromised.”
To achieve the right premium taste and texture for customers, the company uses filtration on anything chocolate coatings related, which involves about 70 percent of its product line. Previously, traditional wire filter baskets were predominantly used for chocolate coatings filtration, but these had serious disadvantages.
“The filter baskets cost us production downtime when cleaned every other day,” says Alfano. “They had to be removed, scraped, washed, dried, and replaced before we could get production back up and running. ”According to Alfano, the filter baskets required increased pump maintenance and when a filter would block, the chocolate pump would seize, costing about three hours of production.