You don’t get to visit a factory that produces ice creams every day. And in such a factory there are therefore production lines that you don't get to see every day. But today, in the village of Sint Nicolaasga, we are visiting Holiday ice. An ice cream maker who distinguishes itself by always looking for innovation. “A considerable part of the articles we create, is younger than 5 years", explains Bart Hakbijl, Director of Operations.
Holiday Ice has been around for almost ninety years. "Despite its growth the company still has the character of a family business. We are working with a team of very enthusiastic people. About fifteen years ago we decided to concentrate on specialization. We wanted a different position in the market and focus more on specials. Impulse ice cream. An ice cream that can be eaten out of hand, so no boxes or pies, but sticks, cups and cones with fillings, granules and casings, in consumer packaging. We are a private label-manufacturer and supply a very wide range that is being marketed in more than 20 countries, inside and outside Europe."
Because of this wide range and the private label-concept, the packaging machines and their adjustments are of great importance. And VSE has been allowed to get involved with that. Hakbijl is responsible for the production and technical service. "If I tell you that with three teams we produce four hundred different articles, you can understand that we have change overs on a regular basis. That is why we want make certain parts of this production as automated as possible, and of course, that includes the packaging machines."
"We had four flowpackers that we wanted automated. Through our maintenance supplier we came into contact with VSE. It is nice if someone is recommended to you. And when it turns out that you also have a click with the people at that company, the next step is taken, but of course the proof is in the pudding. And VSE has proven themselves. It is a company that is very responsible. They estimate the consequences of changes well and are very careful, both in preparation and after-care. That's very nice." Hakbijl appreciates the respect that VSE has shown, amongst other for Holiday Ice’s house rules and operational process. "They really immersed themselves into our business and offer clear communication."
In two to three years, several flowpackers have been converted from one hundred percent mechanical driven to a full servo-drive. In addition, the controls of two of the packers have been taken over and optimized. "VSE has helped us well. They understand what is needed and also think along with us strategically, also about process improvements. We have a good dialogue with the contact persons who have a lot of knowledge and a very practical attitude."
“The flowpackers are now fairly standardized. Once our products have gotten their consumer packaging, they are ‘normal’ articles. We still have to improve in the change overs of our production machines, but that is the next step. We are now doing an inventory to upgrade the controls of the production machines. They are still operating on old controllers, relays and variable speed drives. Over the years, these configurations have undergone a variety of modifications that have now become somewhat fragmented by the control loops. We want to rebuild that completely, with the latest state of the art. Whilst doing so, we want to introduce various simplifications. Of course there will always be a certain amount of interaction with the operator, so it is important that we involve the employees. The technique may be leading, but it must be coordinated closely with the operators. Therefore we involve them in the choices we make to be sure that the result is as user-friendly as possible."
"The first step is to define the design together. VSE and my team understand each other and we have good and in depth discussions. It's such a nice team to work with, they meet the commitments made and are careful in the operation. When we are programming in a live environment, they make sure that the possible consequences are well-mapped. Common sense, that's exactly what I'm looking for."