Confectionery Case Study

Magna Specialist Confectionery

Magna Specialist Confectionery are one of the UK’s leading contract confectionery and private label producers, with an impressive roll call of high profile clients and a manufacturing output in excess of £50 million per annum. The most successful area of the business is in the production of moulded chocolate products, specifically hollow chocolate eggs, with an annual output of 27 million units per year.

In order to increase production of these products to meet demand, Magna needed to build a new automated machine line incorporating many of the production techniques special to their company.

Bringing the plant to production in the very short time available would require a design which was flexible enough to absorb rapid specification and design changes without major changes in hardware.


SMS are a system integrator with many successful motion control and automation projects behind them and have in depth knowledge of Integrating Rockwell Automation products with other motion control components such as gearheads and linear actuators. SMS were awarded a turnkey contract in the excess for £300k by Magna to design, build and commission the complete automation and motion control system for the new multi-million pound production system.

“Designing such a large custom system requires a great deal of planning and testing” says Neil Cooley SMS Project Engineer, “bringing the plant to production in the very short time available would require a design which was flexible enough to absorb rapid specification and design changes without major changes in hardware.” The solution was based around Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture philosophy and Stober/Apex Planetary gearheads

The system comprised of;
•Logix5000 PLC
•Kinetix6000 motion control
•Remote Flex I/O Field Devices communicating over DeviceNet
•PowerFlex 40 for the Variable Speed Drives
•Interfacing to other plant systems externally controlled by other
•PanelView Plus operator intervention
The technical building block components included:
•21 axes of co-ordinated motion
•In line Planetary and Right Angled Helical Bevel Gearheads
•All Motor and Gearbox sizing carried out by SMS
•12 counts of variable speed drive applications
•1250 points of I/O
•2 DeviceNet Networks with 68 nodes being split across the networks
•1 Industrial Ethernet Network


The machine functionality was broken down into sub-assemblies and one of each of the assemblies was tried and tested nearer the beginning of the Project than would normally be the case. This allowed engineers from Magna and SMS to assess the machine characteristics and software and make necessary design changes very early.

“The use of Control Logix ,Kinetix and Devicenet I/O meant that the software could be developed and tested ahead of machine installation. This allowed us to progress from sub-assembly testing to machine installation and commissioning very quickly. This certainly beats the old method of starting testing and software debugging only when the machine is installed” – Neil Cooley

Ethernet was used to assist machine commissioning such that the engineer could test and monitor the remote machine I/O local to the point of test.

There is no doubt that the use of the very latest automation systems enabled the knowledge and experience of SMS and Magna engineers to blend together very quickly and efficiently to produce a custom designed machine in record time. The project resulted in a custom design to start-up time of just 10 months and has allowed Magna Engineers to take ownership of the machine, the process and software behind it in record time. This has enabled them to optimise the machine performance to meet customer demand.

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