How a new manufacturing facility helps hummus and falafel keep their made-to-order product fresh and get quick shipped with sensors and measurement systems.

Those who live in Austria that love hummus or falafel are certain to know NENI, also known as Haya Molcho. She opened her first NENI restaurant in 2009 at the Vienna Naschmarkt (a well-known market in Vienna).

NENI is an acronym formed from the first letters of Haya Molcho's four sons: Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan. Her market spot has helped her create a successful hummus and falafel company. Within just a few years, the family company grew to 13 restaurants – the Vienna Naschmarkt was followed by Prater and NENI am Wasser, also in Vienna, as well as further restaurants in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Copenhagen, two in Zurich, Amsterdam, Paris and Majorca. NENI am Tisch can also be found in around 1,600 stores of the Spar supermarket, and the company has a European-wide cooperation with the “25 Hours” hotel chain.

Everything fresh – the need for a new manufacturing facility

With this rapid growth, production quickly hit its limits because NENI doesn’t produce to stock shelves. Everything is freshly made and quickly shipped. To fulfill the demand, a new location was required with more space and new machines. This lead to a new home for the manufacturing facility (and NENI's headquarters) was built in Gumpoldskirchen in Lower Austria.

Since August 2021, they have been producing delicious oriental salads, spreads and more. With a total floor space of 3,176 m2 (a little over 31,000 square feet), it provides a perfect home base to also expand the range of tasty creations in the future and a location that allows for quick shipping.

 The containers filled with falafel or hummus specialties whiz by at lightning speed. But the question is, how much is actually currently being produced and how much is still needed to fulfill  all the incoming orders? The specialists at “NENI am Tisch” in Austria want to know how much more falafel and hummus is needed. To do so, they utilize sensor technology from SICK.

Hummus, falafel and more – the need for two fully automatic filling systems

Twenty five different products – such as baba ganoush, hummus, and falafel – are continuously prepared fresh in Gumpoldskirchen.

“We produce around 150,000 kilograms of delicacies per month,” said Bernhard Balzer, Manufacturing Operations Manager at NENI.

Half of it is hummus in different varieties – from beetroot hummus to curry hummus. These are manufactured using, among other things, two fully automatic filling machines.

“In the hygienic area, the products are dispensed into containers using bulk goods filling machines or filling machines for paste-like contents. The containers are then sealed or covered with a lid and travel through X-ray detectors to the scale inspection area where each container is weighed individually prior to final packaging,” Balzer said.

Container by container: precise control of production

Every manufacturing line is equipped with a piece counter, cycle counter, and throughput measuring system. However due to downstream sorting operations, the actual packaged and ready to ship products cannot be accurately counted, thus there is not a total quantity of product produced at the machines.

“We take manufacturing control very seriously. Incorrect filling, for example, is reliably detected. In accurate product is sorted out at every control point. We  want to know what actually comes out at the end, i.e. what the effective number of containers per minute and line count is,” Balzer said. “Only then can we precisely control the production and fulfill all our orders to quick ship without having to store products for longer periods of time. This is an important factor for freshness, which our guests and customers appreciate..“

Accurate evaluations desired for quick ship results

The previously available evaluation capabilities about the final quantity were unsatisfactory for Balzer and his team.

“We wanted to know, among other things, what the average hourly output actually looks like at different utilization rates,” Balzer said.

The company was not only looking for a sensor solution to count the containers, but also the ability to display the data delivered by the sensors on a dashboard.

According to the manufacturer of the filling systems, the maximum output that can be achieved is 65 to 70 containers per minute. This varies due to the different filling processes When a very thick mass is dispensed, the work process slows down. Putting lids on the containers also reduces the speed. You could see on the screen of the system how many containers per minute are currently being produced and the projected number of containers per hour. With changing products and work speeds however, these projections were no longer correct. It was also not possible to trace product or display downtimes.

Sensors to determine the container count and visualization on a dashboard to help quick ship fresh product

An important part of the solution at NENI was a W16 optical sensor from the sensor specialists at SICK that can determine the container count as a result of the interruption of the photoelectric sensor. This is perfect for object detection, even at high speeds. They also needed clear visualization on a screen, tablet or cell phone that allowed remote access.

To achieve this, the sensor was connected to a SIG200 sensor integration gateway and integrated into the company network in coordination with the IT department at NENI. This enables the collected data to be easily accessed and displayed via a conventional web browser. Some customizations were also done in cooperation with NENI and SICK. For example, the actual quantity produced within the last hour can now also be displayed.

 “Whether it be hourly, daily production, or live information for the previous minute – I only need to log into the server, then I can view fully up-to-date information from anywhere in the world,” Balzer said.

Precise quantity produced to order

Thanks to this SICK sensor solution, NENI can now produce precise quantities – exactly as ordered.

“This means we can receive orders at 11:00 am on a Monday and that same afternoon we produce everything fresh into the night. On Tuesday we are already filling the containers, and by 5:00 pm at the latest trucks with the already expected goods leave Gumpoldskirchen,” Balzer said. “For these orders we have a very small time window that needs to be optimally utilized because production of the next orders will already start on the next day. This can only work if we know our production very well and have everything under control – the sensor solution from SICK was essential for this.”