New Barnsley chocolate factory holds golden ticket for careers in STEM

Posted on 18 Dec 2023 by The Manufacturer

A new chocolate factory is set to open its doors in Barnsley to inspire and educate the next generation of UK manufacturing engineers.

The ‘JJA Snack’ facility is an initiative by JJA Pack – a global supplier of industrial chocolate-handling equipment to the likes of Mondelez and Premier Foods, based in South Yorkshire. It’s teamed up with long-term partner Siemens to create the advanced, commercially viable chocolate manufacturing line, which will give young people hands-on experience with the pioneering technologies used to manufacture chocolate bars.

Thousands of school children will have the opportunity to learn about where chocolate comes from and how its harvested, with pupils able to design a bar and create it on the JJA Snack production line. A group from Outwood Academy Shafton will be among the first to visit the site in Barnsley.

Meanwhile, engineering students will be able to learn about data capture, streamlining manufacturing processes and energy efficiency.

The Sheffield Steelers and Leeds Knights ice hockey teams are among JJA Snack’s first customers for branded bars, with the facility also set to manufacture chocolate under its own name.

The factory is set to open as Timothée Chalamet and Hugh Grant star in Christmas blockbuster release Wonka, which tells the story of how the beloved Roald Dahl character Willy Wonka become a world-famous chocolate maker.

Jamie Ashpole, director at JJA Snack, said: “It’s so important that we inspire more young people to pursue careers in manufacturing to enable the sector’s future success. Creating an opportunity for students of all ages to get a taste for modern, industrial chocolate-making, is our way of helping to address the UK’s current STEM skills gap.

“It’s exciting to bring this project forward in collaboration with Siemens, which provides a window for young talent to see how industries are advancing with the help of digital technologies.”

Andy Lane, business development manager at Siemens, said: “The modern chocolate factory may look worlds apart from any Roald Dahl creation. But they’re equally exciting – enabled by groundbreaking technologies, including data insight powered by artificial intelligence.

“Chocolate can be an extremely difficult substance to handle due to its inclination to set and become solid. This can damage equipment and bring down-time to production lines, causing big brands millions-of-pounds in losses a week.

“This is just one of the engineering challenges that budding Wonkas at JJA Snack will learn about – alongside how manufacturers are using smart digital technologies to spot and remedy problems before they occur.”

JJA Snack will use cloud-based AI solution Insights Hub to provide a comprehensive picture of the production line’s performance, which can be accessed both remotely and in situ. Through the power of AI, the data collected is used to avoid machine downtime by predicting and diagnosing issues remotely.

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