Innovation in chocolate decoration at Mona Lisa Studio
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Innovation in chocolate decoration at Mona Lisa Studio

  • 08 April 2024
  • By: Janneke Vermeulen

At the Belgian company Mona Lisa Studio, a subsidiary of Barry Callebaut, a wide variety of chocolate decorations are sent out daily. While the company provides custom-made products, there was an internal need for standardization. A new version of the ERP system offers a solution.

Artistic splatters reminiscent of Jackson Pollock's style, metallic colors, and the combination of various icons in patisserie are a few trends in chocolate decoration. At Mona Lisa Studio, a subsidiary of the world's largest chocolate manufacturer, Barry Callebaut, they are at the forefront of these trends. Based in Kortrijk, Belgium, the company produces chocolate decorations, ranging from popular classics to innovative artworks, and from ready-made decorations to do-it-yourself tools. These items transform pastries, chocolates, and desserts into true showpieces.

The products are intended for the hospitality industry, (pastry) bakery sector, and the dairy, ice cream, and dessert industries. Sectors where the convenience trend naturally doesn't go unnoticed, says customer care manager & supply chain manager Bieke Verstraete: “In recent years, there's been a high demand for finished items. Previously, we provided a lot of transfer sheets for customers to work with; nowadays, we make many of the decorations ourselves.” The transfer sheets are used to create chocolate plaques using stencils, a precise job done by hand in a dedicated section of the production space.

Lieke Rosseel (left) and Bieke Verstraete | ©Margot Glorieux 


While Mona Lisa Studio itself provides a lot of custom work, there was a need at the back-end for more standardization. Confirming orders, invoicing, planning; many business processes were done manually using Excel sheets, email, and an outdated ERP system until a few months ago. Master data expert at Mona Lisa Studio, Lieke Rosseel, says: “It worked, but it wasn't efficient. Especially planning was a challenge: once a day we extracted new orders from Navision on which the planning was based. Urgent orders coming in from an external system an hour later would then be delayed by a day.”

The Stone Age

Ivar Slots, a consultant at software company Aptean, explains the flaws of the system: “It was a version from 1998, which in the world of ICT is equivalent to the Stone Age. When an ERP system is that old, it's no longer supported.” 

After a business case and approval from the parent company, last year they started migrating to a new version of the software: Aptean Food & Beverage ERP based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. The choice for Aptean was logical, Lieke explains: “Our old ERP system was from Aptean's predecessor, and we were very satisfied with their support. Why switch if you’re satisfied?” Thus, a project team from Aptean and Mona Lisa Studio was set up to manage the migration. Bieke says: “It was a major project, coinciding with our peak season last autumn. Fortunately, we were able to go live recently, during the low season. The migration went smoothly. But if there had been hiccups, we could have managed them.”

The team from Aptean with the people from Mona Lisa Studio

Fully in the cloud

Lieke shares that frustration levels have significantly decreased since the implementation: “Processes are much better aligned now. We send out order confirmations and invoices directly from the system, can print real-time labels, and trade with British companies - a source of irritation since Brexit – goes a lot smoother. Also, planning is continuously up-to-date now. Another advantage: multiple people can now pick an order in the warehouse simultaneously from the system. Previously, it always crashed.” Ivar adds: “The new version is entirely cloud-based. Mona Lisa Studio will never have to deal with upgrades again, as the system automatically updates with Microsoft’s cycle. Plus, this system is almost entirely standard. No more connecting different systems; that’s much more efficient.” Bieke states that the collaboration with Aptean was again very smooth: “It was excellent, as we are used to. It was a tough few months, but the atmosphere was positive, and the guidance was top-notch.”

Innovation drive

That the migration has been successful and colleagues are increasingly finding their way in the new system is one less worry for Mona Lisa Studio. But the drive for innovation is never gone at the company. They are currently working hard on an alternative for titanium dioxide, which was banned by the EU in 2021. Bieke explains: “Thanks to titanium dioxide, colors appear brighter and more vibrant on dark chocolate. It also adds stability to the colors. So not being able to use it anymore was quite a bummer. Colleagues from the R&D department are busy with alternatives. It's a complicated search, but we're confident it will succeed. We’ve already proven that we’re not easily discouraged.”

Main photo: ©Diane Hendrikx

Source: Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2024