The licorice-makers at Hershey's factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have been trying for years to perfect the art of the Twizzler.
The weight of each chewy, Helix-like licorice stick varies just a little bit because of slight variations in temperature, said George Lenhart, a senior manager at Hershey's who oversees disruptive technology. If the licorice gets even slightly too cold as it goes through the machines, it will be too light. A tiny bit too much heat makes the licorice heavy, Lenhart said.
But when consumers buy a package, it promises them a specified net weight (such as 1 pound) or number of pieces of the fruit flavored candy. Hershey must consistently follow through, offering a pound or more per package.
This has created a big, expensive mass production problem for the Twizzler assembly line. Yet now, a partnership with Microsoft has leveraged machine learning to teach robots the art of Twizzling.