👉 1st White Paper on the digitization of plant operational management 👈
January 26, 2023

Villars digitalizes skills management to anticipate loss of know-how

Villars digitalizes skills management to anticipate loss of know-how

Villars, the pure Swiss chocolate that wants to digitalize skills management

  • Sector of activity : Food industry - manufacture of cocoa, chocolate and confectionery products.
  • Nationality: Swiss

Master chocolate maker since 1901, Villars Chocolat perpetuates the tradition of the Master chocolate makers in the respect of the Swiss soil by the selection of the best ingredients.

The group has 4 business units: Switzerland, France, Export, Food service (BtoB)

The organization of the production is done around 3 main sectors:

  • Roasting: The roasting process is the starting point for all quality chocolate production. The cocoa beans are roasted at a precise temperature and then ground into a smooth, creamy paste.
  • Molding & Coating: The chocolate paste is then molded and coated with different ingredients and flavors, such as dried fruits, nuts, spices, etc.
  • Packaging & overwrapping: Once the products are finished, they are packaged and overwrapped to preserve them and ensure their shelf life. The products are then labeled and packaged for dispatch to the various points of sale.

The challenge for Villars is to digitalize skills management to anticipate the loss of know-how

The food industry is a very demanding sector that faces many challenges to remain competitive. This sector imposes many requirements in terms of quality & hygiene, which require a meticulous follow-up of the know-how of the collaborators on the ground, trainings as well as training documents made available.

In order to face this context, the group has set three main objectives:

  1. Deploy a digital solution for managing skills and authorizations by digitizing 100% of the Excel and paper files formerly used for GPEC
  2. Control know-how via automated versatility matrices and anticipate the loss of skills (turnover, etc.);
  3. Improve the overall management of training and skills development
  • Need to make the teams gain in autonomy and versatility.
  • The customer's needs mainly concern production and maintenance. More particularly the Molding & Packaging + Folding & Overwrapping part.

Villars' skills management challenges

Villars, a company with a strong growth rate of 15%, is faced with a growing need for versatility due to the considerable increase in its production volume. This need for versatility is all the more acute given the company's 20% employee turnover rate, which calls for better human resources management.

To meet these needs, Villars chose Mercateam, a solution that enabled them to better manage versatility and skills matrices, as well as training launches. Villars offers two types of training: general training on safety, etc., and industrial training, which is much more specific. Before Mercateam, it could take between 1 and 3 months to train an operator, except for simple jobs where temps were assigned.

One of Villars' main needs is related to training follow-up, which was extremely unclear prior to Mercateam's arrival. This was partly due to communication problems between the human resources department and the trainers, who had very little visibility of job changes. When a new person arrives at the plant, it's difficult to know exactly what they need to be trained in when they arrive. Villars employees are therefore enthusiastic about the idea of being able to start training directly on Mercateam. To validate training, everything was exclusively oral and there were no questionnaires. Their wish is to structure training management and standardize it with well-formalized MCQs, so that evaluation criteria no longer depend on the assessors.

Villars also wants to be able to keep track of each employee's appraisals, and for Mercateam to help them meet training deadlines via alerts or a calendar of training milestones. Finally, Villars wants to gradually move to a 100% digital organization, replacing archaic onboarding processes and skills managed solely by Excel. At present, 140 people work on the site, divided between 80 operators, 40-50 non-industrial staff and 12 people in the technical department. A 3×8 shift is in place from Monday to Saturday.

Also, there are apprehensions about using Mercateam. Employees are concerned about the time needed to make the transition, the loss of data and the impact of digitization. Although they are enthusiastic, they are reluctant to access employees' training history, fearing tensions between them. What's more, the company is not very digital, and there are few fixed computers on site.

Mercateam's mission

To support the strategic objectives presented above, we accompanied the Villars Chocolat site for 3 months on :

  • The implementation of the Mercateam tool to digitize 100% of the skills and authorizations in the field and to update the expiration dates related to each skill and authorization on site;
  • Support for organizational changes related to the digitalization of processes;
  • Digitize the end-to-end training process on production lines.


The structuring and rationalization of information for field teams has been implemented to improve collaboration and efficiency. A common reference for skills and authorizations has been created between the HR, quality and production teams, resulting in the elimination of 3 Excel files across 2 logistics sectors. In addition, employees now have real-time access to information on their skills and authorizations on site.

Know-how management and anticipation of business risks have also been improved, thanks to notification of expiry of authorizations and skills up to 3 months in advance, as well as centralized monitoring of data linked to skills and authorizations, enabling KPIs to be compiled for each site, sector and team.