Without notice, the conveyor belt increases and chocolates speed by.

Ethel Mertz and Lucy Ricardo have been told they'll be fired if they fail to wrap each piece of candy on the conveyor belt. The belt is moving too fast. They panic, and start shoving chocolates into their mouths, hats, pockets and down their shirts.

"I think we're fighting a losing game," Lucy says to Ethel.

Robert L. Wolfgang II recalled the buzz among workers at his family's company following that episode of the "I Love Lucy" television show that aired in the early 1950s.

"Because it was in a candy factory, the next day, everybody was talking about it," he said of employees at his family's Wolfgang Candy Co.

Last week, Wolfgang, a senior partner for the business, helped introduce the company's newest workers: Ethel and Lucy, the robots.

Because of growing contract and private-label production -- up significantly from last year -- the 88-year-old candy manufacturer installed the robots to increase volume, Wolfgang said.

The robots lift the candy from the conveyor belt and put them into packaging. The robots can pack more than 200 cookies or chocolates per minute, said Mike Schmid, managing partner/marketing.

"The workers have to be highly trained," Schmid said of employees who monitor the robots to make sure they function properly.

The sweet machines worked much more efficiently than their namesakes, but human touch is key to the company's success, he said.


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The robots will help generate production but won't replace laborers, Wolfgang said.

This summer, Wolfgang Candy hired more than 40 employees to assist with producing contracted confections in other areas of the plant, officials for the company said.

During a celebration of the new robots Wednesday, about 30 people -- including representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County; state Rep Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester Township; and state Sen. Mike Waugh, R- Shrewsbury Township -- toured the factory where the robotic arms lifted candy from a conveyor belt, placed it into trays and monitored quality control.

Schmid gave a brief history of the company which dates to the early 1900s and today is directed by members of the fourth generation of the Wolfgang family.

Schmid thanked the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau for promoting tours of the candy factory.

"We get close to 15,000 visitors," he said. "I am passionate about this business."

Ben McGlaughlin, Wolfgang's president and CEO, said the new technology marks a milestone for the company.

"A project of this size and scope takes a lot of people (to be) involved," he said. "We've come a long way."