Digital Re-print - May | June 2009

Feature title: New trends in equipment and mill layout

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We are now seeing the next generation of purifier coming to the market, again with Buhler leading the way currently with their new offering the Polaris machine. the other machines do not remove, crease dirt, for one thing. Most millers are paying attention to exhaust systems and there is a distinct trend for more air to be used in wheat cleaning plants. The plants of the seventies and eighties, when air was really abundant it use to be quite cold to work in and we are seeing a return to those days when volumes of air are very generous and all machines are carefully exhausted. If it does nothing else it keeps the surface dust to a minimum and keeps cleaning costs in check. And so to the flour mills proper.

and can generally blend away off grade product and other grains that are of no value to the flour millers but can be used quite adequately by the feed miller.

Reducing investments at the mill
Having said all this, the effect on the millers will be to reduce the investment at the mill. Those with existing facilities will obviously not remove them but I do see laboratory facilities being slimmed down since there is little point in testing something twice. I also see many millers operating with reduced silo stocks and taking grain in during the night, for very obvious economic and environmental reasons. So we have a reduced screenroom, with a more significant role being played by colour sorters, which can now achieve acceptable capacity at reasonable prices. Scourers seem to be gaining more recognition, probably in light of the rise of mycotoxin levels and the belief that scouring will assist with removal of outer bran layers. Most water soluble mycotoxins are however, penetrative and can be found in high levels as far into the grain as the waxy testa layer, but I believe scourers can assist with milling, simply by removing much that

New trends in equipment and mill layout
T
here has been little new to report in terms of truly innovative equipment of late - although several engineers have redesigned their principal equipment ranges.
tempering whilst others, though they be rare, allow for up to one hundred, although I suspect the latter is somewhat of a misguided interpretation of what happens on a Monday morning when wheat has been left in temper bins over the weekend. Most mills now are using some form of cleaner at the intake point. This has lost favour over the last decade or so as millers saw fit to rely on the Screenroom separator for tramp removal. Millers are now taking the opinion, very correctly I think, that one should remove what is not wanted as soon as is practicable in the flow, hence intake cleaners are becoming more sophisticated and elaborate, whilst still achieving high capacities demanded in this day of quick vehicle “Investment in new machine and vessel turnaround. design is expensive and I take Once in the silo the wheat passes to the my hat off to those who have Screenroom and we are seeing much more deemed the industry worthy of selective use of equipthe heavy investment involved” ment here. Several millers have simplified their cleaning The choice of how many sections to com- plants and done away with cylinders, discs bine into one machine allows very effective and small ancillary devices, relying on just use of building space, especially when com- a separator, colour sorter and scourer in bined with the use of two high rollermills, some cases. which can drastically reduce the overall Obviously, this depends on the type and rollermill footprint in a building. cleanliness of the wheat being milled. Improved tempering devices and means A trend that is becoming more apparof applying water pre first break has enabled ent in Europe is the desire for millers to temper times to be reduced in some new buy clean, identifiable, quality specified and installations, although length of tempering guaranteed wheat. and consequent volume of temper space I believe this collective approach will be required is very much a personal choice. And adopted more widely across Europe we see some mills with as little as six hours By this I refer to the practice of groups
38 | may-June 2009

by Jonathan Bradshaw, Contributor

Image courtesy of Buhler (www.buhlergroup.com)

Shrinking the mill’s footprint
I have mentioned the use of modular sifters by Buhler and these really are an innovative approach to mill machinery design. Whilst the machines may take a little more time and effort to assemble on site they can be installed in areas which were previously inaccessible with the larger sectioned machines where the complete drive frame came in welded form and consequently space had to be found to get the machine up through the mill.

Investment in new machine design is expensive and I take my hat off to those who have deemed the industry worthy of the heavy investment involved. Both Buhler and Satake have both brought out new rollermills, as have others but these two machines seem to be the main ones being considered for those with an eye on the long term. The new Buhler modular sifters are quite an innovation and add a degree of flexibility when new mill design is being considered.

Selective use in the screenroom

of farmers collectively harvesting, drying and storing the wheat when it is ready. They use central storage facilities and analyze all the wheat as it arrives at the storage site. Once the quality parameters have been established and they know the average protein content they are then able to clean and blend the wheat. Hence the average can be maintained and supplied with a guarantee throughout the crop year. Several millers have latched on to this as being a way forward in guaranteeing continuity of quality of supply along with a fair average price. It also, perhaps more importantly, gives the miller a quantity of wheat available to him that is relatively free of mycotoxins since, because of rapid drying capacity, the farmer group or the grain store operator can dictate when to harvest and there is not the temptation to leave crops in the field waiting for the sun to dry them out whilst field-borne and air-borne diseases develop. There are some pundits who claim that the bulk of the problems associated with mycotoxins are brought about by farmers who insist on leaving wheat out far too long before cutting it in the vain hope they can save a few pence by not having to dry it using fossil fuels. All well and good if the sun can be switched on precisely when it is required but no defense against mycotoxin development in a wet summer. Whilst the jury is still out on this one I believe this collective approach to wheat harvesting, drying, storage, blending and cleaning will be adopted more widely across Europe and large central grain units will become quite prevalent over the next decade. Another aspect of using farmers collectively in this manner is that there are no screenings to be disposed of at the mill, since most grain stores also sell feed wheat

The modular machines can be brought up one section at a time … much easier. The other distinct advantage of grouping say, ten sections onto one machine, is that the mill footprint shrinks dramatically and the use of relifts is much reduced. The use of gravity spouting is enhanced and consequently overall pneumatic power consumption is reduced. There is also a greater choice for the mill designer to introduce flexibility into the flow diagram since gravity fall options for stock destinations are far wider when individual sifter sections are closer together. Regarding other machines in the mill; we are now seeing the next generation of

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may-June 2009 | 39

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Buhler’s Sirius plansifter purifier coming to the market, again with Buhler leading the way currently with their new offering the Polaris machine. Clean lines, sensible access, self contained and technically effective the new machine will find favour in many mills around the world. The Italians have their machines, which have several of the same features, and Satake are looking at their options with a view to introducing a new machine shortly. All purification machines now are of one integral design and the days of a separate frame and sieve boat deck have now passed. Using dedicated fans for purifiers and for pneumatic exhaust has once again been recognized as the most cost effective arrangement and the use of combination filters, which were always a compromise have also passed, except in mills where capacity dictates this is still the best option; usually towards the smaller end of the capacity ranges. Developments of the bran finisher by Satake have led to the introduction of the inclined machine, which can be angled according to stock conditions and capacity required. This is an innovative concept and one, which I believe, will be rolled out more widely in the concept of other machines as time and development costs allow. Impact detachers, drum detachers and other disruptive devices remain unchanged and these are freely used throughout most mills. Positioning of blowers in separate rooms is now common place as we seek to reduce noise levels in the mills.

once more being appreciated. The NABIM correspondence course remains the mainstay of technical education for many around the world and it is also looking to become more practical in its application. I have long been an advocate of training for I believe that if millers spend money on equipment they need to have it operating at its maximum potential and this can only be done if those who operate such equipment understand the principles of what they are doing. We are also seeing a trend towards millers spending money on training to optimize mill output rather than simply buying new and larger capacity machinery.

Image courtesy of Buhler (www.buhlergroup.com)

A final observation
As a final observation we are seeing several millers diversifying into specialist milling, whether it be wholemeal flours, organic, ancient grains or simply just another type of flour blend which they have not milled or made before. Invariably this has been done with used equipment but there are a group of small scale milling engineering companies emerging who are capable of providing “mini” mills as I would term them, often very simple and occasionally quite crudely built. These mills suit the farmer who is seeking to add value to his crop before it leaves the farm gate and they are also quite adequate for the food processor who wishes to produce flour or meal on a small scale by buying the raw material direct from the farmer or grain merchant. I doubt whether these engineers will impact greatly upon the industry in general, for there is room for everyone to operate but they do enhance the image of the flour milling industry to the general public and if, in so doing, they promote the use of flour and encourage the general public to consume more cereal products then we should not complain. In the early 1900s there were a little short of 900 mills operating in the UK, today there are fewer than 100, technology has moved on at quite a pace and commercial interests have taken full advantage of technological advances. Those commercial interests have seen a rapid decline in the industry in terms of industry participants in the UK and the rest of the world is now going through a distinctly contracting phase. Education of operatives and managers is important and so is the contribution which the main engineers are making to advanced machinery design. I thank those engineers who have the foresight to look to the future, the courage to invest in the industry and its equipment and the ability to supply the millers of the world with the key to their future success.

Milling engineers are coming
Whilst not readily accepted yet in the UK and mainland Europe is the advent of a plethora of milling engineers onto the capital equipment scene from Eastern Europe, India and the Far East. Almost all of these milling engineers are capable of producing a mill that meets the standards of engineering and safety required in Europe, although they have yet to master the vagaries of milling much softer wheats than they have experienced in the East. They are, however, capable of offering new mill builds at much lower prices than we have seen before and it will not be long before we see some main stream European millers opting for a low capital cost mill from the East. The impact on flour prices has yet to be seen but could be significant. Debate on this issue will continue for quite some time whilst in the meantime the recognized milling engineers will continue to develop their product ranges.

Mill control and staff training
Mill control systems have come a long way from the early days of punch cards being using for grist control. We now see the use of systems such as Wincos (Buhler) and other systems bespoke to their own design houses. Buhler have perfected the art of tying their maintenance program to the mill operating system and asset management and operating time based maintenance work card generation systems are now very easy to work with and familiar to anyone who has worked for only brief periods with Buhler equipment. No doubt we shall see these systems develop further, but probably more from a raw material and flour quality control stand point rather than as a tool to minimize labour at the mill. It is becoming recognized now that labour is a flexible asset & a good miller is worth investing in. Training programs are coming under the spotlight and the value of milling schools is

Daily check list
Pneumatics systems are always a part of every mill manager’s daily check list and whilst there haven’t been any major developments in fan design, filters have become smaller and more efficient due to better air to cloth efficiencies and the use of the automatic self balancing pneumatic lift valve have helped minimize stock carry over into the filter.
40 | may-June 2009

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