“Wheat flour production is no longer disordered in Turkey as in the 1990s. Customers demand more from us. Diversity in flour production is increasing day by day. The quality is determined by the right wheat selection, production processes suitable for the product to be produced and end product standardization. If you cannot produce the desired product in standard quality in a market where many companies compete, it is very difficult to survive. The laboratory makes a great contribution to us at this point.”
Many companies are competing in the milling industry. In this competition, companies that invest in quality control departments to improve the quality of their final products and meet customer expectations have an excellent profile that will enable them to gain an important place in the market. With increasing consumer awareness, manufacturers also strive to be more consistent in delivering the best quality that their customers always expect. At this point, quality control laboratories have an important role to play.
We discussed with Mr. Metin Ozbal, General Coordinator of Gaziantep-based Ozbal Flour company, about “stability in flour quality”. Gaziantep city is one of the production bases of Turkey, which is the world’s flour exports leader. Stating that the standard quality of the product obtained is essential for success in the sector, Ozbal said, “In this respect, quality control laboratories are absolutely indispensable for companies producing flour.”
Mr. Ozbal, first of all, could you share with us your company’s foundation story and its journey until today?
Our company was established in Gaziantep in 1991 with a wheat crushing capacity of 80 tons/day. However, in the past 30 years, we have continuously increased our production capacity by adopting quality and stable production as a principle for all of our products. Between 1991 and 1998, we only produced flour for the bread group. In 1998, we included the products of the confectionery group in the product range. In 2008, we increased our capacity to 120 tons/day wheat crushing capacity and added pastry group products to the product range. Our daily production will reach 400 tons with our new factory in Gaziantep Organized Industrial Zone, which is planned to be operational in July 2021.
We regard every customer as a friend. Friendships are based on trust. The basic principles of gaining this trust are to consider customer requests in product quality, and to keep continuous product development efforts by following the needs of the market. We continue our production with these principles, always with the same seriousness and devotion.
Could you give us information about your production facilities and the technology you use?
We are currently working with semi-automation in our current facility. However, we are planning to form the basis of wheat flour production with artificial intelligence in our new unit, which we will commission in April. We use the latest technology devices in our product acceptance, quality control and R&D laboratories.
Where do you get your raw materials from?
We meet our raw material purchases from different regions of our country and abroad, depending on the area of use.
Which markets do you work for?
Our company has established a dealership network in 49 cities in the country. Internationally, we work with EU countries, Britain, Iraq and Syria partially.
Could you tell us about your R&D studies apart from facility investment? What kind of work do you do in your quality control laboratory?
As I said before, we produce wheat flour in various groups. There are criteria and wheat varieties we set for the flour we produce for these different groups. Even if we do not buy wheat from every region, we conduct physical, chemical and rheological analyzes of wheat varieties in our country in order to create a data network. We record the seasonal conditions of the wheat sample and even the altitude of the location where it is grown.
In our R&D studies, we evaluate complaints, demands and expectations of the market from us. The data network we apply in wheat is also valid for the R&D department. The product, the R&D of which is defined, is first tested in our own kitchens. Then, the products that we find suitable are presented to the evaluation of our expert masters in the second stage. After getting positive results from here, we start mass production. With these data networks, we aim to produce the best product in the most standard way.
“ABP IS THE COMPANY THAT WE CAN GET SAME RESULTS IN REPEATABILITY”
Which company did you prefer for the laboratory setup?
One of the sine qua non in the laboratory is that the devices can perform the tests on the same standard norms. We worked with many companies, but the devices we bought did not work as standard after a few uses. We could not achieve the same results in repeatability. ABP was the company that stood behind the device it provided and we could get the same results in repeatability.
How do you manage your quality control processes?
In 2006, after evaluating many different products, we purchased Chopin Alveograph MA device after the promotions of ABP Gıda. We preferred the AlveoLab device, which was renewed in 2015, because of the short analysis procedure process, automatic calculation and output of the results compared to the old models, high memory and excellent semolina tests. We continue to use AlveoLab, which we bought next to the existing Chopin SD Matic and Mixolab devices, with approximately 10 tests daily in wheat and flour quality control.
In line with our production, all these devices are used in semolina-flour mixtures or in these two products. The structure of the semolina and its reaction in the products to be created are measured. Gluten structures are tested in durum wheat. When wheat first arrives at our facility, certain criteria are set for semolina studies in the AlveoLab device and the process is carried out according to the results obtained. Semolina tests are also performed on the SD Matic device. Again, production is directed in line with certain results. With the Mixolab device, we design special protocols for ourselves, determine sunn pest damage, provide optimization of wheat and flour blends, and determine the effects of additives. Accordingly, we are doing product development and additives studies.
Wheat flour production is no longer disordered in Turkey as in the 1990s. The variety of wheat is very high. Customers demand more from us. Diversity in flour production is increasing day by day. The quality is determined by the right wheat selection, production processes suitable for the product to be produced and end product standardization.
Since there is high idle capacity in our country, many companies are trying to produce various product groups as a last chance. But it is not that easy to produce these special product groups. First of all, you need to know what you want to produce. You should have a lot of wheat and data on them. What should be the protein of your product? What should I do with damaged starch? Many criteria like these should be thought thoroughly. Most importantly, the product you put out should always be standard. In this respect, quality control laboratories are absolutely indispensable for companies producing flour. If you cannot produce the desired product in standard quality in a market where many companies compete, it is very difficult to survive. The laboratory makes a great contribution to us at this point.
During the Covid-19 process, all sectors took measures to protect the health of both employees and consumers. What measures did the flour industry, which produces flour that has a very important share on our tables, take during the pandemic?
Unfortunately, the whole world has been gripped by the Covid-19 virus. In order to prevent the spread of this virus, hygiene rules and food safety have become much more important. As a flour producer, we have made some additions to the hygiene rules that we have always paid attention to. For example, temperature measurements of our colleagues are made regularly. Our employees who have any symptoms of illness are not allowed into the workplace.
Our friends who do not have any health problems enter the production area with their working equipment by applying all the hygiene rules and passing through the disinfection cabin. We also pay attention to social distance in the dining hall and resting areas. In addition, we request Covid-19 test result from the personnel using annual leave upon their return.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a southeastern based company?
Being in the southeastern region has advantages and disadvantages in terms of raw materials and logistics. Protein wheats are grown above the world standards in the Southeastern Anatolia region. In our production of durum wheat flour, we could not see the chemical and physical values of this region in any other region. On the other hand, the fact that our location is far from cities with high population density and high freight payments as a result of this are difficult for the industrialists of the region.
What do you think are the biggest problems faced by flour industrialists?
The flour industry has developed in our country for years unconsciously and without calculation. There is much more idle capacity than our country’s needs and exports. A large number of companies pushes the industrialists into unprofitable competition. Especially regional incentives put flour industrialists like us in a difficult position. It is obvious that the companies that treat wheat, which is a basic food item and given us as a blessing, as if it is a worthless product as a result of competition puts the sector in trouble. Due to the low profit arising from this competition, many well-established companies cannot invest in the sector. However, when the sector is in this situation, I think it would be appropriate to give incentives such as technology renewal to our professional industrialists who are experienced in their business, not to new start-up companies.
What do you expect from suppliers that provide machinery and technology to the milling industry? In which areas do you need innovative solutions?
In our country, facilities have been established under the name of industry 4.0 for the last 5 years. These investments are truly proud. Companies working with Industry 4.0 are established with the principle of completely reducing human-induced errors, providing low energy efficiency and minimum labor. However, flour comes out of wheat. The production phase becomes easier, but facilities that do not know what formulation and process to apply are established.
New generation milling machinery manufacturers do not just establish facilities. They also teach how production is made with what kinds of processes and the culture of food safety. Most of the machinery manufacturers in our country are working to produce the best device, and they are doing it. But now, these suppliers should also pay attention to issues such as how wheat flour is produced, what kind of processes should be worked with, and how to ensure the best food safety. Recently, I have witnessed that the new generation machinery manufacturers attach importance to production processes and work with various educational institutions on this issue. However, more responsibilities fall on milling machinery manufacturers in this regard.
What investment plans do you have for the future?
Our biggest goal is not to establish facilities with very high capacity, but to establish facilities that can meet the demands of the market and serve people in the best way.
Is there anything that you want to add and share with our readers?
My advice to those who read our interview, try to do the best of your job. Believe me, there is no such thing as impossible after you want to do it.