Melek MALKOÇ, Anamed & Analitik Group: “We live in a period when standards and certain criteria stand out. For example, if you export, you should meet standards required for you. Today in Turkey, we see that factories are growing, tonnages are increasing, and Turkish flour is representing a quality in international platforms. Because, flour factories in Turkey can achieve producing the flour that is in compliance with long-time demands or standards required in international trade, together with submitting flour produced with analysis documents that include approved values such as farinograph, extensograph, and alveograph.”
Interview: Derya YILDIZ-İSTANBUL
Being the first coming to mind when it comes to quality control devices in milling sector in Turkey, Anamed & Analitik Group is especially identified with Brabender brand for most of us. However, leaving 40 years in the industry behind, the company is one of the rare representatives which has proven its success with its own service quality and values rather than the brands it represents.
We met with Melek MALKOÇ, the General Manager of the company, whom we have met with in various platforms so far, and this time at her corporate office in Istanbul for a special interview. During our very enjoyable conversation, we had an opportunity to assess the past and present status of Turkish milling industry in laboratory and quality control. Stories and memories shared by Mrs. Malkoç are very interesting in terms of showing the progress of Turkey in this matter and importance and gaining of laboratories. In addition, this process in Turkey can be an example for many producers at different points of the world. If you think to invest about laboratory, this conversation will make you open new horizons.
Mrs. Malkoç, as Anamed & Analitik Group, you are a company which Turkish milling and bakery industry know closely. First of all, can you tell us the aim and focal point of your company?
Our most important focal point in milling and bakery industry is wheat which comes from nature. We work for values that what add to culture, life, and future. Our aim is to make these values more permanent and provide true laboratory solutions allowing our customer in a struggle for turning wheat into products with high plus value in both economic and physical terms to achieve this target...
This is our duty and we continue doing so since the day when we first established laboratories of the Ministry of Agriculture and provincial laboratories of the ministry in Turkey in the early 1970s.
Are these first laboratories you establish still active?
It has been 40 years over, and these laboratories have not disappeared. But rather, they have been renovated and continued to develop under different names and organizations. Activities of the government to carry these laboratories into the future and develop them have continued. I have taken place in these activities from time to time and sometimes participated in workshops as an observer. Steps of the government for this matter in the last 10-15 years have added an important value to the industry. With supports of the government, private sector has also become strong and developed exports by making production with higher quality. Today in Turkey, the value flour industry has added to the national revenue with export is great.
How many features determined today by laboratory devices were detected in the past? What can you tell about the process of laboratories entering into the flour mills in Turkey?
Many years ago, when we started this business, assessments that are made today through devices in quality control laboratories were being made by skilled masters working in flour factories in line with their lifetime knowledge and experiences. These masters could decide which wheat was suitable for the final product by cracking wheat with their teeth randomly. They knead the dough with flour obtained from wheat, assessed their capabilities such as stretching and strength through their own methods, and could review rheological features. This was kind of a work requiring long-time experience and sensitive skills.
Let me share one of my moments with you to tell this process. Many years ago, I visited a flour factory in Thrace (which is not operating now) and told the factory owner about laboratory values, what laboratory would add to the product and how this would affect the cost of final product obtained. The owner introduced me to Mr. Osman as his flour master at the factory, and said: “Here is my laboratory!” What Mr. Osman was doing throughout the day was to crack the wheat with his teeth in order to determine for which product it is suitable and how to blend the flour, to grind the wheat to obtain flour, and to give rheological information about the dough he kneaded with this flour. First questions coming to my mind in that time was “Who taught Mr. Osman this job?” and “Who will continue this job after Mr. Osman leaves?”. Namely, how can you ensure a sustainable quality in this way?
So, there is no answer for these questions. After many years when Mr. Osman passed away, the ships that were carrying the company’s flour got rejected from Morocco or Tunisia because the products couldn’t maintain the previous quality anymore. Then the company owner called me and told that we ought to establish a laboratory, their flour was returned and buyers required quality and documentation proving that quality. In other words, since analysis of very talented masters in line with their skills and experiences could not be turned into any documentation, it was not adequate.
Coming from these periods to our position today is a huge success. Today, all mills from east to west, north to south processing wheat can determine what kind of mixture should be made of which kinds of wheat, and for which kinds of final product flour produced as a result of this mixture can be used in line with their targets in the laboratories of flour industrialists. Namely, industrialist can determine whether wheat or flour will be produced for bread, biscuits or pasta in laboratory conditions.
Actually, your memory explains the importance of laboratory; but to detail more, what are the contributions and advantages of a laboratory to a flour industrialist? What is the importance of a laboratory in a flour factory?
We live in a period when standards and certain criteria stand out. For example, if you export, you should meet standards required for you. Today in Turkey, we see that factories are growing, tonnages are increasing, and Turkish flour is representing a quality in international platforms. Feedbacks are not only received in the country but feedbacks we receive from international meetings we attend during our visits in other countries. Because, flour factories in Turkey can achieve producing flour that is in compliance with long-time demands or standards required by international trade, together with submitting the flour produced with analysis documents that include values such as water absorption power, strength, the behavior of wheat flour in the bakery oven, farinograph, extensograph, and alveograph. They can achieve this thanks to the laboratories they own.
Likewise in Turkey, there are global companies producing various bakery products such as pizza shops. Headquarters of these global companies are generally in America and Europe, but they use Turkish flour in Turkey. The reason is Turkish millers have the capability to provide flour at desired standards to them.
Besides, consumers are also becoming conscious and checks the flour they buy for which types of final product it belongs to. Therefore, product ranges are highly important now. With this diversity, developing products with high plus value in economic terms is another matter. Developing all these is based on a laboratory infrastructure again. We can determine how we can obtain the product with the highest quality with most reasonable costs through the works we do in the laboratory.
Considering these, you will see what we sell is not just a device. These are investments which carry a product, an organization into the future and should definitely be made.
Are devices or a laboratory adequate alone? Human resource to use such devices is also an important matter, isn’t it?
Absolutely. The thing you call laboratory does not only consist of devices. While a part of laboratory investment made for future consists of devices, some parts consist of experts, educated human resources to use these devices. Devices are non-living objects. Then, well-educated experts are required to understand, interpret the values provided by these devices and take right decisions.
Are there any educational institution to train such staff, and an education system suitable for this?
Universities have some departments providing education related to this matter. There are private sector companies providing support education here. In other words, there is an education system for everyone who desires to learn, sets his/her heart on and is patient to learn laboratory processes. However, education or learning should never be considered as a short-term academic process, this is a life-long process. You may learn new things continuously until the last moment of your life. Life ends at the point where you know everything.
Now, let’s talk about devices you represent. When mentioned about Anamed & Analitik Group, the first brand coming to our minds is Brabender. However, you have many other representations. Can you mention about these representations?
It is so natural to think Brabender as the first brand. Because, our leading brand in milling and bakery industry is Brabender. Representing a standard in an international platform and being a brand certified by important organizations such as ICC, Brabender offers a wide range of devices for sample preparing and quality control. In addition, it has laboratory mills and grinders. In addition to Brabender, we have a brand called Büchi AG. Büchi serves in a field called wet chemistry and produces devices for analysis such as protein and fat. We are the agent of Haake which is a brand accepted in international platforms and is also preferred in Turkey in the chocolate group. The product ranges of the brand include rheometers and viscosimeters. Elga company has water systems. Milestone company has fast burning, microwave systems. In addition, we have devices such as saccharimeter, polarimeter, refractometer for the sugar industry. There are companies we are working with for special sample preparing systems. All these brands and systems are our representations within the food group. Apart from these, we have brands and devices within chemistry group.
Do you directly provide all services of companies you represent such as service and spare parts?
Yes, we stick by all devices we sell today and provide all services of these devices such as service, maintenance-repair, and spare parts as hard as we can go. We have more service engineers than sales engineers in our company. We give a special importance to this matter in order to intervene in on time and prevent our customers from being stuck in a difficult situation.
Moreover, we have to provide all these services for our country. Such devices for which our companies make big investments come to add a value to our country and steer our future. The devices don’t have the luxury not to work efficiently in the after-sales phase. Of course, from time to time we may face bad luck or delays that are beyond our capacity, etc. However, as a group, our aim is to make each device that we bring to this country operate relevantly, to prolong their lifetime through carrying out maintenance, and to provide the repeatability of the accuracy of the analysis results. What we do is not to sell devices only, but to make contributions the maintenance of best future investments of the company to buy the device... We work with this conscious.
What is the lifetime of a laboratory device? How many years can you supply spare parts and consumables for these devices for?
The period determined for devices which are developed in accordance with international criteria is 10 years. It means that competent authorities granting the company which produces such devices require the obligation for the companies to offer parts for these devices until 10 years after the devices are discontinued. Recently, this period is shortened to 7 years; however, most of the producers provide this service for 10 years. Of course, these are just standards. I have seen devices sold by an international food organization to Turkey in the 1950s and are still operating. Since these devices are mechanic, they may be long-lasting. Some companies still provide spare parts of them.
Mrs. Melek, is it enough for your success that the brands you represent are reliable, offer quality products, and have proven themselves in the world in certain fields? Do you have special criteria in selecting the brands you represent?
There are values that have changed when comparing to the past and some of them are completely lost. Only 4-5 of many companies you represent stand by you in your difficult times. For example; when the international policy of Turkey changes, some positive or negative changes may occur at the companies you work with as an agency. We sometimes encounter companies hiring cheap labor force. We sometimes see that the authorized person designated with the title of regional manager does not have any knowledge in any subject and the only matter he/she cares is to sell the device. We have many similar stories. For example; we learn that a company which we have been working with for 20-25 years has been sold without our knowledge and then we start having problems in consumables, spare parts and service. It is not possible for us to work with such a mentality. There are companies that we do not represent anymore for these reasons. The values of this company cannot endure a company or a brand of which aim is just to exploit our country.
We do not have such problems with companies which we are working with now; however, we take necessary measures within the framework of our values in case of such situations.
Therefore, power, success and quality of the brands we represent are very important, but this is not enough alone. Our aim is to bring true solutions to Turkey, stand behind these solutions as a representative and provide technical services in the best manner. What makes us successful is this approach of us.
You have an important knowledge and infrastructure in laboratory devices. Why do not you produce these devices yourselves while you have this infrastructure and knowledge?
Of course, we receive many devices and we have important information about them. We have very important confidentiality agreements which may impose penal sanctions for these devices. All of our colleagues in our team put their signature under such confidentiality agreements. Are we afraid of these penal sanctions? Actually no, this is not the reason exactly. The reason is to take an ethical stance and both business morality and personal moral values. We are giving service by making no concessions to our stance and values in accordance with our job description. We have not lost our stand and values.
Yes, you do not produce, but there are many countries in Turkey which product quality control devices. In your opinion, what should be done to market technologies developed by these companies across the world and for companies to become successful at international scale?
I am also following them closely. There are producers which are really successful, but this is not enough. I told back in the days that “Produce devices accepted by authorities in the international platform, accredited, patented at the international scale, as soon as you start producing, I will be the seller of your devices in Europe.” and I still stand behind my word.
Look, today we export flour as Turkey. The most important reason why we can do this is that we can put right the standards, we have the infrastructure to fulfill certain criteria and submit this with its documentation. If we can achieve what we achieve for flour for devices, we can export wherever we desire. However, the primary aim should not be to gain money. Because these businesses require big and important investments. Today, it is a serious cost to rise to international platforms, receive patent on a global scale and perform r&d activities. If you can achieve these, you can exist.
Let’s talk about innovations now. Is there any innovation you will introduce to the market in the near future, or what are the innovations to be considered important in your agenda?
Yes, we have some important innovations. Especially two of these innovations really refer to a technological change. One of them is GlutoPeak device of Brabender we have been working on for 5 years. This device has been working in Europe for 10 years; however, we have been performing our own works for 5 years before introducing it to the market. This device can determine whether grain flours will be used for bread, biscuit, baklava or wafer by measuring rheological features of them within a short time as 3 minutes. There is no other equal device giving results in such a quick time. We have accomplished trials of the device in research institutes in Turkey, received results and we are now trying to generate calibration of standards in Turkey.
Our another innovation is in progress, it is called Online NIR which performs quality control analysis in a quick manner during production... This device can be used in all food products including flour and feed. We installed in about 5 places within 2 years, provided necessary training to the users, performed tests and evaluated results and proved that it is suitable. This device which we exhibited at IDMA Fair is far more different than devices considered as equal in terms of operating principle and technology.
One of the matters we focus as Anamed is to provide solutions which allow for Turkey to develop products with high plus value. We think vegan diet which has started popularizing and gaining value recently is one of these fields. So, we are working on an extrusion device through which both r&d and laboratory activities and production of vegan products can be performed. Thanks to this device which is an important innovation, we can develop products for consumers who go vegan, do not eat meat, but love chicken meat and the smell of meat. In that, we mix starch, maize flour and meat aroma and give to extrusion, and a snack food which these consumers can consume is obtained. This vegan product which is extremely valuable can meet the cost of the extrusion device in 1 year with 10 kilograms of production per hour.
Apart from these innovations, there are also other devices and models changing and developing. We are following them closely and sustaining our necessary works.
You stated that you perform your own works in Turkey regarding the new devices. Do you also perform these works on all devices you bring to Turkey?
Yes, this work is definitely done for each new device to be brought to Turkey for the first time. Almost all of our devices used in the market today have been tried and have passed certain tests in Turkey. For example; we established the infrastructure of NIR devices in Turkey at the early 2000s. In addition, we establish standards and perform tests in our laboratory for Turkey, we also perform tests in locations accepted as authority.
The first generation establishing this company and consisting of names who are experienced in their fields started this business very consciously and established this culture. We have taken over the flag and continue our journey by following their leads.
Today, digital or online systems are more common. There are many important improvements, developments in your devices as far as I understand... Can you give some information about those?
Yes, there are works for digitalization. For example; results of the analysis you perform in the laboratory can be addressed to your cell phone, control panel in your car or computer in your home. Devices have such features. However, I don’t take them as a real innovation. Moreover, such options require a quite different infrastructure. For example; Fast protein quantification devices that we established in the 2000s for the branches of a company were able to send all the results to the central laboratory with a phone line. Yes, the devices have had that feature, but there was no infrastructure, namely telephone line in branches where we establish these devices. These features are not available on the device as long as there is no infrastructure.
Most of the flour factories in Turkey have laboratories which are enormously developed. Moreover, new models are not introduced to laboratory technologies each day. Do not all these restrict your operating field, your market and business potential?
Turkey has not completed its development yet. There are companies which do not have laboratories, there are companies newly established, there are companies which have just started doing business for the abroad, there are universities, especially newly established ones... And old devices must be renovated. So, we do not think that our market is limited. In addition, we do not only work in flour industry as a group. We have 3 divisions: food, chemistry and life sciences. There is no technical difference between devices sold in chemistry group and others sold in food division, but their intended use can vary. With these devices, while flour dough is examined in a sector, the plastic dough is examined in another sector. Therefore, we have the chance to provide services in a wider range.
In plain words, as a company, we do not seek for very big gaining, but try to continue our journey as virginally as possible. We do an important business for our region and our aim is not to gain big money, but to work honestly and serve to the technological development of our country with our specialization. Our spiritual and heart satisfaction is at high levels, thus we are peaceful and proud.
You stressed that investments in laboratory devices are actually the investments made for the future. What should companies care while investing for the future? Which criteria should be considered while selecting laboratory devices to be invested in?
Unfortunately, the majority part of the buyers considers prices, namely purchase costs of the devices across the world. Starting the business with a technology in which purchase cost stands out, or selecting the technology with such a mentality is so dangerous. I saw hundreds of devices became waste within years as a result of investments made in this manner. Such wrong investments not only make a device become trash, but also may lead to much larger damages from time to time.
As each consumer, companies should also evaluate price-performance balance while investing. It means that they should consider how much the device is suitable above the price while selecting a device. Especially they should account long-term advantages. For a device, life, power lying behind, familiarity and status of being accepted at the international scale, adaptation to the country and references should be the main criteria to be evaluated. Technical and spare part services should be considered as well. After all of these criteria are evaluated, it will be a more logical approach for investors to consider purchase costs.
For an investment to provide sustainable quality, it has to invest in the right human source. Therefore, human factors are an important criterion for production. It is necessary to make the right investment for increasing the level of education and knowledge.