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Nutrition, Safety, Sustainability and The Internet of Things

14 October 20169 min reading

Johannes WICK, Bühler AG: “With modern technology, the millers will work very differently from today. And we need to adjust to these new demands. We’re talking of entirely new business models, where, for instance, millers will not pay us per machine ordered, but per measured performance in terms of uptime, yield improvement or plant output. We work together with a number of start-ups to grasp that entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.”

Since April, Johannes Wick has been the CEO of Bühler’s Grains and Food Division. Enhancing the Grain Milling Unit’s growth with his team in his previous role at Bühler, Mr. Wick is now focusing on seizing the opportunities in nutrition, food and feed safety, sustainability, and the Internet of Things. Stating they focus on translating these fields into innovations that they promise to their customers, Johannes Wick says that the basic question is how to feed a growing global population with limited resources. He adds as the market leader, Bühler has an obligation and the opportunity to lead the industry and show how our sustainable solutions create ecological and economic benefits.

With Johannes Wick, we talked about Bühler’s targets for the future, current trends in nutrition and sustainability along with the company’s contribution to the current challenges and opportunities that grain processing industry is facing.

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Mr. Wick, you joined Bühler in 2014 and took over the management of Grain Milling. Since April 1, 2016 you have been the CEO Grains & Food division. Regarding your previous role in Grain Milling area, could you tell us about the successes you are most proud of? Grain milling is the largest business unit within the Bühler Group and we managed to enhance its growth! Getting started here drove my passion for the grain-processing industry. More specifically, together with my team, we have looked into how we manage large and complex projects with a focus on reducing construction time and capital expenditure. The results are amazing and will bring clear benefits to our customers! Another important milestone was the announcement of our cooperation with Bosch. This will allow us to make milling rolls intelligent. Now, with Ralph Schuck, we have found a great successor who will continue these efforts and bring Bühler’s milling business to the next level.

As the CEO of the Bühler business Grains & Food, could you share your targets for Bühler with our readers? Throughout our business activities from “farm to fork” we see enormous potential in four areas: nutrition, food and feed safety, sustainability, and the Internet of Things. Consequently, we focus our efforts on seizing the opportunities in these fields. It’s our ambition to translate them into what we promise to our customers: innovations for a better world. We are convinced that new consumer requirements for full traceability along the entire value chain will drive our industry.

Could you tell us about the current challenges and opportunities that grain processing industry is facing? Since Bühler is the leader in global food technology, what is the plan of Bühler for responding to these challenges and opportunities? The basic question is how to feed a growing population in a healthy manner in a world with limited resources and increased consumer expectations. We want every human being and animals to have access to healthy food and feed.

We are proud that we can contribute to this goal with our innovative solutions. As the market leader, we have an obligation and the opportunity to lead the industry and show how our sustainable solutions create ecological and economic benefits. Every year, we spend about 5% of our turnover as a group in research and development, creating cutting-edge solutions to the benefit of our customers. But at the end of the day, it’s a challenge that we can only address as a network - joining forces from the industry, science and start-ups. This is why we have initiated the Bühler Networking Days this summer in Uzwil.

The Bühler Networking Days 2016 were in fact a magnificent platform for exchanging and learning from experiences between the participants. During the event, key issues like nutrition trends, food and feed safety, sustainability and the Internet of Things were highlighted. Why are these so significant for Bühler? And how is Bühler responding to these core issues? These four areas constitute really the core drivers for our innovation efforts, with related challenges and opportunities. Let me start with food and feed safety, which has become a game changer for the grain processing industries. Product recalls are hugely costly, in terms of payments and reputation for affected brands. At the same time, contamination of raw material by fungi, molds and toxins are increasing, not least because of climate changes. In order to support our customers, we focus our efforts on establishing breakthrough hygiene design standards for the processing equipment. With improved accessibility for cleaning, we’re creating solutions that reduce the operational costs and pains from end consumers. Or think of the major challenge of contaminations like mycotoxin. With our extensive portfolio, we can take a holistic approach throughout the grain value chain: starting with best practices on the field, to ensuring optimal drying, cleaning, and storage when handling and transporting the grain. Finally, our cleaning and sorting technologies are important elements in fighting the threat of mycotoxins. For instance, we designed the pelleting process for the feed industry into a trusted kill step, with our Hysys solution.

Interesting… Could you tell us more about the current trends in nutrition and sustainability? Hunger, micronutrient deficiencies, excessive sugar and fat consumption resulting in overweight are the major issues today. On top of that, we know that there is a huge protein shortage in the future. In fact, feeding the world's growing population will require massive additional amounts of proteins, which cannot be met through the traditional meat consumption. The demand for protein is expected to grow by around 50% from now to 2050. How can we achieve this? We address this issue with new solutions for alternative protein sources like algae or insects. Soon we will see these products on the market starting in animal and especially aqua feed. For a better nutritional balance we are also expecting ancient grains, oat and pulses to grow massively.

In the area of sustainability, our ambition is to create economic and environmental advantages for our customers. Let me just highlight two examples: thanks to an innovative heat exchange concept, the Ecothermatic pasta dryer requires 40% less thermal energy. And our latest generation of the high-precision scale Tubex saves 90% of energy. Overall, we have set the target of 30% reduction of energy, water, and resources by 2020. Of course, eliminating the grain and food losses from farm to fork will be the key contribution.

One of the key issues discussed during Bühler Networking Days 2016 was the Internet of Things. How does Internet of Things influence the milling industry? The impact of the Internet of Things will also be mind-blowing for the milling industry. Just think of how AirBnB and Uber have changed their industries with digital business models. We in the food industry are about to experience something similar! Bühler wants to anticipate this trend, and, as a consequence, we are starting to equip all our solutions with sensors, also thanks to our R&D cooperation with Bosch, combining their expertise in IoT with our know-how from the food manufacturing side. We are equipping traditional mill rollers with cutting-edge sensors that measure temperature and vibrations and expect first products for 2017. The new technology allows us to analyze the generated data in real time with the aim to have closed loop control of the machines. Of course we also aim for moving from reactive to preventive maintenance. For our customers, the millers, the result is reduced downtime thanks to better maintenance services and better quality of their products. And maybe even more radical: we see enormous opportunities for consistently tracing the value chain. What if one could track the origin of each grain back to mill in order to ensure highest, consistent and contamination-free raw material at the very starting point? To some, this might sound like a dream. But traceability has become a major consumer expectation. And we are working on solutions to meet this.

Do you think there is any other area that requires special focus other than these core issues mentioned above? These four areas bring challenges and opportunities to the food processing industry. As the market leader, we want to anticipate these and lead the industry. We also think that we need new skills and approaches to be successful in this new world. For that reason, we continue to invest heavily into our schools and education that we offer to our employees, customers, and partners.

Nowadays, eyes are on food safety, energy efficiency, sustainability and automation. But could you tell us where the milling industry will be in the future? For example, what will we be discussing in the next five years? The opportunities around automation and the Internet of Things will continue to have a major effect on our industry. With modern technology, the millers will work very differently from today. And we need to adjust to these new demands. We’re talking of entirely new business models, where, for instance, millers will not pay us per machine ordered, but per measured performance in terms of uptime, yield improvement or plant output. We work together with a number of start-ups to grasp that entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.

Also, what do you think about the future growth of different regions in the world? According to you, in what regions can we see high potential? We at Bühler want to be where our customers are. Our business is a very local one, which is why we continue to strengthen our worldwide network of over 100 service stations and factories. Currently, the Asian world is growing fastest. So it’s no surprise that our latest addition is a new factory for the rice-processing industry which we have just opened at the end of September. It will help the ambitious Vietnamese rice producers to deliver rice of a quality that meets export standards. This is really what drives our efforts: engineering customer success. With Africa’s massive population growth, we also expect increased business in that region. Consequently, we have established the African Milling School in 2015.

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