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Sustainable solutions to improve milling efficiency and performance

09 July 20243 min reading

As the global demand for grain products continues to soar, the milling industry finds itself at a critical juncture. The twin challenges of maintaining high efficiency and adopting sustainable practices are becoming increasingly vital. In Miller Magazine’s July cover story, two industry experts, Fabien Varagnac and Olga Korzyuk, explore the transformative potential of digitalization and the critical role of maintenance in achieving these goals.

Fabien Varagnac, an independent milling sector consultant, presents a compelling case for digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) as the linchpins of a sustainable milling industry. According to Varagnac, the milling industry must transcend traditional, empirical methods and adopt a holistic approach that leverages the power of AI to connect all aspects of the milling process. This shift is not merely a choice but a necessity for managing operations effectively and sustainably.

Milling equipment manufacturers have made significant strides by incorporating more sensors and advanced control panels, marking essential steps toward improved efficiency and sustainability. However, Varagnac emphasizes that the journey towards full digitalization is complex and requires robust big data integration. High-quality, standardized data is paramount to ensure that AI systems can provide meaningful insights and optimize milling processes holistically.

EMBRACING DIGITALIZATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

AI can bridge the gaps between procurement, production, and quality departments, which often operate in silos with conflicting key performance indicators (KPIs). By balancing these interconnected indicators, AI helps millers make informed decisions that enhance overall performance and support sustainable development. Early adopters of comprehensive digitalization and AI integration will gain a significant competitive edge, fostering innovation and agility in responding to market demands and regulatory changes.

Looking ahead, Varagnac envisions a highly connected ecosystem where external data, such as weather forecasts, is utilized to optimize production and resource use. This connectivity will reduce waste, lower costs, and make flour more affordable on a larger scale, reinforcing the miller’s role in global food supply.

THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF MAINTENANCE IN SUSTAINABLE MILLING

Olga Korzyuk, Business Development Manager at Milling Solutions, Bühler AG, highlights the indispensable role of maintenance in achieving stable, reliable, and cost-optimized production. Modern flour mills, operating at a high technical level, require meticulous and proactive maintenance to avoid unexpected downtimes and ensure continuous production.

Korzyuk outlines Bühler’s comprehensive portfolio of services, which includes timely roller overhauls, correct sieve tensioning, and efficient energy optimization. These services not only prevent mechanical damage and maintain product quality but also significantly reduce energy consumption and operational costs.

One standout service is RollDetect, which uses a tactile sensor to detect the corrugation profile of rollers and recommend the optimum time for overhaul. This ensures consistently high yields while reducing operating costs.

Bühler’s “mill doctor” service addresses complex challenges beyond technical maintenance, including performance improvement, market trends, and stringent sustainability standards. The “Environmental Impact Service” helps mills develop strategies for reducing emissions and improving environmental compatibility, aligning with growing demands for sustainability.

ProPlant, Bühler’s maintenance and management tool, supports all maintenance tasks with features like before-and-after photos, automatic spare parts debiting, and fault reporting. This digital solution ensures timely maintenance and optimal plant condition, reducing unexpected downtimes and associated costs.

The insights from Fabien Varagnac and Olga Korzyuk underscore that achieving sustainability in the milling industry requires a multifaceted approach. Embracing digitalization and AI, coupled with rigorous maintenance and servicing, are critical to enhancing efficiency and performance. 

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