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The evolution of skills in the milling universe

13 December 202311 min reading

INTERVIEW: Namık Kemal Parlak

“The digital technologies will influence how we are operating a mill in the future. As with all new tools and technologies, everyone needs to be open and willing to learn something new. Since these products and services are developing fast, the ability to learn something new will become even more important than today. This fact is in my opinion as well a positive aspect to become more attractive in the future for young talents entering our industry.”


In the December issue of Miller Magazine, we delve into the dynamic world of milling with an exclusive interview featuring Dario Grossmann, the Head of Milling Academy at Bühler Group. With a rich background that spans continents and a career rooted in hands-on experience, Mr. Grossmann provides a comprehensive overview of the critical role education plays in ensuring a vibrant future for millers worldwide.

Globally traversing more than 50 countries, Mr. Grossmann has witnessed firsthand the diverse education and skill levels that exist in different corners of the world. This has crystallized his belief in the transformative power of education and training. According to him, investing in the training of future millers not only shapes individual perspectives and career paths but also plays a pivotal role in enhancing food safety, availability, and milling yield on a global scale.

In the interview, Mr. Grossmann sheds light on the challenges the milling industry faces, such as a shortage of trained millers worldwide. He advocates for modernizing and making the industry more appealing to attract skilled professionals who understand the significance of their role in feeding the world.

Bühler’s commitment to education in the milling industry takes center stage in the conversation. With the upcoming opening of the new Milling Academy in Uzwil, Switzerland, and its existing facilities in various countries, Bühler is setting a benchmark for lifelong learning. The academy, welcoming around 600 participants from 80 countries annually, emphasizes practical, hands-on training and provides courses in multiple languages to cater to a diverse audience.

To aspiring millers, Mr. Grossmann offers valuable advice: Start with the basics, embrace the wide spectrum of knowledge required in the field, and be open to the ever-evolving digital world. Being a miller, he asserts, is not just a job but a fulfilling journey contributing to the world’s essential food supply.

Mr. Grossmann, can you provide a brief overview of your experience and background in the milling industry?
In 2011, I started as a mechanical apprentice at Bühler Uzwil, Switzerland. The first two years of my apprenticeship were about welding, bending metal and different other tasks as a mechanic. The last two years were more practical work and I was sent to a customer wheat flour mill to learn the basic skills of a miller. After my apprenticeship, I did several commissionings in specialty milling plants such as oats, maize, soybean and others. After gaining lots of experience there, I did the master craftsman as a miller in Germany and successfully completed the Swiss School of Milling in St. Gall, Switzerland. After my studies, I went back to do commissioning all over the world. After a certain time, I decided to gain more international experience and was sent to one of our Bühler offices abroad. From 2021 to 2022, I was located in Wuxi, China as Team Manager of the cross-business unit team. And since March 2023, I am back in Switzerland and responsible as Head of the Milling Academy.

How has your journey in the milling sector shaped your perspectives on the importance of training the next generation of millers?
As I have worked and traveled to more than 50 countries, I got the feeling that the level of education and skills are different in every part of the world and also specifically to each and every person. What I strongly believe is that training can give a perspective, a possible path of work and can improve at the end food safety, food availability and improve milling yield. I am fully committed to sharing knowledge with the whole world and am passionate about making the future better!

BUHLER’S PLEDGE TO INVEST IN MILLING EXCELLENCE

Dario Grossmann
Head of Milling Academy
Bühler Group

What are the key challenges that the milling industry faces in terms of training new millers?
There is a lack of trained and experienced millers all over the world. Also in Switzerland, it is very difficult to find experienced millers. So we should make the industry modern, interesting and show the people that this is a very important task to really feed the world, as we are providing humans with staple food.

Can you provide an overview of Bühler’s commitment to education in the milling industry? What motivated Bühler to establish the Milling Academy? 
We invested a lot into the new Bühler Energy Center, where we focus on lifelong learning at Bühler. In 2025, the opening of the new Milling Academy in Uzwil, Switzerland will take place. It is for us very important to invest in the future and that is why Bühler is highly committed to investing in the education of future millers. The Miling Academy welcomes around 600 customers from 80 countries joining trainings at our premises in Switzerland every year, I think that says a lot already.

Could you elaborate on the courses offered at Bühler Milling Academy? How do these courses address the evolving needs and challenges in the milling industry?
We have several different course types which provides knowledge to all involved people in a milling plant: technology trainings for operators in 3 different levels in wheat milling, electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance and executive courses for leaders entering new the milling industry. All these courses are held in various languages. Additionally to wheat, we are offering courses for durum, maize, oat and pulses processing. 

How does Bühler incorporate innovation into its milling education programs? How do you ensure that your education programs remain up-to-date?
We are in close contact with our R&D and product management teams and are updating our training content regularly. We also have the newest machines in our training hall for practical, hands-on training. We have the latest plant control system Mercury MES installed in our school mill and are connected to our digital platform Bühler Insights. 

Bühler has established milling schools in different countries. Can you share how these schools contribute to the global milling community? 
Well-trained operators and maintenance personnel are one of the main pillars for the success of each grain processor around the world. With our network of Milling Academies in Switzerland, Kenya, Wuxi and Minneapolis, we are ensuring the milling community easy access for training in their region. And it is not only the facilities we have around the globe, we are also doing on-site trainings directly at the customer plants. This ensures training on their specific machines with specific requirements at “live” circumstances.

Bühler has partnered with prestigious institutions for miller education. Can you highlight some of these partnerships and their impact? 
We have partnerships with the Kansas State University, the IFIM in Morocco, the Henan University of Technology and the Jiangnan University in China, the CTFRI in India and we work closely with the DMSB Braunschweig and the Swiss Milling School in St. Gall. All these cooperations are win-win situations. Giving the students access either to our facilities in Switzerland, or access to the knowledge of our teachers. But it is not only a one-way knowledge transfer, as we learn a lot from students and get ideas and other viewpoints from them as well. Bühler is transferring the required know-how to the next generation of leaders in the milling industry.  

Are there upcoming initiatives or expansions planned for the Milling Academy and other educational efforts?
End of 2024, we will move the Milling Academy in Uzwil, Switzerland from its current location to the main campus of Bühler Uzwil. Milling Academy and the new Grain Innovation Center which will officially be opened at the next upcoming Bühler Networking Days in June 2025. This will allow the attendees of milling courses to get access to the complete ecosystem of all the application centers. Hence giving an insight into the whole value chain of grain-based products. We are also building this new facility in a new design with a new concept of training, open learning spaces and new classrooms are only a part of it. But it is not only the facility, it is also the instructors who are going to the next level, as all of them have already or will make an external study of “how to teach”. There will be more coming about the new Grain Innovation Center and Milling Academy in the near future. 

RECIPE FOR SUCCESS IN AN EVER-ADVANCING TECHNOLOGICAL LANDSCAPE IN MILLING

How have technological advancements, such as automation and digitalization, influenced the skills required for millers today?
The world is changing into digital more and more, which means that more tools are available on the market that help them execute their tasks faster and easier. The practical knowledge and skills as well as the need to know the intermediate and finish products are still the same, just combined with technology. If millers are open and interested in the new solutions, they can adapt their daily activities and use the benefits of digital and automation.

How to use and navigate in an automation system belongs to the basic knowledge of an operator today. Future automation systems and digital services will support the operators to access more data and information. This will support them to act correctly and make the right decisions. The use of modern information technology based on smart devices will be part of the operation of a mill. Automation and digitalization means not that we do not need any personnel anymore No, it needs more experienced, well-trained people. These tools will help them to optimize their daily work and challenges. 

In your opinion, what specific technologies are most impactful, and how can training programs adapt to these changes? What do you consider to be the essential skills that millers should possess in the current digital era?
Digital technologies are influencing how we operate a mill today. As with all new tools and technologies, everyone needs to be open and willing to learn something new. Since these products and services are developing fast, the ability to learn and adapt will become even more important than today. In addition it will make our industry more attractive for young talents. The milling academy will do trainings for all kinds of types of mills and machines, as we want to provide our customers with the right skills set. This includes a look into the future; what might come and how to become more efficient. To name an example, we have a roller mill from 1980 as well as from 2022 in our facilities, the right machines for each and every customer.

THE DYNAMIC SKILL SET OF TODAY’S MILLERS

What advice would you give to young individuals aspiring to become successful millers?
The cool thing about being a miller is its wide range of knowledge. You need to have some know-how about the na-tural product wheat, about the basics of food safety, and the influence of the flour quality in the baking process. Then you need to understand the milling process and the function of the machines. And nowadays, millers need to develop expertise in using digital tools. Start with the fundamentals of milling and gain experience over time to become an aspiring miller in this interesting industry. Also, it is a very thankful job, as a miller you will provide one of the most important ingredients for staple food to the people. You can be proud to be or to become a miller!

Any final thoughts or key messages you’d like to share on the importance of training the next generation of millers?
Digital technologies will support the milling operation in the future. However, the knowledge of the operator, the maintenance and lab personnel, will remain one of the main success factors of every mill. There will be always millers and the milling industry is like a big family all around the world.

“Learning is like rowing against the current. As soon as you stop, you drift back.” Lao Tse.   

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