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TECHNOLOGY

Focussing on sorting tech value helps firms up long-term profitability
Tuesday, 29 January, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Gelsenkirchen-Schalke
Leading German rice, lentil and pea processor GoodMills Deutschland GmbH, of which Müller’s Mühle is a part, has proved that when it comes to investing in sorting technology, the buyer gets what it pays for, and, as the latter’s success has shown, focussing on its value to improve profitability in the longer term is a wise business strategy.

Müller’s Mühle is one of Europe’s largest rice refiners and Northern Europe’s largest processor of peas, beans and lentils. At its headquarters, at the inland port of Gelsenkirchen-Schalke in western Germany, it employs 140 people, has a production capacity of 1,20,000 tonne, and each year, turns over some €60 million.

Peas from Europe, beans from Asia and North America and lentils from North America arrive at Müller’s Mühle world-class facility. When sorted, they are sold under Müller’s Mühle’s own brand (it is a leader in rice, pre-boiled rice and pulses) and various others, with customers ranging from wholesalers and cash and carry businesses through big supermarket chains to professional caterers and kitchens.

Highest product quality and yield
Founded in 1893, Müller’s Mühle has used Bühler equipment since 1913. More recently, three of its processing lines have been using Sortex technology. Tobias Breuer, the company’s plant manager, said, “When we rebuilt our rice mill in 2010, we successfully trialled and invested in Sortex optical sorters, because they gave us the highest product quality and yield.”

“And we achieved the same capacity by using two Sortex sorters as we did when using five of our previous sorters. Plus, we got a better reject ratio, and we could call upon German-speaking technicians nearby for servicing,” he added.

Müller’s Mühle also has Bühler optical sorters on its pea and lentil processing lines, providing a vital final quality check before packing. “Since installing the Sortex A, there has been a substantial increase in yield and a decrease in complaints,” said Breuer.

“Previously, most complaints were about discoloured products, and while discolouration doesn’t present a food-safety issue, it’s associated with lower quality. However, the Sortex A not only delivered a far superior sort quality, but complaints about FM (foreign materials) also fell, because the Sortex technology is more accurate when it comes to identifying difficult to detect FM,” he added.

“Customer satisfaction is vital to us and we’re always looking for ways to further improve our already high-level product quality and safety,” Breuer said.

Rising to the challenge
The Sortex Z+ improves quality and safety on Müller’s Mühle’s rice line, by removing FM such as glass, sticks and stones, as well as defective product. Johann Högler, sales engineer, Bühler, said, “The type of defects removed are rotten grains, rice with black tips, greyish rice kernels, etc.”

“Müller’s Mühle can now also tackle mud balls and clumps of bran, thanks to the option they were given by Bühler to retrofit an InGaAs upgrade kit on their Sortex Z+. Bühler offer their customers a full range of service packages, such as upgrade kits, so that they can benefit from the latest technologies at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent new machine,” he added.

The main challenge when sorting peas is to remove shelled from unshelled peas, as well as foreign seeds, such as wheat. Defective products must also be taken out, including peas that are discoloured, rotten, misshaped, broken or split.

Making sure that any trace of wheat is removed from lentils and peas is also essential, with many buyers expecting and needing them both to be gluten-free. The Sortex A’s technological capabilities are tested to the maximum, because discoloured products and FM can be almost the same colour as good-quality lentils.

For added reassurance, Müller’s Mühle has TotalCare contracts on all of its Sortex machines. Breuer said, “We are delighted with the support and service we receive from Bühler Sortex, especially the quick response time we get should any issues arise.”

Price versus value
Breuer said, “When investing in processing technology, Müller’s Mühle is driven by value rather than mere price.”

“Other available options may initially appear cheaper, but it is a false economy when you consider the added value you get with a Bühler sorter. The yield is better, the spare parts are better and last longer, the technicians are highly trained and experienced. They know what they are doing, they are always available – and I can trust them,” he added.

“When researching their options, Müller’s Mühle heard very good things about Sortex sorters from other mills,” stated Breuer.

“We have been very impressed with our dealings with Bühler, but especially the way their people in London worked with us during trials,” he added, saying, “We looked around to compare latest technologies, but found that Bühler offered the best overall package – yield as well as expertise and service support. We are happy we chose Sortex sorters.”

Return on investment
“You get what you pay for,” Högler said, adding, “The Sortex Z+s have been working optimally and delivering great sorting results for many years. Processors who choose cheaper optical sorting options usually discover that in the long run – it costs them more. The breakdowns are more frequent and the downtime longer, because the technology is not as reliable and the customer service is not as quick.

“Also, performance of the sort will vary, which means neither the quality of the sort is not consistent nor is the yield, which damages profits. If the optical sorter is rejecting good product instead of defects and FM, yield loss can be significant. Our sorters have a better reject concentration than most other options and they deliver much better value for money, as Müller’s Mühle and many other businesses have already discovered,” he added.
 
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