Digital Technologies (DT) achieved a major milestone with the strategic partnership of Canada-based Premier Tech and Bühler, which was expanded to a joint venture named Bühler Premier Tech (Wuxi) Packaging Machinery Co. Ltd. The companies jointly develop cost efficient, fully-automated packaging solutions. Bühler Premier Tech started production from Bühler Wuxi in China and has shipped the first products.
DT successfully passed stringent inspections by the US Federal Drug Administration for Laatu, a new solution using low-energy electron beam technology to eliminate foodborne pathogens in dry food. A first customer in the North American spice market is already working with Laatu. Laatu ensures complete surface microbial reduction while using less energy. Other highlights in DT were a new digital solution to improve optical sorting for plastics, first orders from a large Italian customer to sort hazelnuts, and the successful launch of a new sorter for the staple food market in Asia.
Milling Solutions progressed in installing its first Mill E3 for a UK-based customer. Start of production is foreseen within the first half of 2021. Mill E3 is a revolutionary concept to build a mill, saving around 30% of building volume, 10% of energy, and 30% of installation time. The background of these achievements is a new, integrated, and modular design of key components such as the Arrius integrated grinding system. By integrating the drive and switch cabinet into the machine, Arrius can be flexibly positioned and quickly installed. Thanks to the integration of components and reducing the number of power of data cables from around 10 to only three, Arrius can be installed in a third of the time. Arrius was launched in late 2020 in a fully virtual event attracting nearly 1,000 customers.
A highlight within its SmartMill and digitalization strategy, Milling Solutions connected 13 milling units based in five plants of a US-based customer to our Bühler Insights platform, thereby enabling the customer to gain full transparency of its processes with various digital applications and services.
In Grain Quality & Supply (GQ), Bühler won all larger major malting and brewing projects in 2020. In terms of innovation, GQ developed two new solutions for rice customers: The UniLine 5.0 was launched in Europa and Asia and is a breakthrough innovation, ideal for low- and medium-capacity customers looking for standardized packages. RiceLinePro, an in-line sensor for raw and steam rice varieties that enables digital quality measurement, was also launched in 2020. In the grain storage segment, the Enclosed Belt Conveyor was launched and installed at a customer plant in the Ukraine. Its fully covered design allows for dust emission-free operation and protects the transported grains from moisture and other environmental influences.
For GQ, 2020 was also marked by the inauguration of the new application center for processing, malting, and brewing in Beilngries, Germany. Spread across more than 1,500 m2, the new center is home to the latest technologies in the field of malting, brewing, and grain storage. This means that grain can be processed through a whole grain handling line and a complete malting line with up to 1.5-ton batch size, as well as the dry part of a brewing plant, where mills and sifting can be tested. This set-up gives customers the flexibility to either do trials just on one machine or run complete process lines. It is also equipped with the newest monitoring devices to record all necessary parameters and to give recommendations about yield increase.
Value Nutrition (VN) enjoyed strong profitable growth resulting in its best year ever. The key reason for this is the strong consumer trend toward meat alternatives, triggering a boom in the plant-based protein market and its related technologies. Bühler offers leading extrusion solutions to manufacture meat alternatives. In our application centers on all continents, customers can test new recipes and processes to prepare for industrial production. In 2020, international food processors have jumped on that trend, ordering several large-scale lines. Even under the difficult conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, Bühler ensured installation and the timely start of production.
VN also profited from positive developments in the feed markets. With its single screw extruder introduced to the market last year, VN completed its portfolio. Large orders confirmed the leading position of Bühler in the market.