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Bühler opens training mill in Nairobi

Uzwil, May 13, 2015 – The Uzwil technology group Bühler has opened the first-ever training mill in Africa in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The first 27 African students from nine different African countries began their two-year milling course a few weeks ago. “With this investment in well-qualified millers, we are helping the continent to further develop this key industry”, says Bühler expert Martin Schlauri, who manages the milling school in Africa.

After four years of intensive planning and construction stages and an investment of around CHF 5 million, Bühler opened a new training mill in Nairobi a few weeks ago. The last few years have seen an enormous increase in the need for basic foods in Africa due to the growth of its population. In addition, a change in eating habits has led to a continually rising demand for cereal products. “This growing demand is coming up against a dramatic shortage of specialist workers”, says Schlauri. Few African milling workers can afford expensive training courses in Europe. “We are bringing dual traineeships to Africa in order to educate people locally”, Schlauri explains. It thus does not come as a surprise that the 27 places on the two-year milling course were taken within a very short time and that there is already strong demand for the courses to be run over the next few years.

The school in Nairobi is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The students are experienced millers who have already accumulated many skills on the job. Now they have been sent to study on this two-year course by their employers, amongst them some of the largest mills in the world, to arm themselves with the necessary education from scratch. How do I store grains correctly? How can I optimize the management of the milling process? What are the most important quality criteria when it comes to flour, how do I measure these and adjust my processes accordingly? This is the kind of knowledge that makes a good miller. It is the miller who decides whether his mill is going badly or well, and whether his owner is losing money or gaining it. No degree of automation of processes can replace this human knowledge.

An example: During the milling process, the chaff is separated from the flour. Where this process is run badly and the rollers are worn out the mill’s flour yield will decrease. “In a mill that grinds up to 1,000 tons of grains every day this can accumulate to up to 2% of the yield”, Martin Schlauri explains. More yield in this case means no less than 20 tons of flour – per day! That is equivalent to a fully loaded truck or more than 30,000 one-kilogram loaves of bread. And it’s not just the yield that will be affected – energy use in an optimally managed mill decreases by up to 15%; if the grooves on the rollers have lost their edge this will consequently cost more energy. This example alone shows the importance of a skillful mill operation – “and that’s only one part of the curriculum”, emphasizes Bühler expert Schlauri. Hygiene and safety are two other key features of the course program.

For Bühler, the opening of the milling school in Africa continues a long tradition of education and training, both for its own employees and for its customers. This year Bühler will be celebrating the 100-year anniversary of dual traineeships in Switzerland. 50 years ago the first training mill in Switzerland was established in St. Gallen. Today, Bühler runs milling schools in China, India and the USA, amongst others. “The opening of this new institution means we have attained a new milestone”, says Schlauri.

Bühler already achieves an annual turnover of over CHF 200 million on the African market. This training opportunity will now provide customers with significant added value, since only those who work with trained millers will be able to fully exploit the potential of their machines and raw materials. And in an area of such intense economic growth as the African continent, a full exploitation of all opportunities is vital for every mill.  

Media release and the film about the African Milling School were developed in cooperation with the college of higher education in Bern (CH), Department Multimedia Production.

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