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Solutions for the African market.

03/21/2013 Bühler Flour Service Team, Johannesburg.

The Bühler experts of the Bakery Innovation Center are skilled and reliable partners for the global grain processing industry, providing added value by rounding off Bühler’s customer services along the value chain.

Chris Lemaire is an application specialist for flour improvers in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is an expert contact for customers from a host of African countries. We asked Chris about the features of his work and the goals that he has set himself with regard to flour improvement.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, customer requirements for flour improvers are diverse. If customers have a weakness in their product portfolio, the Bühler Flour Service can provide support. In addition to enzymes, ascorbic acid and other raw materials, trust and confidence are key ingredients in our flour improver solutions.” Chris Lemaire, Application Specialist for Flour Improvers, Johannesburg, South Africa

Interview:

Hi Chris, please introduce yourself briefly.
I qualified as a baker/confectioner in Belgium and later worked for the Belgian merchant navy as a cook, baker and chief steward for five years. I then relocated to South Africa, where I worked for several bakery and milling companies, such as Premier Milling, a flour milling company, where I was a technical representative for the sales team, and Sasko milling, where I worked as a bakery specialist. I also had the opportunity to work as a bakery manager for various companies. Before joining Bühler, I worked at Chipkins Bakery Supplies for 12 years as a bakery specialist for technical managers of industrial bakeries before I joined Bühler in July 2011.

What are your tasks at Bühler in Johannesburg?
I head the new Flour Service unit for Sub-Saharan Africa. The role involves:

  • Visiting Bühler clients in African countries, understanding their specific needs and providing sustainable and affordable solutions
  • Testing baked goods for our customers’ customers
  •  Developing tailor-made solutions promptly
  • Formulating and producing enzyme blends
  • Logistics

How do your customers profit from your services?
I support our customers in optimizing their flour quality for specific product requirements. Our main goal is to show the customer that we are not just another enzyme supplier. We don’t sell commodities, we develop and provide solutions.
Every country and customer is unique. We therefore have to persuade prospective customers that we offer a completely new and unique service.

How do your customers profit from your services?
I support our customers in optimizing their flour quality for specific product requirements. Our main goal is to show the customer that we are not just another enzyme supplier. We don’t sell commodities, we develop and provide solutions.
Every country and customer is unique. We therefore have to persuade prospective customers that we offer a completely new and unique service.

What kind of requirements do customers have?
It varies, but mainly they regard baking problems with their products. Millers call because their customers – the bakeries – have problems with their flour. It is often necessary to adjust flour quality fluctuations using defined flour improvers.

So what added value do your services give customers?
The bottom line is that we are selling solutions. I think we stand out because we are not just a sales team for enzymes or raw materials. We understand the needs of our customers’ customers and can promptly provide solutions.
If customers have a problem, they do not want to provide samples and wait for two weeks for feedback. Time is an essential factor.

Please describe a highlight of your day-to-day work.
Winning new customers is always a highlight and a challenge. First, we demonstrate our solutions and thus gain the customer’s confidence. We gather as much information as possible so that we can understand the needs of the customer. Confidence and trust are important, because customers must openly discuss about their product problems. The more they do so, the easier it is to design the optimal solution.

What is your favourite aspect of your typical working day?
Interacting with people that I didn’t know the day before and building relationships based on trust and integrity.

Who do you have most contact with (at Bühler and externally)?
At Bühler, my main points of contact are sales managers and customer service.
At the mills, I mainly deal with head millers, production managers and employees from the analytical labs.

Is there an especially interesting project that you could tell us about?
Yes, the water absorption of dough and bread is always an important topic, because it can extend shelf lives. Adding a specific type of cellulose to our flour improver blends results in a 2 % increase in water absorption on average – this is a real advantage if fully exploited.

Is there a special challenge that you regularly encounter when “selling” your solutions to (external and/or internal) customers?
Yes, the cost of a solution is always a key issue. Many mills already have a solution in place for which they pay money. How good the solution is, is anyone’s guess, but it is a solution which makes him happy. Now, you are asking him or her to change. Change means work and there is always some resistance to change. Sometimes customers are not geared toward this.

What trends, expectations and exciting challenges are in store in the near future in the Sub-Saharan African market?
We are a new unit; and still relatively small. I think the main challenge is that if customers have switched to Bühler FLOURZYME, then they can also switch back at any time. We provide blends, but we have to distance ourselves from the tailor- made approach; it’s too restricted and somehow sends the wrong signal. Instead we must focus on developing solutions that are well balanced and flexible enough to cope with changes in wheat quality.

In your opinion, what are the key topics in regard to Bühler’s synergy approach?
Our challenge and opportunity lies in maintaining Bühler’s high standards at all times, while remaining flexible enough to cope with changes in requirements.
I always use water as an example. We can behave and perform like water; it adapts to whatever shape it is poured in straight away, yet still retains its identity.

Dear Chris, thank you very much for this interview. We wish you and your team success with your exciting tasks.

If you have any further questions regarding the services that Bühler can provide for your company, please do not hestitate to contact Chris Lemaire via E-Mail


        Chris Lemaire, Application Specialist for Flour Improvers, Johannesburg, South Africa
    Chris Lemaire, Application Specialist for Flour Improvers, Johannesburg, South Africa

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