Three become two

06.04.2007 The Vaksdal mill is one of three flour mills operated by the Norwegian company Norgesmøllene AS. Over the past few months, it has been thoroughly revamped by Buhler. Instead of three old mills, two state-of-the-art milling lines are now in service. The flour mill is idyllically set. The storage bins and headhouses of the Vaksdal mill, which belongs to the Norgesmøllene milling group, rise right out of the sea shore of a splendid fjord in the southwestern part of Norway. Vaksdal is a small town located on Reichsstrasse 13 some ten kilometers northeast of Bergen. Bergen is the administration center of the Norwegian region of Hordaland. With a population of about 250,000, it is Norway’s second-largest city.

Fabulous history
The history of the flour mill is as fabulous as its location. Established in 1866 as a commercial mill, the Vaksdal facility grew steadily. It made a great stride forward in 1938, when it put the first flour mill supplied by Buhler to Norway into operation. At a single stroke, this turned the installation in Vaksdal into the largest flour mill in northern Europe.

In the nineties, the Vaksdal mill merged with six other companies to form the Norgesmøllene AS flour milling group. With its market share of 56 percent in high-quality flours and 80 percent in the blended flour products business, Norgesmøllene dominates the Norwegian market today.

About two years ago, Norgesmøllene AS entrusted Buhler with the complete modernization of its flour mill in Vaksdal. The traditional brick building with its shiny wooden floors was to house two entirely new flour milling lines instead of the three previous ones – a wheat mill with a capacity of 320 and a combination mill with a capacity of 150 metric tons per 24 hours.

“The three former mills had become obsolete,” explains Olav Bruvik, production manager of Norgesmøllene AS. “It had simply become high time to replace them by modern installations. In addition, we also wanted to further improve the hygienic situation in Vaksdal and to increase the level of automation.”

Ahead of schedule
In an initial step, the capacity of the wheat mill was increased. During this renovation phase, the existing grinding lines continued operation. Tomas Wilson, sales manager at Buhler Malmö: “We tried as hard as possible not to disrupt operations in order to minimize the downtime to two weeks.” Also the installation of the other plant components – including the entire WinCos control system and the electrical installations – made very rapid progress. Tomas Wilson: “Collaboration with our partners from Norgesmøllene was excellent, and the hard work done by the local industrial installation company Vestlankse and the Buhler chief installation supervisor was highly professional. This allowed the new grinding line in Vaksdal to go into full production three days ahead of schedule.” The fact that the final cost turned out to be below budget was the crowning moment for the entire renewal project.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Norgesmøllene AS was entirely satisfied with the performance of the mill builders and Buhler. The direct consequence of the successful project: Norgesmøllene has ordered another new combination mill including a WinCos control system from Buhler. Installation of this new facility started in the autumn of 2006. Start-up is scheduled for October 2006.

Owned by farmers
The Norgesmøllene AS milling group with its three flour mills in Vaksdal, Buvika, and Skien is wholly owned by the Norwegian food group Stormøllen AS. A 66 percent stake in Stormøllen AS is in turn held by the agricultural cooperative Felleskjøpet Øst Vest, and a stake of 34 percent by the Stiftelsen Fritt Ord company. The agricultural cooperative Felleskjøpet Øst Vest is made up of a large number of farming operations of varying size.

Idyllically set on the shores of a fjord in southwestern Norway: the Vaksdal flour mill. Idyllically set on the shores of a fjord in southwestern Norway: the Vaksdal flour mill.