New technology, old tradition

by Arvin Donley
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For more than three centuries, the Müller family has been active in the flour milling industry in Luxembourg, the small European country surrounded by Belgium, Germany and France.

The Müllers entered the flour milling business in 1704 and for more than 200 years operated a number of small-scale mills throughout Luxembourg. The family’s "modern flour milling history" started in 1921 when brothers Joseph and Edmond Müller acquired the Kleinbettingen flour mill, which was built in 1894, from the Fribourg and Wagner families.

While many milling enterprises in Luxembourg fell victim to a consolidating industry during a period that spanned roughly from 1920 to 1945, the Müller family strengthened its market share by making regular investments in its milling facilities and continuously improving the quality of their products, said current company director Edmond Müller.

Despite a fire that ravaged most of the Kleinbettingen mill in 1966, the facility eventually evolved into the leading flour mill in Luxembourg, said Edmond Müller, who succeeded his father, Jean, as owner of the milling company.

Today, it is the only large-scale flour mill left in Luxembourg, a nation that covers only about 2,586 square kilometers and has a population of about 500,000.

In order to further strengthen their dominating position in Luxembourg’s milling industry, the Müllers decided at the start of the 21st century to a build a new soft wheat mill that would begin operations no later than 2008.

"We wanted to build Europe’s most up to date flour mill that would meet top requirements in terms of grinding quality, sanitation and visual appearance," Edmond Müller said.

That goal was realized in November of 2007 when "Moulins de Kleinbettingen" began operating a brand new soft wheat mill located next to the company’s durum mill, which has been operational for many years.

Edmond Müller said the combined production capacity of the soft wheat and durum mills is 300 tonnes per day. Overall wheat storage capacity for the two mills is nearly 20,000 tonnes.

The milling complex at Kleinbettingen, which is located near the Belgium border about 30 kilometers west of the city of Luxembourg, produces a wide variety of flours (the new mill can make up to 20 flour products) and semolina grades from soft wheat and durum. Bran is also produced as a byproduct and sold in the marketplace.

Moulins de Kleinbettingen sources most of its soft wheat from Luxembourg but also brings in a small percentage from France and Germany. Meanwhile, its supply of durum wheat comes in mainly from France, although some durum is also imported from Canada and the United States.

Construction of the seven-story, 36-meter-tall mill began in 2006, and Uzwil, Switzerland-based Buhler AG began installing equipment inside the 500-squaremeter facility in March 2007.

Built on six hectares of land with the potential for future expansion, the Moulins de Kleinbettingen facility was among the first in the world to have Buhler’s newest-generation roller mill, the Antares, installed. Edmond Müller said he has been very pleased with the flour extraction rate of the Antares, which exceeds 80%.

In building the new mill, he said one of the points of emphasis was to install equipment with high sanitation standards in mind. The Antares, for instance, is made of stainless steel with surfaces that are not coated. Also, in order to achieve the sanitation targets, numerous other plant components, such as the entire pneumatic mill stock conveying system, the gravity spouting, the cyclones and the plansifters, are made of stainless steel.

"Our intention was to incorporate as many stainless steel plant components as possible to ensure top hygiene," Edmond Müller said.

The company’s commitment to sanitation was also apparent in how the concrete structure was built — without windows to prevent pests from entering the building.

An adequate supply of filtered, fresh air is provided by a modern ventilation system.

All of the equipment is controlled and monitored and all the data is processed by Buhler’s WinCoS.r2 process control system at a centrally located cockpit. This allows the facility to be operated with a low staffing level while ensuring reliable monitoring and complete retracing of the production process, Edmond Müller said.

Only one employee is needed for each of the three eight-hour shifts per day to operate both the durum and soft wheat mills.

Key elements in the cleaning house section of the mill include the Sortex Z+ color sorter and a light-peeling system, he said.

The Kleinbettingen soft wheat mill includes a new bulk flour loadout section. About 80% of its flour is shipped in bulk, while the remaining 20% is bagged. As a quality control measure, rebolting sifters are used just prior to loadout.

After 10 months of operation, Muller said the facility has met expectations in every respect.

"Buhler has supplied us with a flour mill that produces outstanding flours, achieves high flour yields, and also satisfies the most stringent standards in terms of visual appearance," he said.

Muller said the company isn’t through making improvements to its milling complex, as it plans to install a durum cleaning system and a new hammermill with a bran pelleting system in the durum mill.

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