KSU short course supplements on-the-job training

by World Grain Staff
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MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — Neither Leonard Louis nor John Alberts was a stranger to milling. Both had learned the basics while working for General Mills and Star of the West, respectively, but the finer points — the whys behind the dos — were things that they explored recently at the International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM)-Kansas State University (KSU) Mill Processes I short course.

Louis and Alberts joined 12 other milling industry professionals at the International Grains Program (IGP) Conference Center and Hal Ross Mill at KSU June 6-10 to get a hands-on look at the basics of milling and mill control. This course was the third course this year in the series of resident milling courses offered by KSU and the IAOM.

Under the instruction of and Jeff Gwirtz, KSU grain science and industry associate milling professor, and Mark Fowler, IGP’s associate director and milling specialist, the participants completed labs that went along with the classroom lecture topics. The lecture topics included wheat classes, structure, composition, cleaning, conditioning and blending as well as the reduction process and milling equipment including roller mills, purifiers, sieves and sifters.

Fowler says that these hands-on labs are the point where what participants have been hearing really becomes applicable.

“Because they are actually experimenting with and exploring the processes that we have been discussing in the classroom, they are able to get a more applicable, real-world feel for everything they are learning. Now that they know more of the why behind the steps they take while milling, the actual process is seen in a different light. This will help them when it is time to troubleshoot or make adjustments in the mill,” he said.

Louis, who is General Mills’ mill supervisor, agrees.

“I had a good understanding of what the equipment did, but not exactly how it functioned,” he said. He added that this improved understanding will help him with troubleshooting and explaining the process and how things should work to other people.

Louis said this course has been helpful because he did not come to General Mills with a milling background. He started working for them eight years ago. He says he understood the milling process in a nutshell, but the course gave him broader, more detailed knowledge.

Louis’ fellow course participant Alberts said he found the course helpful because going through the milling process step-by-step supplemented and cemented what he has been learning on the job. Alberts has served as an apprentice miller for Star of the West for the past three years.

He said, “Being here made it a lot easier to really think about the process. Because when you’re on the job, it’s all about production. You’ve got to keep things going and you can’t always take a lot of time to think about why we do things.”

This class is just one example of the many partnership courses offered through IGP. In addition to flour milling and grain processing, IGP offers standard short courses in grain marketing and risk management, and feed manufacturing and grain management. For more information about IGP, visit www.grains.k-state.edu/igp.
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