“Mill of the 21st century”

by Teresa Acklin
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Nisshin's new 500-tonne per day flour mill at the Tsurumi complex to apply technology never before tried in flour milling.

   The decision by Nisshin Flour Milling Co., Ltd. to build a totally new flour mill at part of its Tsurumi mill complex on Tokyo Bay reflects the company's belief that its technology and engineering skills will not only make this new mill “the mill of the 21st century,” but also that the mill will serve as an important positive contributor to the group's financial performance.

   Construction of the new mill will begin in the spring and is scheduled to be finished in 2000 coincident with the observance of the 100th anniversary of Nisshin's founding. It will increase the total capacity of the Tsurumi mill, already the company's and Japan's largest, to 2,150 tonnes of wheat per 24 hours.

   According to Nisshin, the new mill will require an investment of Y10 billion, equal to more than U.S.$80 million. In a discussion of this project with various Nisshin executives, it was noted that this means the new mill, with a daily wheat grinding capacity of 500 tonnes, or about 360 tonnes of flour, will cost somewhere in excess of U.S.$10,000 per 45 kg of production and that this is far higher than mill building costs in other regions, including the United States and Europe.

   Acknowledging this high cost, the Nisshin executives responded by pointing to the differences in what they are seeking to achieve. These include unprecedented advances in milling efficiency, a reduction in manning requirements and the application of technology never before tried in flour milling to assure stability in the milling process as well as consistent quality of different flours meant to achieve a wide range of specific end uses. Continuous quality checks during the milling process and extensive process controls, all facilitated by new computer software developed by Nisshin's engineering department, will be among the innovations in the new mill.

   To be named the G unit at Tsurumi, the new mill will have its own free-standing building as compared to the A-F units that are all housed in what is now a single large milling complex. The Nisshin executives pointed out that construction costs in Japan are at least 10% higher than in other nations because of the need to assure protection against possible earthquakes. This is achieved largely by deep foundations to bedrock. Along that line, they noted that a new Nisshin 500-tonne mill built in the Kobe area with similar attention to the foundation not just survived the terrible earthquake that hit that area in January 1995, but sustained relatively little damage.

   While the new mill at Tsurumi will not need additional grain storage silos, the bulk flour silo capacity will be expanded by 3,200 tonnes coincident with the building of the new G unit, accounting in part for the extra cost. In addition, capacity of the automatic rack warehouse will be increased from 328,000 bags to a new total of 492,000.

   Nisshin's own engineering department will have the major responsibility for planning, designing and supervising the overall construction of the new mill. Great emphasis is placed on the role of Nisshin's own engineering department. Indeed, Nisshin executives pointed out that the group's Nisshin Engineering Co., Ltd. “has expanded operations to cover the total planning, design, construction and installation of food plants,” reflecting the group's goal of selling, not products, but technology.

   The site for the new mill within the Tsurumi complex is such that it is opposite a small park-like setting at the complex entrance dominated by a bust of the group's founder, Teiichiro Shoda, whose grandson, Osamu Shoda, is the current president and chief executive. It was in 1900 that the late Mr. Shoda established Tatebayashi Flour Milling Co., Ltd., in Gumma prefecture, as the predecessor to the present Nisshin Flour Milling Co., Ltd.