Milling education review

by Meyer Sosland
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The international milling industry relies on a core group of organizations to educate its emerging leaders. While there is much to be learned at trade shows and conferences, there is no substitute for learning about the art and science of milling in an environment designed specifically for intense training.

In this article, World Grain reviews some of the most prominent of these training programs, including a description of their history, specialties and future course offerings.


The Northern Crops Institute (NCI), located in Fargo, North Dakota, U.S., offers short courses and processing services related to northern U.S.-grown crops. Its mission is to tell global crop buyers about the crops’ quality characteristics through technical education and value-added processing services. Participants from over 127 countries have trained at NCI since it opened in 1983.

NCI said its programs were designed to expand and maintain domestic and international markets for their crops. NCI, which deals exclusively with northern-grown crops, is a cooperative effort between the states of Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. This four-state region produces a huge variety of crops that NCI addresses in its programming.

Current course topics include barley and malt quality, bread baking, corn (maize) and DDGS quality and use, extrusion technology, feed manufacturing, flaxseed utilization, grain procurement strategies, HRS and durum wheat milling, pasta manufacturing, pulse crop utilization, soybean and sunflower utilization, wheat flour quality and whole grain foods.

A few years ago, NCI identified a need for a pilot-scale flour mill to help with its efforts to promote northerngrown wheat. NCI decided to convert its existing durum mill into a swing mill by utilizing the building and much of the existing equipment, thereby greatly reducing the overall cost of the project.

NCI’s new Hard Wheat and Durum Swing Mill and Milling Center for Grains, Pulses and Oilseeds retains the capability to mill durum into high-quality semolina. Gifts from regional wheat commodity groups paid much of the mill renovation costs. A ribboncutting ceremony for the new mill is planned for Nov. 24, 2009.

The institute said it regularly updates its courses in response to changes in consumer trends, industry needs, new equipment and crop production practices.

NCI noted that during the last 10 to 15 years, corn, soybean, specialty crops and other oilseeds production has increased in the U.S.’s northern plains. In response to this development, NCI has developed a variety of short courses that deal with quality characteristics and uses of these newer crops, while continuing their traditional courses. Specifically, NCI has added short courses on DDGS, flaxseed, whole grains, pulse and food-grade soybean utilization. It has also expanded its laboratory equipment so that its participants can experience first-hand the most up-to-date laboratory tests and processing techniques.

NCI’s "Grain Procurement Managment for Importers" was the first course it offered after opening 26 years ago. Grain buyers from around the world attend the course to learn how to buy grain through the American grain marketing system. A unique portion of the course is a road trip that takes participants to the Port of Duluth to see the loading of cargo ships and then to the Minneapolis Grain Exchange to meet with grain export firms.

In 2008, NCI had 36 crop buyers from 21 nations at the course.

NCI said that even in these tough economic times, attendance at its pasta courses continues to be stable or increasing. In fact, demand was so strong in 2009 for NCI’s pasta course that it was offered three times.

NCI said that in order to continue to increase its technical service capabilities, new equipment is regularly added to their laboratories. Some of the additions in the past year include:

  • Two-deck Baking Oven by Hobart for use in baking applications, such as pan bread, European-style hearth breads and Mediterranean-style flat breads;
  • Ravioli and Laminated Noodle Pasta Machine by Emiliomiti for fresh and frozen pasta products;
  • Oilseed Extractor by Gerhardt Soxtherm for evaluating oil and antioxidant levels of northern-grown cereals and oilseeds; and
  • Custom-built Steam Conditioner for NCI’s CPM master pellet mill in the Feed Production Center.

All courses are generally offered in English. However, the NCI Auditorium is equipped with simultaneous translation equipment for two languages. Check NCI’s website,, for more information and registration forms.


The International Grains Program (IGP), which was created in 1978, utilizes technical training and assistance programs to educate international flour and feed millers, grain buyers, overseas government officials and other public and private-sector parties involved in grain procurement and use. The IGP is located in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S. at Kansas State University (KSU).

The IGP supports marketing activities by U.S. farmer commodity organizations like the American Soybean Association, the United Soybean Board, U.S. Grains Council and U.S. Wheat Associates.

Courses are normally one to two weeks in length and typically include case studies, lectures and laboratory demonstrations. They often include tours of industry facilities, farms, country elevators, the Kansas City Board of Trade and other sites of interest. Faculty members from KSU’s Department of Grain Science and Industry as well as industry experts facilitate the educational courses.

The IGP serves the flour milling industry with several courses in cooperation with leading industry partners. The IAOM-KSU resident milling courses, offered in partnership with the International Association of Operative millers, is series of eight weeklong courses that are held throughout the year.

Buhler, Inc. has partnered with Kansas State University and the Department of Grain Science and Industry to offer multiple courses each year utilizing the state of the art Hal Ross flour mill in the areas of maintenance and expert milling practices. The IGP also regularly schedules short courses every year in the areas of grain purchasing, risk management, feed manufacturing, extrusion technology and grain elevator management For more information, visit, or e-mail


The Swiss Institute of Feed Technology (SFT) was founded in 1979 by the then-owner of Buhler AG, Dr. René Bühler, to impart primarily practiceorientated specialist knowledge on feed production to professionals from the feed manufacturing and related industries.

The SFT said that in order to adopt and cover market requirements, a reorientation of the training concept by the motto "hands-on and focused" was done last year. The SFT, located in Uzwil, Switzerland, continues to offer a diploma course with final qualification as "Feed Production Engineer."

The SFT noted that its educational facilities (training center and experimental lab) are continuously renewed and adapted according to gained knowledge and technical achievements. This enables the students to understand working principles of modern equipment in order to operate state-of-the-art technologies and processes in a feed production plant.

The course is made up of a preparatory correspondence course and an intensive course in Uzwil. The SFT said that in order to reduce attendees’ absence from the job, individual subjects will be dealt with in the future in greater depth in the preparatory course so that the intensive course is reduced to a maximum of seven weeks. The course will continue to be offered alternately in German and English, but in the future on a three-year cycle.

Officials from the SFT said they will make use of the year in which no diploma course is held to further extend their range of short courses. The numerous queries received for training courses lasting a few days to a maximum of two weeks and dealing with specific subjects is what the SFT said has encouraged it to take this approach. Short courses will be offered primarily in German and English.

The SFT noted that upon request it will organize customer- or plant-specific courses at the SFT’s site in Uzwil or at the customer’s location. The SFT can offer simultaneous translation, if required, into the relevant national language.

Another service offered by the SFT is to act as a neutral consultant for plant optimization and alterations, carrying out inspections and conducting, for example, homogeneity and cross-contamination tests. For more information, visit or e-mail


The Swiss School of Milling (SMS), founded over 50 years ago, is a school for milling technologists and production managers.

Students from all over the world travel to St. Gallen, Switzerland to participate in the SMS’s courses which consist of two sections: the correspondence course and the main course. The SMS said it combines theoretical know-how with practical "hands-on" training.

The correspondence course imparts the basic knowledge required for optimal preparation for the main course, while students are at home working in their regular jobs.

In the Milling Technology subject, the emphasis is placed on the basics of flowsheet technology and milling equipment of the different sections of a flour mill. In the Natural Sciences subject group, the basics of mathematics (including basic physical formulae and units) and chemistry are taught. In addition, an introduction is given to microbiology and hygiene. In Engineering, students acquire basic knowledge of electrical engineering, plant engineering, and pneumatic and mechanical conveying. As a preparation for flour analyses in the main course, students learn the theoretical basics of the most important analyses according to the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology (ICC) standards.

Required materials are sent to the students by the school. Students must solve control questions in the relevant areas and return their replies to the school by a certain deadline. Their replies to the control questions are rated and taken into account in the final grade. The time requirement for the correspondence course is about six to 10 hours per week, depending on a student’s previous level of knowledge.

Upon completion of the correspondence course, the students move to St. Gallen to attend the six-month main course at the SMS. In the Milling Technology subject group, knowledge of mechanical equipment is further deepened and a focus will be set on flowsheet technology. Theoretical classroom work will be supplemented by hands-on exercises in the flour milling laboratory and in the school mill. In the Natural Sciences subject group, the subjects of mathematics, chemistry and microbiology and hygiene are no longer treated. Cereal science, baking technology, nutrition science presentation technique and managing/dealing with people (leadership) are added as new subjects. In the Engineering subjects, electrical engineering, plant engineering and pneumatic topics are expanded upon.

The most common analyses, according to ICC, for determining the quality of milled products are performed on a practical basis at the school. During the main course, four "hands-on" afternoons are held every week. This means that courses will continue to focus heavily on practice, which is highly significant for course participants.

The SMS said that due to its close contact with the milling industry, it has the advantage of receiving continuous updates about new developments and market requirements which are integrated in its training sessions. Students who receive the SMS diploma are professionally prepared to take over middle or upper management positions and are able to offer a real benefit to the company they are working with, the SMS said. In order to create better rounded production managers, the SMS syllabus covers the technology of baking, pasta, cereals and other grain-based food processes.

For more information, visit or e-mail


The Buhler Training Center in Uzwil, Switzerland offers courses for the operating staff in the milling industry. The education is based on short but intensive courses that last for one to three weeks. In addition to standard courses, the training center offers individually designed courses according to specific customer needs. This training is done at the Buhler Training Center or at the customers’ facility.

Buhler said it teaches operational staff how to run a profitable flour mill and how a grain milling plant can make best use of the raw material at lowest operation cost. The courses are designed and offered for staff with different skills and levels. The main courses are:

  • Flour Milling Technology: basic, advanced and expert level;
  • Durum Milling Technology;
  • Maize Milling Technology;
  • Oat Processing Technology;
  • Mechanical Maintenance;
  • Electrical Maintenance;
  • Fluting Course; and
  • Plant Automation.

Most of these courses can be taught in German, English, French, Spanish and Italian. Courses in other languages are assisted by interpreters.

"We closely feel the pulse of the industry every day and therefore stay up to date all the time with the subjects taught at the Buhler Training Center," Buhler said. "Issues which are important to the milling industry and which need particular attention, such as ATEX, microbiology in flour quality control and DONreduction, are continuously integrated into our teaching material."

Buhler also offers milling courses for executives. These courses are designed for management members of the milling industry who do not have a profound technical background in milling.

Buhler said its educational programs are focused on practical "hands-on" training as well as classroom teaching. "We are offering the ideal balance between the two with the help of an operational school mill, a fully equipped machine park, a workshop for mechanical as well as electrical installations and maintenance. With those facilities, we cover what is needed for successful teaching."

The most recent equipment arrivals in the Buhler Training Center are:

  • A color sorting machine SORTEX installed in the cleaning sections;
  • A brand new four compartment Plansifter type MPAK, completely equipped with the new NOVAPUR sieve stacks; and
  • New Buhler roller mills Antares MDDR (4-roller mill) and MDDT (8-roller mill).

For more information, visit or e-mail:


London, England-based nabim is the representative organization for the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) flour milling industry. The organization noted that for more than 70 years it has provided low-cost, high-quality training both for its members and for millers around the world.

nabim runs an annual distance learning program which is divided into seven modules: Hygiene, Health and Safety; Wheat and the Screenroom; Mill Processes and Performance; Product Handling, Storage and Distribution; Flour; Power and Automation; and Flour Milling Management.

For each module, a student is allocated a tutor to whom they submit work that is graded and marked with helpful comments. Qualifications (module credits, Intermediate and Advanced Certificates) are gained via written examinations held in May of each year. nabim said there is a textbook for each module and these are kept up to date by means of a rolling revision program.

In 2006, nabim introduced its Advanced Milling Diploma, which is run every three years, for a maximum of 10 candidates and includes residential weeks at both Campden BRI (Unit 1 – Technical) and the Bühler Training Center (Unit 2 – Operations/Production), as well as an independently assessed research project. nabim’s second program commenced in autumn 2009.

nabim runs seminars and workshops on various issues as need and demand arise. These issues have recently included: mycotoxins, prevention of dust explosions, and behavioral safety.

"Our distance-learning program has been devised, developed and delivered by millers for millers," nabim said. "Textbooks are revised every few years by teams of active professionals. The course tutors and examiners are experienced managers in flour milling, and they convene regularly to ensure that the program meets the industry’s needs.

The tutor system ensures that students have access to expertise throughout the course year, and the examination system ensures that the nabim qualifications represent a true measure of students’ knowledge and understanding."

Nabim has begun an evaluation of how its distance learning program might be made available online. The organization said its main concern will be to maintain quality and integrity, while improving access to students. For more information, visit or e-mail


Ocrim S.p.A. organizes a variety of educational courses to educate the milling industry at its Milling Training Center in Cremona, Italy. Ocrim first started educating the milling industry at a facility outside Cremona in 1965. Since then, more than 2,500 students have been trained at the school to become chief millers, laboratory analysts and maintenance foremen. The students come to the school from across the world.

Ocrim is organizing a course on the basics of milling technology. The two-week course will cover the following topics:

  • milling technology;
  • basic laboratory notions;
  • working principles of machines for the milling industry;
  • plant engineering;
  • energy savings; and
  • safety rules.

A maintenance course that will also be taught over two weeks will cover:

  • basic notions of milling techniques;
  • working principles of the machines;
  • notions on maintenance techniques;
  • mechanical and electrical maintenance of machines and plants;
  • energy savings; and
  • safety rules.

Ocrim provides an advanced course in milling technology at its clients’ plants. This course covers the following topics:

  • problems;
  • new products; and
  • implementation of quality and production.


The International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) offers eight weeklong resident milling courses in conjunction with Kansas State University. This is an expansion of the courses that IAOM offered prior to 2009. The new courses offered are:

  • Introduction to Flour Milling;
  • Managing Mill Performance;
  • Quality Control/Quality Assurance;
  • Mill HAACP Safety and Sanitation;
  • Mill Processes I: Basic Milling Principles;
  • Mill Processes II: Advanced Milling Principles;
  • Materials Handling; and
  • Flour Mill Maintenance.

IAOM also offers its Correspondence Course in Flour Milling. The association said the Correspondence Course in Flour Milling is currently undergoing a revision, and it plans to have the first three of the revised units available to the milling community later this year.

IAOM noted that it plans to offer online testing options once the revised correspondence course is available. This will provide immediate feedback to the students on how well they are learning the course materials.

"In addition, by holding all of our milling courses at Kansas State University, we are better able to provide hands-on experiences to our course participants," IAOM said.

For more information, visit or e-mail


The Satake Centre for Grain Process Engineering (SCGPE) was established in May 1994 following an initiative from the Satake Corporation of Japan. Based in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester in Manchester, U.K., its primary focus is providing education, training and research at the highest academic level.

The SCGPE participates in research in food and non-food applications of grain processing and carries out postgraduate teaching in Cereals Biotechnology. Nonfood applications are taking on increasing importance at the centre as a result of the SCGPE receiving a number of significant grants from the U.K. research funding councils to develop cereals as the ideal renewable resource for future organic chemicals production. These initiatives provide funding for professional research staff as well as scholarship opportunities for PhD students.

For more information, visit http:// centres/satakecentre or e-mail

For a full list of education courses offered by these companies and organizations see the web version of this feature at

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