One mill moves into the forefront as the Polish milling industry consolidates due to overcapacity and low operating margins
by William Lesniak
The total number of wheat and rye mills operating in Poland today is still considerable, although the number has fallen off from the nearly 2,000 operating in the 1990s. In a country with a population of more than 38 million people, most of those were small family owned mills with a milling capacity of 20 to 100 tonnes per day.
It is speculated that by 2005, the number of small mills will be reduced significantly and a few large milling groups will dominate the sector. This process of consolidation is generally accepted as unavoidable.
Both overcapacity in the Polish milling industry — currently estimated at about 40% — and continuous new investment in the industry is putting pressure on operating margins. Small mills are finding it very difficult to compete, and every year a number of them drop out of the market. Presidents of the major Polish grain processing companies predict that the number of bankruptcies in small and medium-sized mill plants will be even higher in 2002 than in 2001.
Before 1989, flour milling in Poland was a state monopoly. It was organized into a series of regional companies, each named as PZZ, (Panstwowe Zaklady Zbozowe, State Cereal Plants) followed by the name of the town where the company was based, such as PZZ Lublin, PZZ Poznan, PZZ Krakow, and so on.
During the early 1990s, more than 200 private mills were built. Although these mills were small — most had capacities of 30 to 60 tonnes per day — they were aggressive and took over a large segment of the flour market from the slow and inflexible state owned PZZs.
In the second half of the 1990s, the privatization of some PZZs and growth of the new private milling sector changed the Polish milling industry; the process of consolidation had begun. Currently, there are about 40 large mills in Poland with capacities of 200 to 600 tonnes per day. Most, but not all, are privately owned.
The biggest milling company is the Polskie Mlyny Group, whose five large mills have a total annual processing capacity of 800,000 tonnes. All the other major companies operate a single, high-capacity milling plant. The biggest of these are Lubella-Lublin, PZZ Koszalin, PZZ Krakow, Kapka Mill S.C., Interchemal- Jelonki and mills in Gdansk, Szczecin and Krzyzowa. The majority of these operate fairly modern plants that were either built or extensively modernized during the past 10 years. Also playing an important role on the Polish market is a series of smaller but well organized, modern and aggressive mills with a daily processing capacity of 100 to 200 tonnes per day.
As a first step in a plan that will eventually see Poland organized into five to seven regional trading and marketing groups, the Polskie Mlyny Group plans to centralize its marketing activity and trade through a licensed commodity exchange modeled on the Poznan and Warsaw exchanges. The company hopes it will create a fairly stable cereals market and will improve the quality of end products being offered by mills.
One of the companies that joined the first group in 2001 is Mlynpol, in Krzyzowa. In September 2000, the mill’s owners, Adam Golebiowski and Roman Woloszczak, commissioned Spomasz, based in Ostrow Wielkopolski, Poland, as general contractor to design, build, supply equipment, and commission a new wheat mill in Mlynpol with a processing capacity of 360 tonnes per day.
Golebiowski and Woloszczak entered the milling industry in 1990 after purchasing and renovating an old wheat mill, which last year they converted into a 60-tonne-per-day rye mill. The two also own three flour wholesalers.
At the end of the June 2001 — a year after the land for the mill was bought, the Mlynpol mill began operation. It employs 40 people, features a cleaning line capacity of 500 tonnes per day; milling capacity of 360 tonnes per day; milling surface length of 40.5 meters; and a net sifting surface of 244.4 square meters.
A special feature of the cleaning line is the ability to process full-size and undersized grains separately. The cleaning room, at 500 tonnes per day capacity, was designed with extra space to allow for future development.
Grain from the six receiving bins is fed through Spomasz’ electronically controlled grain flow balancer, which stabilizes grain input into the mill stream to maximize mill yields. Grain moves through screw conveyors and a chain conveyor, a bucket elevator and scales between the storage room and cleaning room.
The grain is then directed to a multi-task (air screen cleaner) machine, which separates the light and heavy grain through the sieves and the airflow aspiration, as well as simultaneous separation of stones and fractions that are lighter than grain. Afterwards, the two grain streams are cleaned on trieurs (indent cylinders); heavy grains are sorted on a long grain trieur, light grains go to the round and long grain trieur. A spiral trieur (spiral separator) is used to separate broken grain from round-shaped impurities.
Light grain is subject to scouring before both streams of grain pass through the automatic humidity measurement system and are directed to the intensive dampener. Damping and tempering of grain in bins takes place in a continuous flow. Grain from the tempering bins, via another electronically controlled grain flow balancer, is directed to the scouring machine, which cleans the grain surface from dust and takes off the external bran layer. It then moves to bin before first break, through the scales and finally to the rollermills for first break.
In the cleaning line there are Spomasz rare earth magnetic separators that reach near 100% accuracy.
The cleaning room is aspirated by the filter-cyclone with sleeve cleaning system under 6 atmospheres pressure.
Useful waste from the cleaning room is accumulated in a bin, then broken up in a hammer mill and either added to bran or disposed of as a loose bulk product.
The mill flow was designed to obtain high general extraction, including middlings and semolina up to 22% extraction. The roller floor is equipped with 14 rollermills — three 8-roll rollermills and 11 4-roll rollermills. The total length of milling surface is 40.5 meters and the load of each grinding passage is 8.8 tonnes per day. To minimize vibrations, rollermills on the ground floor are installed on wooden construction with cork support.
The technology used in Mlynpol allows the production of four flour types and fine and coarse bran. Apart from flour and bran, the mill also makes semolina and germ.
The Spomasz-manufactured rollermills are supplied ready for interaction with a computer and are extremely reliable under critical conditions. The rollermills are suitable for high loads and also feature low energy consumption. According to independent research, Spomasz said energy consumption used on 1 tonne of ground wheat is about 26% lower on first break and about 44% lower on second break compared with other manufacturers.
The rolls are produced in Spomasz’ foundry on a modern centrifugal casting line. The process of centrifugal casting enables Spomasz to maintain full control over the casting process and ensures uniformity of the hardness of the rolls up to a depth of 30 mm. Surface hardness is determined within the range between 500-540 HB. The rolls installed in Krzyzowa mill are common in the milling industry — 250mm-diameter and 1,000mm-long corrugated and self-matting rolls.
On the reduction passages, impact tube detachers (flake disrupters), increase flour extraction without increasing ash content. Also installed are semolina detachers, which detach and disrupt the flaked grist, and bran detachers, which separate the remains of endosperm from bran.
For sizing and grading of milled products during the process of wheat particle reduction, three square sifters are used. Net sifting surface for each square sifter is 94.7 square meters. Square sifters are divided into eight sections; each section consists of between 26 and 30 working frames.
Also installed are six units of 3-deck purifiers. These are essential for the production of semolina, improve flour quality and increase yield.
In the mill there are two filter-cyclones for the aspiration and for the pneumatic conveying system. Milling products and intermediate products are conveyed by gravity and pneumatic systems.
Flour storage, mixing and packing.
All milling products are directed to the storage bins by a high-pressure conveying system using Spomasz positive displacement blowers. This kind of transport improves the flour’s baking properties due to the intensive aeration. The mill contains 12 flour bins and four bran bins, each equipped with vibratory extractors.
The packing room design and installed machines allow for flour homogenization and flour mixing. It also makes it very simple to obtain a wide variety of flours that fulfill the requirements of individual customers. Mixing also allows correction of standard flour quality. This is done with the gravimetric through-batching of individual flours controlled by scales and mixed in a horizontal mixer.
The horizontal mixer is used to mix a wide range of flours as well as bran or feed mixtures with additives and conditioners in order to obtain uniform homogeneity of the final product. The mixer’s maximum capacity is 30 tonnes per hour.
To pack the flour, there is an automatic weighing and packing machine with sewing head to pack 600 50-kilogram bags each hour. A two-head valve packer is used for bags at a capacity of 200 bags per hour and for open-mouth bags at 240 bags per hour. For packing 1-kg bags, automatic weighing and packing machines are used at a capacity of 100 paper bags per minute.
In fact, due to the efficient packing machines, direct loading to vans or trucks is possible. From the bulk loading facility, it is also possible to discharge bulk flour into trucks.
All process lines in the mill are managed with a programmable controller. For the first time in Poland, communication between PLC controllers and equipment is based on fiber optics.
Customer, product and recipe databases are managed via additional computers and system networks. All equipment in the mill is managed from the central control room. Mixing, homogenization, packing and dispatch lines are managed by another computer directly from the flour storage room.
This control system allows:
•mill managers to monitor a synoptic picture of each milling department. Each machine has its own illustration, making mill control easier
•starting and stopping of production lines in appropriate sequence;
•monitoring scale measurements of raw material and intermediate milling products;
•extraction control and data retrieval/archiving;
•packing and automatic discharge of products.
The Mlynpol mill in Krzyzowa may be the most modern mill in Poland. It meets all European Union requirements concerning fire and explosion protection as well as environment, health and safety regulations.
All of the flour produced at Mlynpol is sold domestically in Poland, primarily to supermarket chains, a pasta factory, flour wholesalers and bakeries.
Mill manager Jerzy Pelc, moved to Mlynpol from its sister mill (the rye mill), also owned by Golebiowski and Woloszczak, where he worked for six years. Pelc is very pleased with the new mill. The process control and yield management ensure smooth operation and easy control, he said.
To further increase the mill’s competitiveness, the company plans to increase the mill capacity to 500 tonnes per day by 2003 and possibly invest in additional packing and mixing facilities.