UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — Bühler is in the final stages for the first rollout of its integrated rice mills.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology will turn stand-alone technologies into one smart integrated system, reducing waste, saving energy, and providing a quality product. The results have tangible impact on the entire value chain, Bühler said.

“Our digitally integrated system is the world’s first,” said Johannes Wick, chief executive officer, Grains & Food at Bühler. “Our solution-focused thinking connects the entire mill. The monetary benefits for our customers are tangible, while reduction in waste and energy consumption demonstrate our commitment to sustainable solutions.”

 Swiss rice miller Riseria Taverne SA is among the first operators to successfully implement the system.

 Bühler’s system connects the optical sorter, whitener, and sensors into an integrated system powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“It’s this potent combination that lifts our capabilities to entirely new levels, equipping millers with the tools to operate even more efficiently and meet their customers’ ever-growing demand for consistent quality,” Wick said. “This isn’t a gradual improvement on already excellent performance but a real gamechanger. It represents a major leap toward the totally connected milling operation.”  

 Bühler has been a pioneer in whitening technology for more than three decades, introducing the first vertical split-stone arrangement to the market. The new Automatic Whitener DRWC improves the process further by providing the best whitening performance through self-adapting whitening pressure. It also includes an overload protection mechanism and convenient recipe setting options that can be accessed via a touchscreen to provide maximum user-friendliness and efficiency. The shaftless design allows air to pass freely around rice kernels resulting in cooler and cleaner kernels, free from the bran. The emery wheel can be replaced easily, and the wear parts are highly durable.   

The RiceLinePro DROA sensor continuously assesses and keeps track of these characteristics in real time using complex machine learning algorithms. This not only standardizes the process, minimizing error and increasing consistency and reliability, but also reduces reliance on labor.  

 Bühler’s new DS-C Optical Sorter is one of the most advanced pieces of equipment in the entire processing line. It provides real-time product quality alerts, which help to optimize the rice yield as well as adapt downstream processing technology settings. Features such as product live streaming and replay are part of digitalized production reporting. For example, for a typical optical sorter, ejection spikes often result in the loss of good product. Bühler’s integrated digital solutions detect these spikes as they happen. Where there is very little contamination there may be no need to re-sort the product and it can go straight to packing. At an average throughput of 3,500 kilograms per hour and 25 spikes a day, up to 32,000 kilograms of good product could be lost over a month if the errors are not detected and rectified. The monthly savings from increased visibility could be as high as $15,000.  

 The digitally-connected technology provides mill operators with the insights they need to correctly adjust solution settings. Over time, the intelligent system is capable of adjusting autonomously.

Where millers were once left to take corrective action after an incident occurred, they can now prevent costly reprocessing steps and proactively manage the entire process, Bühler said. With these advances, the miller can optimize operating costs, quality and yield, all of which have a direct impact on the profit of the mill.

 The system is currently being tested at Riseria Taverne SA, the largest rice mill in Switzerland.

“The new setup consisting of digitally connected optical sorters, a whitener and RiceLinePro sensors has given us visibility across the entire process,” said Stefania Dolci, head of quality assurance at Riseria Taverne SA. “First results indicate significant cost savings, reduction in energy consumption and increased quality output.”

Bühler has invested considerably in data science with dedicated data science teams, as well as its in-house data platform, Bühler Insights. This gives Bühler a strong foundation for digital services that require reliable access to data.

“We have been offering our customers real time connectivity for our technologies for many years,” said Krishna Kumar, digital development and data science manager in Data Analytics and Services at Bühler. “This has allowed us to collect high-quality data from technologies in the field. Now our data science team has been able to use this data to identify key issues that can be solved using automation and machine learning.”   

Wick added, “We have been at the forefront of innovation for the rice processing industry for over 100 years, providing solutions across the entire milling process, such as the vertical whitener, optical sorting and process automation. Now we are applying a data-driven approach to rice processing to an extent not seen before in the industry. For the first time in rice processing, we are harnessing the full potential of digital transformation to create value for millers, drive quality standards, and improve sustainability.”