In order to ensure it produces the best products possible, Siemer Milling Co. implements stringent quality and safety practices, and also operates a test kitchen.

“Quality and safety are at the very core of everything we do,” said Sunil Maheshwari, vice president of Siemer Specialty Ingredients and West Harrison plant manager, Siemer Milling. “Our customers expect it, and so do their customers along the value chain down to the end-consumer.”

For the Teutopolis, Illinois, US-based company, a key to maintaining the safety of its products, and its employees, is proper maintenance of all the equipment. To run smoothly, the machinery needs continuous calibration to correctly and efficiently process more than 750,000 tonnes of locally grown wheat per year.

Regularly planned maintenance helps avoid costly breakdowns and allows for essential parts to be replaced as needed.

“Safety is important in all aspects of our operations and our employees are the most important asset we have,” Maheshwari said. “Keeping them healthy and safe while performing their work is just the way we do business.”

Smooth maintenance

Owned in part by the Siemer family and in part by the employees, the milling company operates in three US locations — Teutopolis, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; and West Harrison, Indiana. It employs more than 170 people and produces 750,000 tonnes of processed wheat products, including flour, wheat bran and wheat germ each year.

The West Harrison plant runs 24/7, so maintaining a robust preventive maintenance schedule is critical to minimizing down time, Maheshwari said.

“It also reduces the likelihood of accidents or injuries when maintenance work can be done during planned shutdowns versus during unplanned downtime/emergency repairs,” he said.

The facility shuts down once a week for a few hours to assess any problems. During harvest time, the mill shuts down twice a month.

“All our flour is made to order, and a very tight schedule is maintained between production and shipment,” Maheshwari said. “Every load is processed and shipped out as quickly as possible. Unscheduled disruptions can therefore have a very negative effect on the entire process flow.”

Preventive maintenance encompasses a broad range of equipment throughout the mill, from rolls to sifters and everything in between. In addition to ensuring safe operations and products, optimal maintenance helps improve the bottom line.

Keeping track of dozens of machines, all made by different manufacturers and containing thousands of parts, can be difficult. To help with that process, Siemer Milling in 2015 purchased specialized software from Bühler, Uzwil, Switzerland. The ProPlant system covers the entire business, including each department and each type and make of machinery.

The system allows operators to organize the plant’s maintenance schedule and merges complex data from various sources. Prior to ProPlant, operators had to note and track maintenance tasks with pen and paper, resulting in an inefficient, time-consuming and error-prone process.

With ProPlant, it is simple to generate a job card for each task, listing all the work that has to be done. The software also provides a record of every check or change made to each piece of machinery. The software consists of four modules: Installation Asset Data Management, Preventive and Corrective Maintenance, Inventory Management, and Document Management. The multiple plant installation securely connects operations in different locations via the internet to a management computer at any location. Data is safely backed up on a backup server.

Simplified audits

The system also meets the changing expectations of customers and official food safety auditors. Today, comprehensive paper trails are required that cover all aspects of the processes determining food quality and safety.

“Food safety audits have become tougher and tougher all over the world, and quite rightly so,” Maheshwari said. “Safety is of critical importance to our business. If a machine is maintained, we want to know every detail about the procedure: who was in charge, what was done, which parts were examined and replaced. All calibrations undertaken in a mill for optimal performance require similar diligent procedures.”

Once a year, Siemer Milling is audited by DQS, Inc., using the British Retail Consortium (BRC) guidance and also welcomes teams from its national and international customers in between the BRC visits. Achieving a good rating on an audit is important.

“Customers demand excellent ratings as they depend on safe and high-quality produce to keep up their own standards,” Maheshwari said. “We are proud to have prime ratings at Siemer Milling Co.”

With new areas added to the BRC process every year, an audit can take over two days. Customer audits are shorter but still take a full day.

“The deployment of ProPlant has made a huge difference to how we conduct audits,” Maheshwari said. “The visiting auditors were visibly impressed and complimented us on the system. It significantly speeds up the entire auditing process.”

ProPlant allows for quick access to records of equipment and standard operating procedures, he said. It also allows for management of documentation relating to food-grade status of all materials used throughout the mill, thus reducing the time needed for reviewing these materials during an audit, Maheshwari said.

He said ProPlant displays the complete history of an individual machine or processing line, making the audit more transparent and easier for auditors and in- house teams alike.

“It’s very user-friendly; with just three clicks all the relevant information is there, right on the screen before us,” he said. “Auditors require a complete and detailed picture. With ProPlant we can prove that we not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Operating with such detail and seamless control over every aspect of our processes without software as potent as ProPlant would be unthinkable.”

Maheshwari said there are still areas of the mill that have not been integrated into the system. There are so many areas where more improvements can be made, and that is the next step to further improve efficiency and utilize the system’s full potential.

“We would like to include data on our trucks, our forklifts and other equipment,” he said. “Ideally, we would use the system as a one-stop shop solution that can handle all our maintenance management requirements.”