UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — All three business segments of Bühler contributed to successful results in 2021, including a 16% increase in order intake to more than CHF 3 billion ($3.2 billion).
“Our engaged employees in our strong global network allowed us to prove our reliability to our customers and partners,” said Stefan Scheiber, chief executive officer of Bühler. “And we clearly strengthened our innovation power.”
The company reported stable turnover of CHF 2.7 billion and net profit of CHF 113 million, slightly better than last year. Orders on hand by year-end 2021 increased by 27.2% to CHF 1.9 billion.
“Our innovations, both for plants and services led to growth in our order book,” Scheiber said. “Our strategy to position ourselves as an innovative solution provider for material transformation has been paying off.”
Grains & Food grew its order intake by 12.2% to CHF 1.8 billion, coming close to pre-coronavirus levels and had a stable turnover of CHF 1.7 billion. All business areas of Grains & Food contributed to this positive development. Regionally, the upturn was strongest in the Northern Hemisphere. Regarding innovative solutions, all businesses report important milestones, be it with new orders (insect processing), start-of-operations (Mill E3/SmartMill), or market launches (Optical Sorting, Rimomalt). New strong partners add to Grains & Food’s innovation ecosystem, and the joint venture with Premier Tech has proven to be an enormous success, Bühler said.
The Grain Handling business area benefited from a reshaping of the global grain value chains, which led to large investments into the build-up of new infrastructure in China. In this context, Grain Quality & Supply won large orders for ship loaders at the Yangtze River.
The Grain Quality & Supply rice business was still impacted by lockdowns in Southeast Asia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one highlight was the assignment for a large rice mill in Bangladesh with a production capacity of 40 tph.
The Milling Solutions business unit saw the strongest growth with a 18% higher order intake. This upward trend was driven by oats solutions, which doubled volumes, but also fueled by pulse applications and the traditional milling business for wheat and rye.
A highlight of the year was the start of the first Mill E3 at Whitworth Bros. Ltd. in the United Kingdom. Three years ago the Mill E3 concept was publicly announced, and now this vision has become reality, Bühler said.
For the insect protein business, Bühler said it achieved a breakthrough with the first order for a large-scale insect plant from the French biotech company Agronutris. The 16,000-square-meter insect plant in Rethel, France, will be ready to operate in the first quarter of 2023.
To strengthen its market position in optical sorting even more, Digital Technologies has developed the next generation of “engines” for sorting technologies. This engine, or “brain” of the machines, is a combination of electronic hardware and software. The first products equipped with this revolutionary “brain” were launched within the market. This new generation marks a breakthrough in flexibility and reliability to sort different raw materials at the highest speed and at the highest sorting quality with a very intuitive and easy user interface, Bühler said.
Regarding partnerships, the joint venture with Premier Tech for fully automated packaging solutions was a remarkable success, Bühler said. The first machines from the joint venture were delivered at the beginning of the year.
The key markets of Bühler in the food, feed, and mobility sectors underwent fundamental transitions driven by changed consumer requirements and enabled by new technologies. As a result, the demand for sustainable solutions has clearly increased. As part of the long-term innovation strategy of Bühler, research and development spending over the last three years, including the “coronavirus years,” increased to more than CHF 400 million (2021: CHF 141 million, 5.2% of turnover).
Political tensions, climate change, supply chain issues, and rising inflation continue to be key factors impacting the economic climate, and it is unlikely that these issues will change in the foreseeable future. At the same time, new market opportunities continue to emerge. Bühler said it considers itself well positioned to continue a growth path in the running year and beyond.
“During the past two years of coronavirus crisis, we have learned to master the demanding environment with a strong purpose and value orientation, with a positive mindset, and a focus on innovation and on people,” Scheiber said.