LENEXA, KANSAS, US — The International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Annual Conference & Expo will include tried and true favorites, such as educational programming and the awards banquet, while adding in new offerings and extras to enhance the 127th event. 

The conference will take place April 18-20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, where it was last held in 1996 (it was in the twin city of St. Paul in 2002). This is the 14th time the event will be in Minneapolis. 

“Minneapolis was nicknamed Mill City and was considered the world’s milling capital because it led the flour milling industry for half a century,” said Melinda Farris, chief executive officer of the IAOM. “The expo hall is nearly sold out and registrations are streaming into the office. We are looking forward to a good turnout since Minneapolis is such a great city and convenient location whether you are flying or driving.”

New this year is the Ambassador program, which matches those who are attending for the first (or maybe second) time with a veteran attendee, to make the rounds at the Expo. They will meet up at the ribbon cutting on Wednesday, April 19, and spend a few hours walking the show floor together. 

“We know it can be intimidating to be at our conference for the first time,” Farris said. “So, we’re recruiting Ambassadors to serve as guides to newcomers. The Ambassadors can introduce newcomers to exhibitors and kickstart their networking at the conference.”

Also, for the first time, registration will open from 3-5 p.m. on Monday, April 17, before the Early Bird reception begins. On April 18, there will be a networking reception for the Women in Milling group, with invitations sent to members of the IAOM board of directors and standing committees. 

Meredith Nelson, senior director, North American Field Sales & Foodservice Ingredients with General Mills, will give the keynote address, “Empathy? Allyship? Belonging,” at 7:30 am on April 19. She will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and share strategies and tactics for implementing a culture where employees can thrive. 

Educational tracks 

A key focus of the educational sessions will be workforce issues, from work flexibility to enhancing employee experience and recruitment. 

“As with many industries, workforce issues have been especially acute since the pandemic,” Farris said. 

Like past years, the event includes educational programming divided into different topics, including employee management, product protection, technical operations and facility management. 

In the employee management track, Danielle Crough, Interstates, will discuss work flexibility, including how to leverage onsite and remote team members. Brenda Thornton with ADM will share strategies on how to engage new employees from the first day and retain them. Finally, Amy Jones, Didion, Inc., and Halsey Elliott, General Mills, will provide an overview of community outreach techniques and the journey to create a job-shadowing program.

Facility management includes a panel discussion on new hire safety orientation with moderator Jules Stephensky, Bay State Milling Co., and panelists: Kirk Arens, PHM Brands; Patrick Nellenbach, Star of the West Milling Co.; and TJ Tuetken, Ardent Mills.  

These members of the IAOM Environment, Health and Safety Committee will share insights into the importance of new hire orientation training. This includes a discussion of the added risk new hires face in terms of injury trends and how to move from awareness to teaching the needed skills. Speakers will share how mentoring programs have helped bridge the experience gap. 

Another panel discussion will focus on respiratory protection with Marty Moran, Miller Milling, serving as the moderator with panelists David Frazelle, ADM, and Erik Johnson, 3M. They will share their perspectives on challenges related to respiratory protection. 

The final panel discussion will look at how to build better supervisors to drive safety culture. Tuetken will moderate the panel that includes Arens and Stephensky. They will highlight the importance of middle management teams and the skills they need to be champions of safety and set appropriate expectations.  

The technical operations presentations include a presentation on Ardent Mills’ new Port Redwing mill by Tyler Adair.

Simon Tiedge, Miller Milling, will look at controlling seasonal variables in the milling process, including the change from cold, dry air to hot and humid weather. 

Aidin Milani, Bühler, will go over pulse milling, including the main processes and the differences from a traditional wheat milling flowsheet. Milani also will discuss what are pulse-based ingredients, what they are used for, and what developments have occurred in Canada and the United States.

In product protection, Karl Thorson, General Mills, will discuss dry cleaning, maintenance and inspection of bulk food grade railcars for flour transport. A panel discussion, moderated by Mike Hoar, Riviana, will look at the merits of different tempering methods. Panelists include Rob Ames, Corbion; Darin Jensen, Energis Solutions; Kristen McCarty, Intralytix; and Rob Wong, Agri-Neo. 

Full details about the educational sessions can be found at https://www.iaom.org/annualmeeting/education/.

Special events

The Allied Trades Event is April 19 at Punch Bowl Social in Minneapolis’s West End. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be provided. Many craft beers are on tap, along with a full bar. The venue features ample seating along with everything from giant Scrabble, Jenga and Connect Four to bowling and karaoke.

Safety Award recipients will be recognized during the annual breakfast 7:30-9 a.m. on April 20. Facilities that have a zero recordable injury/illness rate and have one IAOM member are eligible for the 2022 awards. 

Later that evening, other award recipients will be recognized at the Annual Banquet & Awards Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The evening starts at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner and the program that includes the passing of the gavel to the new IAOM president and presentation of the IAOM awards.

Awards include the IAOM Milling Operative of the Year, which recognizes excellent performance by a miller. Established in 1986 by Milling & Baking News, sister publication of World Grain, the award will be presented to the practicing milling operative who has made the most significant contribution to the progress of a plant, a company and the industry from an operating point of view. The 2022 recipient was Charles Richardson of Star of the West.

Since the weather can be unpredictable in Minneapolis in April, the Conference Host Committee decided to forego a golf tournament and embrace the local conditions and hold a curling tournament instead, Farris said.