MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — Participants attending the Bühler Executive Milling short course from Nov. 7-11 at the Kansas State University International Grains Program (IGP) Conference Center discovered that the value of learning more about the practical side of milling is irreplaceable.

The course brought together 13 participants to gain more insight into the milling process and understand the challenges that operative millers face on a daily basis.

“This course is tailored toward executives, individuals who may be presidents or managers of milling companies, that come from various backgrounds and need to get a base knowledge of milling so that they can better run their businesses,” says Chris Miller, course coordinator and KSU instructor of milling. “After completing the course, participants will better understand the milling process and its steps — all the way from raw material and the impact of wheat characteristics on yield and mill performance to cleaning, product safety, quality control and finished product handling.”

The course, co-taught by Miller and Tobias Nanny, manager of the Bühler Training Center in Uzwil, Switzerland, included both classroom lectures and practical, hands-on exercises in the Hal Ross Flour Mill.

For Michael Luckett, operations manager at ConAgra Mills, the course provides him the opportunity to learn about every aspect of the industry.

“The classroom setting allows for better assimilation of learning the technical side of milling,” he said. “I am learning about the differences in grain, trends, who uses what and for what purpose. These things are important because the more you know means the more value you bring to your skill set and ability to do your job.”

Luckett, along with two other colleagues attending the course from ConAgra, are in their first few months of their current positions in the milling industry and sought out IGP as the action they needed to take in order to properly step into their new roles in the industry.

“The thing that strikes me the most is the sheer complexity of this industry,” said Ron Belcher, operations manager at ConAgra Mills. “There is a great deal of knowledge that goes into flour milling. It’s a true science and it certainly makes me a lot more respectful of what our head miller does in the mill every day.”

According to Miller, it is the participants that make the course what it is. “The participants that are newer to our industry bring a lot of questions that create conversation for the rest of the participants. Those participants allow us to answer questions that we might forget to address, or issues we may overlook, so it enhances the overall course for everybody.”

Luckett and Belcher, who both previously worked in food manufacturing and packaging, agree that the environment in which the course is held in creates the opportunity for them to network with others.

“Everybody is here for the same reasons, so that has made it really easy to interact and talk about the challenges each of us face. It has definitely made me more knowledgeable and confident about asking questions,” Belcher said.

Luckett said the experiences shared by others in the course allowed him to gain valuable knowledge that he will put into practice with his company.

“To see what those in research are doing and to discuss challenges with competitors, increases our aptitude to help everyone be more efficient,” he said