Flour millers have many important goals they strive to meet, with producing a safe, high-quality product for their customers in the most cost-effective, efficient manner ranking at the top of that list.

While this goal is of the utmost importance, new International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) President Brad Allen believes employee safety also must be a high priority, which is why he is making “focusing on employee safety with zero (incidents)” one of his two primary goals during his one-year term.

During his acceptance speech at the 120th IAOM Conference and Expo, held April 4-8 in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., Allen urged his fellow IAOM members to strive for a perfect record when it comes to plant safety.

“The safety journey for me is a real salient point in my career,” said Allen, vice-president and operations lead for Denver, Colorado, U.S.-based Ardent Mills, the largest milling company in North America. “I have had to experience co-workers in my chain of command who haven’t gone home and those whose lives and those of their families have changed due to serious accidents. It hasn’t happened just once in my career. I think we as an organization can do a lot more.

“If I were to ask the veteran millers like me in this room to stand up if they haven’t witnessed serious, life-changing accidents in our plants, not many of us could stand up. I think we can be more proactive in changes we can make in learning about employee safety and sharing it with one another. We need to share that wisdom with co-workers and the younger workers coming up through the ranks. There is more we can do.”

Allen challenged all companies that have a representative on the IAOM environmental, health and safety committee to make a commitment to share their best practices to all members of the organization.

“Having zero recordable incidents in (Ardent’s) 43 plants would be the highest accomplishment I could have in my career, and one that going forward I would like to challenge everyone else to aim for,” Allen said.

Allen said his other top priority as president is to continue to expand the educational and training programs offered by the IAOM. He said North American milling companies are expected to lose 50% of their workforce over the next 10 years due to retirement and other reasons, so finding qualified employees to fill those positions is critical.

He said the milling science program at Kansas State University, the new miller technician certificate program at Cowley College in Kansas, Bühler AG’s Miller Apprenticeship Program as well as correspondence courses and other distance education opportunities are all great tools for training the next generation of mill employees.

“Continuing to support and develop these programs is absolutely critical to the success for this industry,” Allen said.

EXPO and Product showcase

The conference, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Greater Columbus Convention Center, attracted 850 milling industry professionals from 21 countries.

Melinda Farris, IAOM executive vice-president, said 123 companies displayed their newest milling equipment and related services at the expo.

The following companies held demonstrations of their products during the product showcase:

Simpson Strong Tie, fiber reinforced polymer, a code-compliant procured laminate that is used to strengthen structures such as flour mills.
Omas, Leonardo Improved Valve, a roller mill that reduces energy consumption by 50% to 60%.
Premier Tech Chronos, packer with ultrasonic sealing, a system that consists of a valve bag filler, an ultrasonic sealer, and a robotic bag applicator completely enclosed to contain dust within the enclosure.
Fawema North America, large bag packer, redesigned with a fourth dosing auger and top-up fill system, resulting in higher production rates and much improved fill accuracies for 50-lb and 25-lb bags.
Bühler Inc., Sortex A optical sorter, a new generation sorter that includes a primary focus on removal of Vomitoxon-infested wheat.
Educational sessions
Divided into four segments – specialty milling, product protection, technical operations and employee management – this year’s IAOM education program featured 24 sessions on these topics.

One of the best attended presentations was given by Sunil Maheshwari of Siemer Milling Company, who talked about the construction of the new 10,000-cwt. Whitewater mill (a joint venture of Siemer Milling and H. Nagel & Son) in West Harrison, Indiana, U.S.

Maheshwari, vice-president of specialty ingredients at Siemer Milling and manager of the Whitewater Mill, said the facility, which began operating in the spring of 2015, grinds all soft wheat.

One of the notable features in the mill, he said, is a Bühler TAS LAAB cleaning, grading and aspirating system. He explained that TAS is a high throughput system that does an outstanding job of removing unwanted items such as chaff and dirt.

“It’s a big improvement from most pre-cleaning setups,” he said.

He said the cleaning house is also state-of-the-art and features a Bühler Vega/Venta grain cleaner-classifier. “The Vega Venta system is more efficient with greater throughput. You can clean your grain with a different sizing.”

Another noteworthy presentation was delivered by Ashok Sarkar, head of milling technology for the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI). He spoke about the co-milling of wheat and barley, noting that one of the difficulties of incorporating barley flour with wheat flour has been its challenging milling properties.

He said recent investigative work conducted at CIGI involved co-milling hulless barley (HB) in various proportions with Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat. The project involved three different types of barley with differing starch properties – regular starch, partial waxy and fully waxy – co-milled at three different blend levels with CWRS. He said thorough evaluations of all resulting flours from all blend levels were conducted.

“The results were very encouraging,” he said. “This approach had minimal effect on flour yields and flour functional properties such as farinograph results. The most beneficial outcome was that minimal changes were required in the mill flow diagrams. The use of HB also meant that no additional equipment or pre-treatment such as pearling to remove hulls was necessary prior to milling.”

Milling Operative of the Year

One of the milling industry’s most respected figures, John “Dub” Miner, director of milling at Shawnee Milling Co., Shawnee, Oklahoma, U.S., received the 2016 Milling Operative of the Year award during the IAOM Banquet and Awards Ceremony on April 7.| Established in 1986 by Milling & Baking News, sister publication of World Grain, the award is given 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.

Miner, who has spent his entire career, which spans more than four decades, with Shawnee Milling, was described by co-worker Mark Watts as “an exceptional miller who has a passion for learning and sharing knowledge and a deep desire to do things right.”

“He overseas operations at a feed mill, a flour mill, a corn mill, mixing, packing, warehousing, grain elevators, maintenance, labor relations, facilities management and capital improvement projects, all while giving the highest priority to employee safety, product safety and quality assurance and control,” Watts said.

Miner, who was deeply moved by the honor, praised Shawnee Milling for teaching him that if employees are treated fairly and with respect, they will work hard in return.

“I’ve worked through the second, third and fourth generations of leadership at Shawnee Milling; 44 years at one plant,” Miner said. “I just want to say that I appreciate Shawnee Milling so much.”

Shawnee Milling has two flour mills in Oklahoma with a total wheat flour capacity of 11,000 cwts. The company’s food division also has a 3,000-cwt daily capacity corn mill and a dry mix plant that specializes in wheat- and corn-based baking mixes.

Miner has been a member of IAOM since 1980 and has served on the IAOM board of directors under three different executive vice-presidents and on the Texoma District’s executive committee.

Other Award winners

The IAOM also presented its most prestigious honor, the Gold Medal award, to Joe Woodard, general manager of ADM Milling’s facility in Arkansas City, Kansas U.S.

Woodard is only the 20th person to receive the Gold Medal award, given as recognition of exemplary service, in the 120-year history of the IAOM.

An IAOM member since 1980, Woodard was elected the organization’s international president for 2010-11, was director of the IAOM’s Wheat State District from 2003-09 and served as the district’s chairman from 1999-2000.

Woodard also has recently spearheaded the launch of a miller technician certificate program at Cowley College in Arkansas City which offers vocational training for students interested in milling.

He has worked at ADM Milling since 1979, having held several positions including miller, mill superintendent, plant superintendent, plant manager and general manger.

“I feel honored to be in front of you receiving this award,” Woodard said. “This has been my life and my livelihood. I am very honored.”

Syed Ashraf, vice-president of automation, Kice Industries, Wichita, Kansas, U.S., received the Allied Trades technology award, which is given to allied trades or associate members who distinguish themselves in the area of research and development of milling technology.

“I am totally surprised,” said Ashraf, a longtime Kice employee who began his career with Greenway Electric. “It is a great honor. I am lucky I have great people to work with.”

Keith Adams, Bay State Milling Co., noted that Ashraf aspired to be an airplane pilot at a young age, and traveled over 7,500 miles from his home to attend Wichita State University. Upon graduation, he joined Greenway Electric, where he was first introduced to the milling industry.

“Our industry has wrestled through a transformational period that has taken equipment and technology that was designed before most of us were born, and brought it forward to the 21st century,” Adams said. “New standards for safety, operational control, systems monitoring and data collection requires that we do things differently, and that is where Syed made his contribution.”

New Officers

Brad Allen, vice-president and operations lead, Ardent Mills, was elected 2016-17 president of IAOM at the annual meeting and safety award breakfast. Allen has been an active member of IAOM since 1996. In 1981, he joined Cargill Animal Nutrition. Over the subsequent 14 years, he held several management positions in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.; Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; and Mentone, Indiana, U.S., for Cargill.

In 1996, he joined ConAgra Mills as an operations manager for their U.S. flour milling operations in Alton, Illinois; Chester, Illinois; and North Kansas City, Missouri plants. From 2000-14, Allen served as vice-president of manufacturing for ConAgra Mills. In 2014, he was appointed vice-president and operations lead for Ardent Mills. Allen is a member of AIB International’s board of trustees.

In addition to Allen being named president, the IAOM elected a new vice-president and treasurer during the annual conference.

Steve Doyle, vice-president of King Milling, Lowell, Michigan, U.S., was elected the association’s vice-president, and will be in line to be the president in 2017-18. Doyle has been an IAOM member since 1987. He will also serve as IMEF president this year. Doyle, who has worked at King Milling for 30 years, will be the third member of his family to serve as IAOM president. His brother, Jim was IAOM president in 2005-06, and his father, Roland, was president in 1978-79.

Jeff Hole, director of milling at Grain Craft in Mission Woods, Kansas, U.S., was elected treasurer. He is in line to serve as IAOM president in 2018-19. Hole, a native of Wichita, Kansas, has been an active member since 1994. He began his career in 1994 at Cereal Food Processors, Inc., where he held various positions at the company’s facility in Portland, Oregon, U.S. He has been the director of milling at Grain Craft since the acquisition and formation of the company in 2014.

IMEF scholarship winners

During the conference, the Inter-national Milling Education Foundation (IMEF), IAOM’s philanthropic partner, announced three scholarship winners.

Bryan Lytle and Ramsey Hundley, juniors at Kansas State University, and Alisa Crawford, who works at the DeZwaan wind-powered flour mill in Holland, Michigan, U.S., each received $2,500 scholarships from the IMEF.

The scholarships will help cover Lytle and Hundley’s tuition expenses for the 2016-17 academic year at KSU, while the scholarship for Crawford will enable her to enroll in the IAOM Correspondence Course in Flour Milling.

The IMEF Scholarship program was established in 2008 to support the education of undergraduates in the sciences of grain milling. In 2012, the program was expanded to include training opportunities for professionals already in the industry.

Since its establishment, IMEF has raised more than $800,000.

CIGI CEO says milling industry must better promote its products

The wheat and flour milling industries have a great story to tell, but the people in those industries aren’t doing a good enough job of promoting it, said JoAnne Buth, CEO of the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI).

During her keynote address at the IMEF Breakfast on April 6, Buth said if the people in those industries weren’t willing to aggressively counter the anti-wheat propaganda put forth in recent books such as “Wheat Belly” and “Grain Brain,” then there was little hope that the general public would get an accurate picture of the nutritious value of wheat products.

“We really need to make a concerted effort to take the messaging back in our industry,” Buth said. “The messaging has been taken from us. One of the very first paragraphs in Wheat Belly talks about how GM wheat is causing all of the problems (with obesity). You have to question the credibility of that entire book because there is no GM wheat and the premise of the whole book is based on changes in wheat.”

Despite all of the negative publicity directed at wheat, particularly in North America, there is some good news. Buth noted that while wheat production has declined in North America in recent years, it has actually increased, along with consumption, from a global standpoint.

“It’s interesting that in Northeast Asian countries like Japan and Taiwan, rice consumption is decreasing while wheat production is increasing because of the time it takes to cook rice,” she said. “People are looking for quicker preparation times so they can eat on the run, so we see bread consumption and the amount of calories being consumed from wheat increasing in some of those countries.”

Buth cited statistics that show that fewer people than ever (less than 2%) in the United States and Canada, which used to be agrarian societies, have grown up on a farm. “That shift has essentially resulted in most North Americans having lost touch with farming and food production,” she said. “People don’t understand how food is grown and how agriculture has changed.”

Therefore, she said, people involved in food production must go to greater lengths to educate the public about their products. She said a quote from a friend’s grandfather, who was a Canadian farmer, best sums up the importance of food production, including flour milling.

“He said, ‘Once in a lifetime you’ll need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and a preacher. But every day, three times a day, you’ll need a farmer.’ If you eat bread and pasta, every day you’ll need a miller, too. So I encourage you to speak up positively about your story and about agriculture.”