Photos courtesy of Grupo Timex.
“The market share has been achieved thanks to the strategy and vision of the group, as the company has experienced constant growth each year,” said Eric Vandebrouck, manufacturing manager of Grupo Trimex. “This strategy also includes the expansion of its mills.”
Currently, the company operates 13 mills in Mexico. The use of its installed capacity varies between 85% and 95%, depending on the time of year, the needs of the market and of each mill. Production is currently divided into 25% bulk and 75% retail, Vandebrouck said.
To meet the needs and expectations of its customers, the group handles every type of bag obtainable in the market, from one-kilo bags to big bags, he said.
Grupo Trimex processes three types of wheat – soft, hard and durum. About 30% of it is purchased within the Mexican territory and 70% of it is imported. The main wheat supplier is the United States, although the group is open to purchasing it from other countries, as long as it meets the expectations of quality and price, Vandebrouck said.
Staying true to its mission statement, the group produces what each customer requests, he said.
“If the customer requires a new product, Trimex ensures the necessary development to supply it, so it has laboratories in each of its plants,” he said. “But the reality is that the Mexican market has not recently experienced significant changes that impact the milling business. Bakery flour (traditional and industrial) is the number one selling product of the group, and 5% of its production is exported.”
Vandebrouck said the company, much like the Mexican milling industry overall, is facing significant challenges.
“Among these, we can mention optimization throughout the production and distribution chain from the origin of the raw material to the delivery of the product without sacrificing quality, to remain competitive and retain the market leadership,” he said.
The 100% Mexican-owned company’s origins can be traced back to early in the 20th century, when two milling families from Mexico City started working in the milling industry. But it was in 1995 that the group was formed, thanks to the merger of four of the most important wheat mills in Mexico City.
With the purpose of expanding its coverage to the Bajío and Central Region of the country, in 1998 Grupo Trimex acquired the “San Marcos” mill located in the city of Aguascalientes. Continuing with the expansion vision, in 2003 a mill was acquired in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, and then a year later the “Seis Hermanos” mill located in Irapuato, Guanajuato, was purchased by the group.
It was in 2012 when they decided to modernize the group and build a mill that absorbed the production of the four existing mills, and thus centralize production. This new mill located in Cuautitlán, State of Mexico, absorbed the production of the other four mills, reaching 60% production capacity.
Vandebrouck said 2014 was exceptional for the group since two relevant events occurred. First, the Cuautitlán mill started its operations and, secondly, all the shares representing the capital stock of Molinera de Mexico were acquired, gaining the operations of the wheat milling division. With this acquisition, Trimex managed to have five mills within Mexico City (the four pre-existing, plus one in Naucalpan).
Thus, 80% of the Cuautitlán mill’s production covers the needs of the market that were supplied by the previous five mills and 20% is destined to capture for growth.
In 2016, an investment was made in a ready-mix flour plant with a production capacity of 150 tonnes per 24 hours. With this new investment, the production of the mill was distributed as follows: 80% capacity of the mill in Cuautitlán covers the production of the five previous mills, 5% is destined for ready-mix flour and 15% for growth.
Molinera de Mexico acquisition
The decision to purchase Gruma’s wheat milling division was based on Trimex’s goal of being the leader of wheat mills in Mexico, in terms of quality, service and country coverage.
Vandebrouck said the transition process was smooth despite involving two different cultures of work. Overall, the process has been much easier than expected, he said.
“Perhaps because they are not unknown industries; we knew what we bought, and everyone speaks the same language,” he said.
During the transition process, the decision was made to close the Naucalpan mill in order to make the groups’ logistics more efficient, to make maximum use of the installed capacity of the new mill in Cuautitlán, to optimize operating costs and to have a prompt response time to the needs of the Mexican market, he said.
With the clear goal to achieve modernization and centralization of its production, as well as to have the best coverage in the Mexican market, Grupo Trimex sought Bühler AG, Uzwil, Switzerland, as the primary supplier of equipment and mill engineering services for its new mill in Cuautitlán. GSI, Assumption, Illinois, U.S., supplied the wheat storage bins and the grain handling equipment was provided by Laidig Systems, Inc., Mishawaka, Indiana, U.S. The strategic goals of the group were to provide the best service to customers, with different production and sales points, and to maintain leadership in the market. The result was the construction of the Cuautitlán mill, one of the largest in Mexico.
“With the centralization of production achieved with the Cuautitlán mill, the group has received great benefits, such as reduction of administrative, production and distribution costs,” Vandebrouck said.
On the other hand, it has achieved a synergy between all its mills, achieving excellence in quality of service and products offered, he said.
The Cuautitlán mill is capable of expanding production capacity and the facility itself, a project that is currently being considered.
The primary feature of the plant is that it is highly automated, thanks to the WinCos software offered by Bühler. With this software, it is possible to closely control production from the reception of wheat to the packaging of flour, he said.
“This allows us to keep a record of all the tasks in each of the stations and thus allowing traceability of each of the production orders,” Vandebrouck said. “The task of minimizing energy consumption is attributable to WinCos software, having pneumatic control (automatic valves and inverters). One of the great advantages obtained from acquiring this software is that it is capable of integrating machinery from any supplier.”
The mill has quality control elements such as Bühler’s NIR Multi-online analyzer (MYRG), which indicates the percentage of moisture, ash and protein as well as a sampling system.
“Bühler managed to consider the smallest detail in the design of the plant, to achieve work complying with the highest standards of food safety,” he said.
As a complement to the integral control of the plant, an online control of lines considered key to guaranteeing production is carried out within the parameters requested by its clients. These controls are registered for analysis and to certify the corrective actions to be taken in the event of deviations, Vandebrouck said.
Because of its high degree of automation, the plant employees just 20 workers in the production area, he said.
Due to the high quality of the goods that are produced and to its online monitoring, 24-hours-a-day,7-days-a-week production was achieved in a short period of time.
||| Side bar: Mexico's milling industry consolidating |||
Side bar: Mexico’s milling industry consolidating
Bread is a staple in the Mexican diet with per capita consumption at 34 kilos per year, of which 70% to 75% is white bread, according to the National Association of Professional Suppliers Industry of Bread, Bakery and Similar Products (ANPROPAN).
The National Chamber of Milling Industry Wheat (CANIMOLT) said Mexico has 84 different millers located across the country processing some 6.31 million tonnes of wheat and producing 4.8 million tonnes of flour per year.
CANIMOLT said the Mexican wheat milling industry has continued to consolidate in the last few years through the acquisitions and mergers of milling companies.
“At the same time, wheat milling companies have continued to invest in modernizing their plants,” it said. “As a result, the wheat flour milling industry output has continued growing at an average rate of between 1% and 1.5% annually.”