The Hemelter Mühle wheat mill in the German port of Spelle/Venhaus. Germany has 550 mills that process 8.7 million tonnes of grains per year.
Photo courtesy of Bühler.
The German flour milling industry has a training system that is widely admired and produces experts who are hired by businesses around the world in the grains and other sectors. The industry has updated its training, following changes earlier this year in which the flour and starch industries combined to give one voice to the grains processing sector.

With the start of the new training year on Aug. 1, new millers in Germany are learning alongside trainees in the grain storage sector. New training rules on process technologies in the milling and cereal sectors entered into force on that date.

The new rules (Verordnung über die Berufsausbildung zum Verfahrenstechnologen Mühlen-und Getreidewirtschaft und zur Verfahrenstechnologin Mühlen- und Getreidewirtschaft (MühGetreiWiTechAusbV)) were drawn up in a record time of around a year. The training lasts more than two years, with trainees getting more detailed teaching on milling and storage in the third year.

The new training rules bring the cereals value chain closer together. It is particularly important in view of a rising demand for high product quality and food safety. The new rules are based on the contents of the previous rules on training for millers, supplemented with the section on agricultural storage, in particular the storage of grains. This makes them an all-encompassing qualification for everybody responsible for the path taken by the raw material from the field to the store and then on to the mill.

“With the new training rules we want to strengthen the common understanding for the needs of all the partners in grain storage and processing,” said Andreas Bolte, who is responsible for training at the German milling organization, VGMS.

Storage knowledge

Since Aug. 1, millers in the first two years of their training have learned together with the trainees in storage. In particular, the themes of raw material, product quality and food safety are areas of focus during the training. The new training rules take account of increased requirements in those areas.

“Good technical practice in keeping stored grain healthy, resources and supplied protection are becoming increasingly important, partly because fewer and fewer protection products are available and food waste must be avoided,” Bolte said.

Trainees for this new profession decide at the beginning what direction they are going to take. In the third year of training they deepen their knowledge and are examined in their chosen technical direction, either milling or storage.

Those that choose milling work in flour mills, feed milling, or in other types of mills and everywhere milling techniques are used. Every year, over 80 apprentices finish the training successfully. Almost all the graduates are hired, and many go on to take more qualifications.

Anne-Kristin Barth, spokeswoman for the association, told World Grain that the qualification is highly valued and not just in the milling industry.

“We have in Germany 550 producing mills and 211 of those produce more than 1,000 tonnes a year,” she said. “Eighty apprentices are a base, but we could certainly train more and find jobs for them. All the trainees find jobs, although not necessarily in the mill where they were trained. If anything, we have too few.

“Germany’s system for training millers is something other countries don’t have, and the millers we train are experts who are in demand around the world. If you want to move around the world you can do it with that qualification.”

Trained millers also are seen as valuable in other industries, like the plastics industry or stone processing.

“They have the basic technical knowledge,” she said.

German milling industry

Flour mills in Germany process some 8.7 million tonnes of grains each year. The figure includes approximately 7.5 million tonnes of common wheat and 800,000 tonnes of rye, as well as 400,000 tonnes of hard wheat. The mills produce about 6.1 million tonnes of wheat flour, about 700,000 tonnes of rye flour and 305,000 tonnes of hard wheat products.

According to VGMS, the main focus of operations is in Southern Germany (Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland). In Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg a mill supplies around 173,637 inhabitants with flour, while in the north (Lower Saxony, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg) 551,155 inhabitants. On average for Germany as a whole, a mill supplies 400,000 inhabitants with flour and other milling products.

The sector has gone through long-term consolidation. There were almost 19,000 mills in Germany in 1950, and in 1980 it was over 2,500. Today, there are 550. The industry is diverse with businesses ranging from small family firms to large industrial operations.

The VGMS, Verband der Getreide-, Mühlen- und Stärkewirtschaft, or German Cereal Processing, Milling and Starch Industries’ Association, is an organization with 575 businesses as members, ranging from medium-sized family firms to large international operations.

It was launched on Jan. 1, formed from the cereal processors and starch producers body Verband der deutschen Getreideverarbeiter und Stärkehersteller (VDGS) and the millers’ organization Verband Deutscher Mühlen (VDM), and other industry groups. It is based in Berlin. It functions as an umbrella organization for the cereals processing sectors, including grain milling, breakfast cereal and pasta production and starch processing.

Collectively, VGMS members process around 14 million tonnes of agricultural raw material a year, including wheat, oats, maize, rice and starch potatoes. With some 12,000 employees, the sectors covered by the VGMS turnover around €6 billion a year and their products are successful around the world.

The aim of VGMS is to further develop and reinforce the public voice of the sectors they cover. In addition to associations, people, institutions from science and research as well as non-governmental organizations can join the VGMS as individual members, whose interests, tasks or activities are in accordance with the objectives of the VGMS.

The VGMS board consists of Gustav Deiters, Crespel & Deiters; Michael Gutting, Saalemühle Alsleben/PMG Premium Mills Group; Karl-Rainer Rubin, Rubinmühle; and Stefan Geiser, member of Peter Kölln’s management. Gutting has been elected as spokesman for the board with Geiser as deputy. Peter Haarbeck and Alexander Jess, the directors of VDM and VDGS, were appointed equal-ranking directors of the new association.

“Combining the activities in the association of grain mills and starch industry will enable a more efficient perception of the interests of the participating sectors and their members,” Gutting said. “We will use this coming year to establish and organize the new association. In autumn 2017, the VGMS will present its future plans to the public.”