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How granular data is revolutionizing milling

How granular data is revolutionizing milling

The idea of building one of the most advanced flour mill’s conceivable has been a shared ambition for both Bühler and the UK’s largest flour miller Whitworth Bros. Ltd. Today, that ambition is a reality. The gleaming profile of the Mill E3 sits just off one of the main arteries of the UK’s motorway network on which Whitworth’s distinctive yellow bulk tankers fan out daily delivering flour to its customers.

Sitting on a six-acre site at Whitley Bridge in Yorkshire, the flour mill is the culmination of years of planning. But it was the moment the first consignment of wheat arrived for milling in early 2021 that the Mill E3 truly evolved from vision to reality. This futuristic plant was designed to become a testbed for the milling industry. What is being learned and developed here has the potential to transform milling practices globally. “The Mill E3 is a step change from the traditional way of operating a flour mill. It allows us to challenge the boundaries and continue moving forward with the SmartMill technology to really expand the opportunities within milling,” explains Mike Peters, Managing Director of Whitworth Bros.

At the heart of this voyage of discovery lies digital data and at the heart of digitalization lie sensors, and the automation system that provides the data. Fifteen thousand data points monitor every aspect of the production from raw material delivery to the sealing of flour-laden trucks ready for delivery to clients. Every five seconds sensors feed data to Mercury MES to facilitate control of every aspect of the mill’s internal workings and to Bühler Insights where algorithms compare past and present production parameters to ensure the mill is always operating at optimal efficiency.

“This is an incredibly exciting project for us. We launched it at our Networking Days IpackIma in Milan in 2018 and now, here at Whitworth, it is a reality,” says Roman Sonderegger, Bühler Head of Wheat and Rye. “This mill allows us to gather and analyze amounts of data that we have never had the opportunity to collect before. It means we will be finding out things about the milling process that we have never even thought of, enabling us to come up with ideas and new services that we can turn into a reality for all our customers.”

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