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“Quality and ethical trading are the keys of success”

Nevin TOPRAK, Sarmaşık Makine: “In the philosophy of Sarmaşık Makine, quality comes first. We are striving to produce high quality products. Frankly, we insist that we are manufacturing the strongest and the most robust machines in our industry in Turkey”.

nevinSarmaşık Makine is one of the most important representatives of Turkish bakery technologies industry. Currently exporting to 55 countries, the company has managed to advance its manufacture from a single machine to turnkey projects in 43 years. Having completed many turnkey projects around the world, Sarmaşık Makine manufactures its products in its facility located in the Gebze Organized Industrial Zone.

Sarmaşık Makine MENA and Asian Regional Director Nevin TOPRAK attributed the success of the company to an understanding of quality product and ethical trade, and said: “In the philosophy of Sarmaşık Makine, quality comes first. We are striving to produce high quality products. Frankly, we insist that we are manufacturing the strongest and the most robust machines in Turkey”. Toprak said: “I believe that the second factor that affects our success is conducting business in an ethical way.”

We discussed the tailored solutions offered by Sarmaşık Makine, the trends in baking industry and target markets with Nevin TOPRAK, who asserted that branding is a must to survive in the global world. We hear the details from Toprak:

Mrs. Toprak, we all know about Sarmaşık Makine but could you share with us the story of foundation of your company and its development process?
Sarmaşık Makine was founded in 1974 by Osman Toprak and his uncle Kerim Öksüz. Initially starting its business operations with the production of dough cutting machines, Sarmaşık Makine increased the number of the machines it manufactures, and in 43 years it has become a company that delivers turnkey projects. With an experience of more than 40 years, we are manufacturing technological solutions required for the production of the toast bread and hamburger buns, sandwich bread, Turkish bread, and European bread varieties which are known as artisan bread, except for other products such as Arabic bread.

We know you complete turnkey projects in the field of industrial bakery. What are the machines which are completely manufactured by the company?
It would be best if we discuss our technologies with their respective manufacturing processes. As you know, millers produce flour. Then we take their flour at bakeries. First of all, we manufacture in-site silos to store flour. Then we carry the flour to mixers via automatic dosing systems, and knead the dough. Then the bread production lines are started, and the dough processing machines come into play. We have fermentation machines for dough proofing, or proofing units for semi-automated systems. After fermentation, the bread is baked in various ovens depending on the capacity of the facility. Of course ovens may also differ according to the manufacturing system. Industrial bakeries use tunnel ovens, which continuously bake bread on a line, which we call “continuous lines”. These ovens may have various baking systems, such as the cyclothermic system, or the thermoil system. There may also be single-storey or 3-storey tunnel ovens. Later, on the automatic lines, the baked products are automatically removed from pans. After the pans are emptied, the system moves the bread to cooling towers. After the bread is cooled down, it is sliced and sent for packaging, or if it is a hamburger bun or sandwich bread, it is directly sent to the packaging machines.

We configure each project as per the demands and needs. Depending on the budget, sometimes we can work in 2 phases or 3 phases. If the customer does not want to make a big investment at once, we can design the project to make it fully automatic after a few years. In the first phase, we commission the facility with semi-automatic operation. However, we configure it in a way that it can be turned into a fully automatic system without spending too much or renewing the devices during an upgrade in the second phase after a few years. Our primary goal when designing the systems is to understand the demand of the customer and respond to the exact needs of the customer.

I think you produce technological solutions for facilities at various scales?
Yes, we have solutions for businesses at various different scales, from a small coffee shop to turnkey industrial projects. Our product range has been significantly expanded. Although this occasionally causes problems in controlling production, we continue to manufacture our systems as long as there is a demand.

Where do you manufacture your products? Do you have any production facilities or offices abroad?
Our facility is located in the Gebze Organized Industrial Zone. All of the manufacturing processes are undertaken here. We have marketing, project and sales offices in Dubai and in America. Thus, we can be closer to our customers and provide better services without using any intermediaries. We sell machines that are 100 percent made in Turkey and currently we export these products to 55 countries.

You said that you export your machines and solutions for the bakery industry to 55 countries. What is the secret behind this success?
I think the secret is the philosophy of the company. In the philosophy of Sarmaşık Makine, quality comes first. We are striving to produce high quality products. Frankly, we insist that we are manufacturing the strongest and the most robust machines in Turkey. The second factor which affects our success is conducting business in an ethical way. I think quality and ethical trading are the most important common features of long-lasting and successful companies in Turkey. These two factors are the keys of success.

However, I would like to mention another factor: brandization, which is as important as the factors I mentioned earlier. For example, as Sarmaşık Makine, we are a well-known brand in Turkey and now we have become a well-known brand around the world. However, we are not yet as well-known as a German or an Italian brand. In Turkey, we are manufacturing better machines than Italians, but German and Italian brands are better preferred than us all around the world. This is because these countries are very successful in branding. The situation is the same in almost all markets. I mean, Turkey starts the competition a step behind its competitors. Therefore, I think that Turkey should focus more on branding for success in the future.

How do you market or differentiate yourself as Sarmaşık Makine, particularly in foreign markets?
Foreign language is very important in marketing and sales departments to be able to survive abroad. Today, all companies need to employ talents that can speak foreign languages fluently. Having a second or third foreign language besides English is a great advantage. You cannot do business via an interpreter because your customer needs to trust in you, which you can only achieve via a strong communication. At Sarmaşık Makine, we believe we have a good communication abroad. In brief, if your product is good, if you can communicate yourself well, and if you reach your customer, success will automatically follow.

Our organizational activities are still underway at the facility. As you know, companies are dynamic living structures. The human labour should be good and qualified. Therefore we are committed to train our employees, and we find the necessary consultants and managers to do this. We also benefit from the experience of our seniors, since we are involved in technical manufacturing. Because, it is also very important to learn, share, and pass on knowledge to the future generations. While working, we try to achieve all of these at once.

Could you tell us about trends in the industry? What are the changes in boutique and industrial bakery, and which type of bakery is more common today?
First of all, let me talk about the trends in Turkey. Here, in the beginning, there were neighbourhood bakeries. Then, revolving and multi-layered ovens were introduced. After that, bakers were united due to competition, which led to industrial lines and industrial bakeries. Now the boutique bakeries, which are similar to neighbourhood bakeries, have become more popular thanks to the trend of healthy eating. These bakeries offer services in line with the health eating trend, offering various products including seed bread, walnut bread, gluten-free products and artisan bread.

I think Turkey is one of the countries driving trends in the bakery industry. That is because we are one of the countries with the highest rates of bread consumption, and we eat bread for three meals a day. You cannot see this anywhere else around the world. For example, I have been in the Middle East for 8 years. The understanding of health is a relatively new concept there, but they are not yet as successful as we are in terms of the quality of bread. For example, there are excellent facilities and big investments in Saudi Arabia. They have automatic lines, facilities manufacturing without a touch of hand; however, these facilities are only for industrial manufacturing. Artisan bread and sourdough bread are not so popular yet in these regions. However, boutique bakery is a promising field in the Middle East.

What are changes and developments in bakery technologies?
As you know, we organize an industrial fair every 2 years in Turkey: IBATECH. This fair drives tge developments in our industry. Every time we participate at this fair, we see that quality products are being manufactured and the workmanship is improving. I think Turkey is consolidating its place in the global market with such developments.

And what does our company do? We are working with German engineers, who design our projects and we directly implement them. Furthermore, our R&D team is based in Gebze. This is because, if you do not follow the technology, you will lag behind, which is the case in every industry. We do not have the luxury of standing by, because world markets are moving really fast.

What are your expectations from investors who will establish a new facility, or from businessmen who will restore their facilities? How does purchasing and commissioning process work in a new facility and how should it work?
Our investor can be a self-educated baker, a food engineer or a financier. Regardless of their background, we want them to analyze their territories very well and complete the feasibility analyses. You need to know the answers to the questions about where the factory will be established, what kind of bread it will manufacture, what its capacity will be and how many loaves of bread will be manufactured, who the target audience will be, what the price will be, etc., because the every region wants and consumes a different type of bread. Considering everyone better about their own market, I want investors to make these preliminary investigations and feasibility studies.

After these studies, the customer contacts us, and shares with us the results of the feasibility study and the obtained information, and answers our questions about what the type and weight of bread to be manufactured. If the customer is not a food engineer, they may not have enough knowledge about certain technical issues such as cooking time, fermentation time, etc. At this point, we use our optimum values and data. As a result, relying on the demands of the customer and on our knowledge, we perform the necessary capacity analysis and prepare a configuration that fits the customer’s budget. Later, we evaluate the new demands of the customer for this configuration, and then set the price. If we agree on the price, we start the installation of the facility. After the installation, we start trainings, and then carry out a pilot production. If necessary, we create recipes for production. Finally, we deliver the key to the customer and we keep in contact with them at all times.

What kind of services do you offer to your customers who plan to renew their facilities or switch to full automation?
Actually, this is an engineering service. We sell engineering rather than machinery. Yes, we have many customers who have facilities or other machines to be upgraded. When we start such projects, first we look at the machines that the customers have. We never prefer getting rid of these machines and selling new ones to replace them. Often in these projects, we reconfigure our machines to integrate them to the existing technologies. In other words, we modify our machines to integrate them to the customer’s facility.

Could you give us some information about the new technologies that you are currently working on, if any?
I cannot go into the details but our R&D department is currently working on a special project. There is a new trend in Europe which known as “Green Energy”. We are planning to use this in our latest multi-storey tunnel systems named Thermo. These are very economical systems with oil heating and great energy saving capabilities.

These “Green Energy” based systems which are very popular and growing all across Europe are quite new in Turkey. Europe has achieved so much progress with it that the operators are currently converting even the hot air coming out of the chimneys. Therefore, Turkey needs to work more on this “Green Energy”. The R&D department of our company is focused on the projects that will improve our technologies in this direction.

During our interview, we mentioned about the demand for healthy food. Does the technology used in a facility affect whether the food is healthy or not?
Technology is definitely affecting the structure of food. For example, each technology or each surface that comes into contact with food should be made of stainless steel. There are already various standards related to this matter. We need to comply with these standards in order to be included in the international market. The reason we have been in this industry for 43 years is that all our machines are manufactured with the same norms and standards. We use appropriate cables and materials to comply with the Food Regulations, and our technology is tailored accordingly. If you do not follow these rules, you will not be able to export, and you can only achieve only short-term sales.

What can be done to help Turkish brands to improve their recognition and export capacity globally?
In a global world, everyone can reach everywhere. I think the Turkish companies have many advantages because they can take risks and act courageously. Europe, on the other hand, does not like risks and prefers to remain in secure environments. This allows Turkish companies to gain positions in many markets where Europeans cannot operate due to concerns of security. In addition, they can adapt easily and offer very flexible solutions for customer’s problems. However, the flexibility of the Turkish companies can sometimes have a negative effect. For example, when we solve a problem we do not record the solution, as we do not work systematically like the Europeans, and we often repeat the same mistakes. This may lead many companies to deal with unnecessary problems and lose time.

If we can work a bit more systematically and, as I mentioned earlier, if we focus on branding, especially on branding as the whole country, we can increase our strength in the global market. However, branding of countries requires a combination of a strong economy, strong politics, and strong businessmen. When all of these are combined with quality products and ethical trading, we can sell our products in global markets at higher profit margins, and increase the export capacity of our country.

Finally, what are your target markets? Which markets should our country target?
We are an experienced company and we are able to sell to all over the world. If the new companies in the industry want to export, their target markets must be the neighbouring countries where they can have the most convenient and easy access. Turkey is situated in a fairly attractive location for exporters. The companies in Turkey can start their export operations with countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Middle East and Northern Africa. They can access and offer services in these regions more easily.

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