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The Bakery Innovation Center for industrial bakery goods

Markus Schirmer

Head of Bakery Innovation Center
Bühler AG

“The Bakery Innovation Center (BIC) at the Bühler headquarters is now five years old. As a center for vocational training and further education for bakers and millers, it is very popular. To meet the changing needs of customers and the market, the selection of courses is being consistently adapted. By the beginning of 2017 the BIC will become the training center for the entire production of industrial bakery goods.”


Even though humans have been processing flour for thousands of years, it is still a demanding task. “Grain is a living, organic raw material,” says Dr. Markus Schirmer, head of the Bakery Innovation Center from Bühler in Uzwil, Switzerland. “Because no kernel is exactly like the other, the individual flour batches also vary from one to the other. Small bakeries can adjust to this because the baker uses his experience to compensate for the differences in the raw material. But for large companies that need highly automated and standardized solutions, this variability presents great challenges.”

Bühler founded the Bakery Innovation Center as a part of its research and training complex at its headquarters in 2011 in order to provide its customers with the tools necessary for such complex tasks. Under the motto “From Grain to Bread”, Bühler know-how is integrated along the entire added value chain in the course topics. “Our standard courses explain the influence of grinding on the quality of baked goods, provide an introduction into the ‘secrets’ of producing industrial bakery products and impart knowledge about the use of sponges and sourdoughs.”

“Our course participants want to learn what settings they need to change on their machines and systems in order to obtain the same end product with varying raw materials,” says Markus Schirmer, summarizing the needs of course visitors. “But industrially produced bread should not only always taste the same. Increasingly, the quality of artisanal baked goods is being sought. The focus of the courses is therefore on teaching basic knowledge about the interaction of recipes and technology that happens before the actual baking process. This basic knowledge is required for understanding the complex processes of manufacturing industrial bakery products. Schirmer: “Only someone who has the basic knowledge can develop ideas for new products and processes and respond to problems in production.”

The knowledge provided at BIC is not only for bakers, but also of interest for millers. The trend towards baking without additives puts more weight on the grinding process, according to Schirmer, who is himself a master baker and holds a doctorate in engineering. What was previously controlled through additives in the baking process must now be done through the characteristics of the flour. For example: The pressure of the rolls can be used to adjust the modification of the starch. This in turn affects water absorption of the flour which then has an influence on the freshness of the bread. The more moisture in the bread, the longer it stays fresh. Sponges and sourdoughs can create additional advantages. Such indirect dough versions contain more water, form natural aromas and stay fresh longer. Quality fluctuations here can only be avoided by accurate analyses, sufficient expertise or highly automated processes.

BIC’s course offerings are constantly being expanded and cover the manufacture of industrial baked goods to laboratory analyses of flour and bread quality to saving on costs by optimizing flour quality.

A new intensive training course is being added for those interested in becoming an “industrial baker”. Over a period of three weeks, a condensed overview of all topics – from milling to laboratory analyses to enzymatic influences on bread – is presented. In addition, topics such as planning a bakery, key figures, principles of food safety and hygienic design, to name just a few, are included in the program. The ‘crash course’ “Industrial Baker” is aimed primarily at young managers who wish to gain an overview of the fundamentals of baking.

Considering how complex the subject matter of baking is, it’s no wonder that BIC enjoys such popularity. “With five to ten customers per week, we are almost always fully booked,” says Schirmer. Over 1,000 people have taken part in almost 100 courses which have been carried out in Uzwil so far.

However, knowledge transfer is not only going on in full swing in Uzwil. The Bühler training centers in South Africa, China and India are also well visited. Courses are even being offered in external schools or as a company course to be in closer proximity to customers. This not only saves travel costs for the customer; more importantly, Bühler’s local presence means that it understands the local market and can offer regional-specific expertise. In Europe, the trends are more customer-driven while in Africa or Latin America they are often regulated by the government. “Nigeria, for example, requires that cassava flour be added to wheat bread to help the country become more independent of imports.” For such regulations, Bühler not only supplies the technology but also helps customers to develop recipes in order to be as productive as possible.

The Bühler Bakery Innovation Center will be expanded to an Application Center over the next few months. Starting in 2017, courses on the complete production process for baked goods will be held. Markus Schirmer: “We will be able to offer courses covering everything that concerns the production of industrial bakery goods in our new Application Center – from handling the raw material over the mixer to the oven.” When it is completed, not only classes will be held here. BIC will be available to Bühler customers for testing new recipes as well.


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