How technology can help meet modern milling demands
by Jason Webb, director, Electronic Temperature Instruments
With Covid-19 advancing technologies available for all types of business, mills don't need to fall behind. By utilising ETI wireless data loggers, live recording of temperature, humidity and even social distancing be measured; keeping the mills operating to full capacity and the people that work there safe.
The milling industry has pushed onwards throughout the pandemic, with production of goods maintained to meet quotas and standards. Covid-19 has seen a demand in flour like nothing before and the UK's millers have produced flour for home baking at full capacity, doubling their output from two million to four million 1.5kg bags a week.
Yet, this still wasn't enough to meet heightened demand. The value of flour has risen by almost 115 percent, becoming more like gold dust than just an ingredient used for baking. With almost half of the UK population spending more time baking, millers have continued to produce excessive amounts of flour, as well as other goods.
However, if a batch spoils because of humidity in the air or incorrect temperature, this could create a negative ripple effect throughout the home baking community. Accordingly, the use of advanced technologies in operations has increased by 25 percent, as millers look to ensure any mistakes are eradicated and maximum efficiency achieved.
Benefiting from Technology
Wireless data loggers can provide mills with the information they need to act immediately should any unforeseen issues arise. These data loggers transmit data via the cloud which is stored locally on PCs and other devices. Regardless of where the user is based at that particular time, the data is then passed through a WIFI router or via Bluetooth to a computer.
The data then stays locally on a hard drive so millers can access real, live temperature monitoring data wherever they are. This ensures checks are completed correctly, issues identified, and corrective measures are taken in order to reduce spoilage.
With an increase in demand comes an increase in risk of something going wrong. Millers will need up to date information to prevent delays in production. Most cloud servers have the ability to set up email and SMS alerts, this can be really important for accurate results.
Data loggers can immediately pick up anything abnormal or something that warrants further investigation, giving millers the chance to act fast. This is extremely useful if mills are suddenly overwhelmed with high demand, as producing more of any produce can affect the temperature and even the humidity of a mill. This can allow bacteria to flourish even if it appears that the right temperature set on the dial.
To combat against this issue, millers can use wireless data loggers to back temperature recordings every few hours so that it doesn't go above critical limits. Monitoring both air and core temperature within the mill and ensuring they're always one step ahead.
Additionally, if anything being produced is fresh, wireless data loggers provide an accurate record of temperature during the life-cycle of a product, ensuring the very best in quality.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are two aspects of broadband tech that we use every day in our social life and mills are no different. Wireless data loggers use Wi-Fi to accurately record the temperature of appliances and buildings, with each data logger transmitting the recorded data to a Wi-Fi router which is connected to the internet.
From there, data can be remotely accessed and viewed from a PC, laptop or tablet from anywhere in the world. When using Bluetooth, data can also be transmitted to your Android or iOS device via a secure connection, a simple and effortless process. Wireless data loggers such as these have been specifically designed to eliminate the need for wires and connectors, allowing for better flexibility and fewer potential hazards.
Save time, save money
In flour mills it's important to look for cost efficiencies, as machinery can vary between £2,000 to £5,000 (US$2754.76 to US$6.884.44), perhaps even more in some cases. This doesn't include the costs of running a mill and the other expenses that come with it.
One of the most expensive overheads is employees' salaries. Therefore, with wireless data loggers transmitting live data via the cloud, millers are able to save tremendous amounts of time and money, allowing them to focus on other areas.
For example, let's say it requires one person to perform five different temperature checks three times a day. This is approximately 73 hours of labour annually, which based on minimum wage comes in at around £636 (US$875.70).
ETI's wireless data loggers provide a more specific and updated analyse for less than £30 (US$41.31). Implementing this technology into mills can save around £600 (US$826.20) a year as well as free up so much more time.
Now think about the 73 hours labour that you have spared. This can be a weeks' worth of time dedicated to more fundamental work that can help improve the flow of an operation and betterment the mill as a whole. It's like adding a few extra working days to the year.
Hygiene and Safety
Two of the most important words surrounding milling are hygiene and safety, with hygiene being particularly fundamental in the food industry. When working in mills (even before the pandemic) safety has always been the number one priority. ETI manufacture humidity metres with hygrometers and therma-hygrometers.
In milling processes, the measurement of humidity (%rh) is very important, as products are sensitive to variations in humidity. Therefore, humidity needs to be measured and controlled so products keep their quality and mills maintain their high performance.
A hygrometer is an instrument used to measure the quantity of water vapour present in the air. Hygrometers can measure relative humidity over the range of 0 to 100 %rh but in most instruments, this range may be more limited depending on the sensor type.
If a mill is too damp and the humidity level is too high at above 70%rh, not only does mould develop but it can encourage dust mites to breed. Conversely, if the humidity level is too low at below 25%rh, it can cause respiratory discomfort.
Combining this with wireless data loggers, millers can receive immediate data on the humidity and toxicity within the air, preventing the risk of contaminating any produce before an entire batch is spoiled.
As well as mills that produce food, even mills that manufacture paper or metals can benefit massively from an accurate analyse in humidity. Moisture prompts the growth and spread of microorganisms, even in areas considered clean, as well as decreasing product quality, and causing metals to corrode although mills can utilise technology to prevent these issues.
With Covid-19 in mind, wireless data loggers also support social distancing by reducing the number of people involved in the temperature monitoring process. Limiting human contact and operating within the legal restrictions of two metres apart. This provides a further benefit, by using data loggers we can eliminate the risk of human errors and free up time, sanctioning millers to work on other tasks instead of dedicating hours on something that could be done in seconds.
Preparing for the Future
As the UK now has a roadmap out of lockdown, hospitality sectors such as restaurants, pubs, and bars will re-open in the not-so-distant future. Therefore, nothing but the very best produce from millers will be in demand.
The use of technology such as wireless data loggers, can ensure that both money and time are saved, whilst also helping mills to stay hygienic, accurately monitor temperature and ensuring worker safety.
We're all excited about returning to a way of life pre-pandemic. Yet, this new normality won't be the same one we previously had. Hygienic values will be more important, with newly sharpened attitudes towards safety here to stay.
While the pandemic has placed extra demands on businesses up and down the food value chain, they can be overcome through rigorous quality assurance and with the confidence gained from investing in new technology.