October 28, 2021

Bühler proves a key quality ingredient in Nelstrops’ recipe for success

Nelstrops has been making the finest quality flour for more than 200 years. In 1820, aged just 19, William Nelstrop crossed the Pennines from his family’s farm in Yorkshire to establish his eponymous flour mill in Stockport, now a historic, but still fully functioning, milling site.

In juxtaposition of the traditional site, in 2017 Bühler installed a brand new flour mill for Nelstrops at the same location in Cheshire. Side by side, the two mills convey the traditional past versus contemporary present and evolution of Nelstrops. The new site features cutting-edge technology that helps to ensure the quality for which the company is well known.

Nelstrops is proud to still be an independent family business with seventh generation Nelstrop, Kate Syers at the helm running the new mill’s day-to-day technical and quality assurance operations. Nelstrops has won numerous awards for the exceptional quality of its flour, which is made from the finest wheat and sold to large bakeries, discerning chefs, as well as craft and home bakers throughout the UK.

A trusted partner

Nelstrops’ uncompromising commitment to quality extends to the technology it invests in, with Bühler as its key partner. Bühler maintains a strong focus on digitalisation, with a wide range of online sensing solutions and digital services.

Bühler’s sensors are able to analyse various quality characteristics of bulk raw material, flour and semolina in real time. Installed at different critical points in a mill they enable automatic adjustments to be made to a miller’s process during operation.

Quality assurance

Bühler is the trusted supplier of the NIR Multi Online Analyzer (MYRG) which allows highly accurate online analysis of wheat entering the mill, as well as the finished flours that are milled.

The NIR Analyzer enables rapid production stream adjustments, with waste and downtime minimised and quality assured. It comes with a large selection of pre-calibrated applications and data is automatically saved and stored, making product quality transparent and traceable.

“Bühler installed a brand new flour mill for us in 2017 and the NIR Analzyerwas part of that project,” says Conrad Syers, Joint Managing Director at Nelstrops. “As the company has progressed we’ve kept close to Bühler’s evolving product portfolio. We’ve used the MYRA [Bühler’s first sensor] since the late 1980s, although we still use it and it operates just as it should, investing in the NIR Analyzer was a natural progression for us. We’re also replacing our MYFB damping equipment with the newer Automatic Moisture Control System (MYFE). I want to minimise downtime and sticking with the Bühler brand facilitates that.”

As Kate Syers reveals, Nelstrops uses its new NIR sensor heads to “ensure constancy and repeatability”. She continues: “It provides us with a highly efficient way to add the precise amount of gluten to get our flour to the protein level customers and bakeries require. There’s absolutely no waste, which saves us money on vital wheat gluten, which is very expensive.

“In both our mills we have a starter bin, we put less in the newer mill’s starter bin than we would in the other mill’s one because the NIR Analyzer provides the precision that allows us to put in the exact right amount. As a miller, you see wide variations in wheat protein, but the NIR Analyzer evens it all out, resulting in reduced gluten usage.”

Alarm and specks count

Ian Nickson, Assistant Chief Engineer at Nelstrops, states: “The main benefit of the NIR Analyzer is greater control of our final product quality. With it operating in real-time, we can watch the flour as it’s being made. We can gauge trends. It provides peace of mind because it practically looks after itself; it runs over night while we’re sleeping, all the maintenance it needs is the occasional brush down.

“The NIR Analyzer keeps our flour in spec, if there’s a problem it makes a decision to either adjust settings or shut down. It’s an integrated part of the control system that works very well for us. It gives us a real idea of our wheat and flour protein loss. Plus, we’re able to keep a constant eye on the bran speck count, even with varying types of wheats.”

Indeed, the bran speck count is conducted by Buhler’s Online Colour and Specks Measurement Unit (MYHB) – a sensor add-on to the MYRG system – which continuously monitors end product colour and specks classification during flour production. In real time, it can detect subtle colour deviations and contamination and releases an alarm to alert the miller of any issues.

Precise measurement

When asked how the NIR Analyzer’s measurement precision compliments laboratory analysis, Kate Syers replies: “The NIR Analyzer is reliable and it’s live in the production flow, so much faster than lab analysis techniques.” Having real-time measurement of protein content allows the mill operators to run the production at its optimum.

The NIR Analyzer has been designed to withstand the rigors of the milling process. Its sensors have a sturdy casing that can deal with the dust and vibration that occurs during the milling process. The NIR Analyzer system is flexible and can be retrofitted into existing flour mills. It can consist of up to six sensors connected to one control unit, with only the sensor head needing to be installed within the production line.

As well as the new online NIR Analyzer and the Online Colour and Specks Measurement Unit (MYHB), Nelstrops also uses the Online Particle Size Measurement system (MYTA).

MYTA is Bühler’s online particle-size measurement system for flour and it also delivers accurate data in real time. Nelstrops’ millers are able to monitor grinding processes and granulation without having to stop processes for quality checks and machine adjustments. Nickson says: “The Online Particle Size Measurement system (MYTA) is great as a final safeguard, if there’s a burst in the mill or any product fluctuations, it will alert us and pick it up very quickly.”

Competitive advantage

“Investing in the very best technology enables businesses such as Nelstrops to remain market leaders – it provides competitive advantage,” comments Darren Frost, Head of Sales, Grain Processing & Milling Solutions at Bühler for UK & Ireland.

“Many customers have already invested in the latest version of the Bühler NIR Analyzer, while others are considering upgrading their MYRA and MYRB. The benefits are certainly worthwhile. Millers with older technology tend to carry out manual analysis, which is far more wasteful and costly, when they could save money by upgrading to the MYRG. When they see the results, it really captures the hearts of flour millers,” he adds.

Nelstrops’ Conrad Syers concludes: “We’re delighted with the NIR Analyzer, it’s proved to be another great investment for our business. We also have a very close relationship with Darren and his Bühler colleagues. There’s a lot trust between us, we’ve worked and moved forward together for more than 30 years. As a business, our main aims are to supply quality product, feed the nation and invest in the future and Bühler helps us to achieve those goals.”

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