Bühler’s Virtual World event showcases digital industry solutions driving post-pandemic recovery

The CEO of Bühler, Stefan Scheiber, has expressed an ambition for digitally-led innovations to transform businesses to drive market recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, reports Neill Barston.

Speaking at the launch of the company’s latest Virtual World presentations (main image), he revealed the firm’s key research and development investment totalling CHF450 million over the past three years is continuing to influence major technology breakthroughs informing its strategy for tackling the pandemic and delivering sustainable industry solutions.

The equipment and systems manufacturer, which has devised a significant volume of machinery for confectionery and bakery markets, has placed a strong emphasis on digital delivery since forging a strategic link with Microsoft to create its Bühler lnsights IOT platform aimed at accomplishing significant efficiency and productivity gains that help its customers towards a target of 50% less usage of energy, waste and water within its core industrial value chains.

In his keynote Virtual World address, Scheiber praised the collective work of scientific teams and governments around the world in tackling the ongoing pandemic, which the company acknowledged had impacted on all spheres of industry, including its own operations, with turnover for 2020 down by 17%, to CHF 2.7 billion.

However, the CEO was optimistic of a building tech-assisted recovery, developed with the crucial assistance of the company’s 12,000-strong global workforce, and welcomed the chance to unveil some of its latest solutions during the online event taking place this week between 22-26 March.

He said: “We are creating a positive world where we are not just talking about challenges, of which there are many but also solutions. We would like to create impact, along with our mission statement, our purpose, with our customers, to make sure that processing technologies become more innovative, productive and efficient within value chains.

“We need to be optimistic and trying to really take the positive aspects of our life, world and technology, and social interactions going forward. Where does this hope come from? One of the reasons, is the unbelievable success of vaccination programmes. It’s the manifestation of a fantastic collaboration between businesses, scientists, and also governments who have supported the development of vaccinations in such a short time. Who would have thought after just one year we would have global vaccine programmes in place – we already have more people having had access to vaccinations (over 100 million) than have had coronavirus.

“I do believe that this is somehow charted into the outlooks of GDP (Europe down 7% in early 2020), US down by 5% Asia by over 2% but all economies growing by several per cent by the end of 2020). We saw the deep rifts and negative economic impacts in nearly all the world last year, which had massive impacts on businesses, social lives and personal fates, around the world, but the hope for an improved economic situation, we do see the signals already in the macroeconomics,” noting that ‘a massive amount of money’ had been driven into world economies in order to stimulate recovery.

Recovery strategy

As the CEO noted, its objectives for recovery were based on devising completely new industrial solutions that combine physical and digital applications geared towards making tech more effective and efficient.

According to Scheiber, such systems must also crucially address climate change and sustainability issues surrounding food production across all market segments, enabling it to meet its energy, waste and water reduction goals. In his view this would only be achieved through collaboration with industry around the world.

He added: “We need to realise that covid-19 has been a gamechanger, sometimes an accelerator of trends, but have now been magnified. One huge aspect of that is the unbelievable drive for digitalisation in all aspects of our lives, comms, collaboration, applying new technologies, making innovation cycles faster, for instance in education and learning for the future.”

“There’s a revolution in food – not in the last 30 years have I seen such an unbelievable change in consumer behaviour, but from new tech and raw materials and new ways of using side streams making food value chains more sustainable,” he explained, noting that there had been considerable supply chain disruption over the past year that had created unique global challenges.

He offered praise to its international teams, stating that none of its achievements would be possible without the passion of its teams around the world, including its increasing range of application centres.

Virtual world highlights

Furthermore, Ian Roberts, Bühler’s chief technology officer explained that its latest virtual world sessions would focus on major areas of innovation delivery across its business that he believed would be influential in the years ahead.

Roberts said: “Delighting consumers is very important – consumer trends are transforming faster than ever. We see segmentation in the market with things like proteins, a drive into veganism, as well as money going into food start-ups that we hadn’t seen until two years ago, and this is changing the landscape and empowering consumers to demand new things.

“In terms of competitiveness, we need to use services and whole digital capability and assets more efficiently, reduced waste, increase yield and upturn, that will also bring massive sustainability benefits.”

If by 2030 to mitigate climate change by less than 2%, we are not going to do it with a capital investment cycle in the next 3/4 years, there will be step changes, goes against sustainability to replace perfectly good machines with new ones. We have to get those perfectly good machines operating much more efficiently, which is where services come in,” noting the potential impact of its services portfolio including smart mills, yield management systems linked to its insights platform.

He added that the business was ‘uniquely positioned’  to assist industry with its end-to-end processing capabilities, as well as forging key links with the food sector including its soon to open research facility with Givaudan in Singapore, in addition to lab research venture with the German Institute of Food Technology (DIL).

Among the highlights of the virtual world sessions, Roberts noted a key confectionery development with the recently created ChocoX chocolate processing line, which is among the systems being showcased this week.

He enthused: “You cannot talk about delighting customers without talking about chocolate, it’s that emotional link that people have – was it your relationship with your grandparents that gave you when you came home from school, or the gift asking forgiveness for your partner – there are so many emotional aspects wrapped around chocolate.

“In 25 years I’ve worked with chocolate, this really is the coolest chocolate technology innovation that I have seen in that time – it unlocks massive innovation capability with customers.

“The ChocoX is a chainless conveying system, with each of its modules you can roll out and replace with another one, if you want to but a biscuit placement, nut placement or another layer of chocolate, you can change the order of modules, and you roll-in-roll out, and this takes just minutes, with the line completely reconfiguring automatically, meaning you restart and you’ve got a new product,” added Roberts of the system, which is one of many under the spotlight for virtual world.



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