A Swiss 100% family business, Bühler provides solutions and technologies that help manufacturers in producing safe and healthy finished products for human and animal nutrition. Bühler’s equipment can be found in a myriad of factories, processing cocoa, milling grains, and handling rice and milk. They are integral in the making of pasta, chocolate or brewing of beer, among other processes.

A quarter of the world's population eats food processed by Bühler machines every day. In the wealthiest part of the world, that's considerably more.

Today, all those machines are equipped with digital technology. Because, says Edyta Margas, Global Head of Food Safety at Bühler, "if we do something wrong, it has a huge impact." Take, for instance, a bacterial contamination in a specific raw material. Given the extensive data collected by Bühler’s equipment, it is feasible to pinpoint the exact location of the error and identify the batches that may require recall.

A quarter of the world's population eats food processed by Bühler machines every day
Food Safety
Margas gives two examples. By analyzing the data from a series of scales, it came to light that 1 scale was always overdosing when raw materials were delivered from a particular silo. Correction of that error yielded not only a process improvement across all scales, but also 5% savings in waste.

Another example is the roasting of nuts. This is basically done for flavor, but through accurate monitoring, Bühler can guarantee that the residual heat from the roasting process is also effectively used to eliminate bacteria elsewhere in the processing process. The entire process can also be "rewound" thanks to data points so that any errors or bacterial risks can be targeted without having to shut down the entire production chain to rule out contamination.

Another benefit is that data-driven insights foster increased trust. In the food industry, there’s a notable lack of trust among supply chain stakeholders, which discourages data sharing. This results in redundant operations such as a flour bale being quality checked at both the milling and bakery stages before it’s processed into bread, pasta, or cookies. These redundancies create unnecessary friction within the supply chain.

Paper-based data transfers, still prevalent in food supply chains, result in frequent communication between parties and missed opportunities for operational streamlining.

In the food sector, the norm is to share only the bare minimum of data
Bühler’s current technologies, including the E3 Mill, represent the state of the art of tech innovation in the milling industry. By capturing over 15,000 data points per second, these technologies enable millers to enhance transparency throughout the value chain. Incorporating connectivity features, digital services, and blockchain technology to ensure the quality of the end product.

Fernando Santiago-Cajaraville, who is in charge of UK Technology and Start-Up Scouting at Bühler, dedicated two years to the development of Bühler Dash, the Bühler Data Sharing Platform. This blockchain platform enables millers to share quality data directly from the mill's sensors with other stakeholders, such as bakeries, in the value chain. This integration has led to considerable benefits and efficiencies in transactions, such as the reduction of finished product inventory through the automation of quality approvals using data directly from mill operations.

According to Santiago-Cajaraville, transparency in the value chain plays out on three levels, with the "digital backbone" consisting of transparent, secure and immutable data:
  • the machines: proof that it works
  • the product: traceability
  • the transactions: the blockchain.

Bühler has been dealing with blockchain since 2018. Santiago-Cajaraville explains that it is terribly complex to line up the available data and the necessary trust to share those data among the stakeholders.

“In the food sector, the norm is to share only the bare minimum of data,” he explains, attributing this to a pervasive lack of trust among industry players. To address this issue and facilitate data sharing within value chains, Bühler introduced the DaSh Platform. Through this initiative, Bühler aims to establish the necessary trust for sharing key data. This strategy is designed to achieve operational excellence by eliminating redundant and duplicated operations and data, thereby enabling all parties in the chain to reduce costs and enhance efficiency.

Cooperation even without the machines
Bühler wants to assist its machine buyers in making the supply chain transparent so that they can meet the sustainability reporting requirements of the European Commission, Milieudefensie, and consumers who want to know how sustainable that bar of chocolate, cup of rice, or coffee is.

“Working with partners, even competitors, is crucial for industry transformation,” says Santiago-Cajaraville. He acknowledges there are challenges to overcome. Margas quickly adds, “While our machines provide easier access, the key is collaboration with partners and competitors. Only through such cooperation can we truly revolutionize the industry. We’ve created a platform, but it requires everyone’s participation.”

Firms like Bühler hold immense potential to rally everyone and achieve true transparency in the chain
What is indisputable is the fact that the data belongs to the client and user, and it will remain so. “The integration of data from various sources isn’t so much about differing technologies,” says Santiago-Cajaraville. “Even a small tech company can handle that. It’s more about the ‘mindset.’ Stakeholders need to be persuaded to share their data on the blockchain.” This won’t occur without something that’s unrelated to technology but deeply connected to human nature: trust. And trust can be fostered through transparency.

Firms like Bühler hold immense potential to rally everyone and achieve true transparency in the chain. “The major retailers have the most potential to play a pivotal role,” concludes Margas. Being closest to the consumers, they can request their suppliers to fully disclose the chain.