The Use of Portable NIRS Analysers for Increased Visibility into the Milling Process
Flour production focuses on quality from the field to the bakery or grocery shelf. Cookies, crackers, bread, and other consumer products require flour with very different and specific characteristics to create the proper size, texture, mouth feel, and manufacturing properties of each product.
Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) has long been used to analyse wheat and flour for compositional properties such as protein, moisture, and ash content. NIRS is also used to characterise flours for rheological and physical properties such as water absorption, starch damage, extensibility, resistance, and falling number. While NIRS delivers accurate and precise results in seconds, with little sample preparation, traditional bench analysers are expensive and require trained staff and a secure environment for analysis.
Portable NIRS analysers are increasingly being used in the wheat and flour industry to analyse the quality of incoming wheat, flour milling, and finished flour quickly and accurately. Recent technological advances have produced handheld analysers that are accurate, small, lightweight, and easy to use, making them ideal for use in the field or on-site at mills.
These features of portable analysers allow flour mills to have several handheld analysers in the mill, ready to go to the sample and analyse instantly on-site. This system facilitates easier and more frequent sampling from the quality team for better insight into the milling process. All results are automatically transferred to a central cloud portal for rapid evaluation and reporting.
Portable analysers can be used at every stage of the flour milling process:
• Portable analysers can go to loading docks and quickly analyse the protein content of incoming wheat. This is important because the protein content is a key indicator of the overall quality of the grain and its suitability for making different types of flour. Portable analysers can also analyse other important wheat characteristics, such as moisture content and falling number.
• Before milling, wheat must be tempered to optimize the milling process. Portable NIRS analysers make accurate moisture measurements directly at the bins.
• During the flour milling process, portable analysers can be used to monitor the quality of the flour as it is produced. This allows millers to adjust the milling process in real-time to ensure that the finished flour meets the desired quality specifications. Monitoring the ash content provides the information needed to maximize yields while maintaining quality.
• Once the flour is produced, portable analysers can analyse the finished product for critical characteristics such as protein content, ash content, starch damage, and rheological properties. Instant and reliable data ensures that the flour produced meets industry standards.
The NeoSpectra platform from Si-Ware Systems is an example of an analytical system ready for end-to-end quality analysis in a flour mill. The handheld Scanner and mobile apps can analyse samples in seconds, while ready-to-use calibration models from the NeoSpectra LabStore are available for whole wheat, flour, and by-products. The NeoSpectra Cloud portal automatically manages all results and offers intuitive displays and reports for quick evaluations of the results from anywhere.
In summary, portable analysers offer a convenient and efficient way to analyse the quality of wheat, flour milling, and finished flour. These tools can help millers ensure that their products meet industry standards and customer requirements for different baked goods. With the use of portable analysers, they can quickly and easily monitor the quality of their products and adjust as necessary to ensure that they produce the highest quality flour with maximum efficiency.