Benier - how do you pronounce it? Well, it’s not ’benny-er’, though many of us may have thought so. It’s more like ’ben ear’ and MD David Marsh has a useful way of helping customers and hapless journalists remember. He says we should just think of the phrase ’bin ’ere, done that!’ and it works! Just try it.

He doesn’t actually mind how you pronounce it, but he does mind that everyone knows what Benier stands for: space-saving, labour-saving, automated machinery for plant and industrial bakers who want high-quality engineering for their products using very few operatives.

Benier (UK) is based in Milton Keynes and operates 24 hours a day. If you want an engineer on New Year’s day - or night - you’ll get one. But Benier machinery is made in Holland, not too far from Schiphol airport. At its Dutch headquarters, the company employs 120 people who design and make machinery.

Founded in 1898, Benier specialises in industrial and mid-sized automated dough make-up plants for breads, including baguettes. Erik Van Opstal, MD of Benier Nederland, tells British Baker: "Worldwide, technical service standards are not improving, so our twin aims are to excel and to anticipate. We look at what the customer wants for the future. For example, direct processing of the dough from divider to moulder, without rounding or pre-proving, saves money, energy, maintenance and hygiene. There is also less damage to the dough. We have just carried out major development on dough make-up equipment to facilitate this."

David Marsh interjects: "We have also improved access for hygiene purposes. Bakeries are not yet at the hygiene level of industrial meat processors in the UK, but supermarket auditors are driving standards higher all the time.

"We can now have fully industrial bakeries with just two to four ’minders’ or operatives. Yet, we still have a need for five people for cleaning. Shouldn’t that be where we put research and development too? And we have! We’ve provided much easier access to cleaning with streamlined parts, or machinery that opens up for quick access."

On the factory floor at Benier, equipment is fully built and tested before being despatched to the UK. All machinery is delivered with modems to enable on-line diagnostics. And when UK delivery takes place, UK-based installation and service teams are on-site. Marsh explains: "Benier headquarters here in Holland accommodate project planning, design, quotations, engineering and remote diagnostics. They have been enlarged to accommodate two new areas: a much bigger test bakery of 600sq m, serving the whole Kaak Group (parent company of Benier), and a new research and development area for prototype machinery to be tested with live dough processing."

He adds: "Quality control is something we always have to assume we are not doing well enough. To improve it, we need open dialogue. It is imperative to record, monitor and communicate, with everything measured by a dedicated quality control manager who reports here to Erik. We also ask clients for feedback and that is integrated into the quality control system."

Customers who buy from Benier UK include the biggest plant bakeries - Warburtons, Allied and Hovis - and some of the most successful craft bakeries such as Betty’s of Harrogate, Birds of Derby and top supermarkets.

It does not really matter how you pronounce Benier. What matters, says Marsh, is that you are satisfied with the breads and rolls Benier plant produces and the performance of the machines that make it.


=== At a glance ===

l Benier Nederland manufactures equipment for dividing, rounding, proving and moulding

l As part of the Kaak Group, Benier (UK) also supplies silos, mixers, checkweighers, ovens, conveyors and bakeware

l Customers include large plant bakeries and mid-sized craft and industrial bakeries

l Benier (UK)’s David Marsh began working life as an engineer. He joined the company in 1988 and became MD in 1992


=== Dutch supermarkets ===

From Benier’s headquarter, British Baker travelled to The Hoogvliet supermarket bakery near Schiphol. Hoogvliet’s is a real eye-opener. It operates on a completely different business model to that of the UK - supplying its own 34 stores - so there are no in-store bakeries as such. Very few operators are in evidence, as almost everything is automated. Hoogvliet makes breads and rolls using Benier and Kaak Group equipment throughout.

The supermarket’s own brand is called Daily Fresh. Though the bread and rolls are made to be eaten fresh each day, they will last two to three days.

As we go round Marsh says: "Look at the investment. Often in the UK, bakers are not achieving a high enough price or margin for bread to enable such investment in automation. On the Continent they are continually moving forward with technology, product development and innovation."

The fully automatic bakery runs to a master schedule. At the front end, where 16,000 rolls and 3,000 breads per hour are conveyed to final proof then automatic bake, there are just two supervisors across the whole plant. Spiromatic conveyors bring the flour up to the bakery, which is on a mezzanine level. The flour and ingredients are then mixed in Diosna spiral mixers.

Marsh says: "For bread rolls our single pocket divider is ideal for in-store bakeries handling 600-700 dough pieces per hour. The fastest multipocket dividers will handle 9,000+ but while it must be fast, it must also be dough-friendly, so our industrial dividers use servo-driven motors, which we pioneered. They can be easily programmed to optimise the dividing process."

A Kaak conveying system then transfers them to final proof. The Kaak multi-step prover works on the paternoster rail system: while stepped rails on the left travel up, those on the right come down, with a centre chain shared for balance. The rolls are then automatically transferred to the bottom deck of a multi-deck (four) Daub travelling oven. Bread is baked in the other three decks.

On the bread side, three 240k spiral mixers automatically incorporate ingredients. After mixing, automated bowl handling takes over (though it could be done manually) and the dough is divided and checkweighed into dough pieces.

For breads, the Hoogvliet bakery uses a ’green dough process’ common in Holland, which gives 55 minutes first proof (compared to three or five minutes with the UK Chorleywood Bread Process). Breads include seeded, malted and plain.

After the breads emerge from the prover, they are baked at a rate of up to 3,000 per hour and automatically cooled before being automatically conveyed to the packaging area for dispatch.