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May - Applications Expert
Olivier Le Brun is the head of the Applications Department at CHOPIN Technologies. He explains to us how he and his team partner with manufacturers and professionals in the cereal grain industry.
Can you tell us more about the role of the Applications Department at CHOPIN Technologies?
The Applications Department explores and develops the functionalities and possibilities provided by each of the tools in the CHOPIN Technologies line to offer pertinent and customized analytics solutions to each of our customers. The Applications Team is made up of 5 employees (technicians, engineers, and PhDs) who, thanks to their university and/or professional training, have a strong link to the wheat-flour-bread industry. Thanks to their in-depth knowledge of the biochemical transformations and technological processes governing the cereal grain industry, their close ties with the various departments in the company (R&D, manufacturing, after-sales service, marketing, etc.), and their expertise in laboratory analyses and the use of CHOPIN tools, the CHOPIN Applications Team is able to think ‘outside the box’ and come up with innovative solutions that meet the everyday needs of their partners and customers.
Can you briefly explain the type of support the Applications Department offers its customers?
It's hard to sum up all they do in just a few words. If you combine the diversity of our customers (which range from breeders to secondary processors, storage operators, and millers) with the wide selection of tools offered by CHOPIN Technologies, the possibilities are really quite extensive. To name a few, the development of specific calibrations, the adaptation of protocols, the development of prediction models, the definition of specifications, the selection of ingredients or suppliers, and of course, training.
Can you give us some concrete examples so that we have a better idea of the support you provide?
- Sure, let's start with the development of specific calibrations:
Some of the devices marketed by CHOPIN Technologies such as moisture meters (Aquaneo, AquaTR) and near-infrared analyzers (Infraneo), require the use of mathematical models (or "calibrations") to convert raw data into usable values (water content, protein content, etc.). By default, CHOPIN Technologies offers a large selection of these calibrations for each of its tools. However, more specific calibrations may be missing. In such cases, the Applications Department develops the missing calibrations. Example: while working with a producer in the south of France, we recently developed two rice calibrations (one for round paddy rice and one for long paddy rice).
- We also help our customers set up specific specifications:
Quality control is one of the areas in which CHOPIN devices are used the most. The purpose of quality control is usually twofold: to ensure incoming raw materials have the necessary characteristics to avoid problems while being used on the production line and to check that manufactured products meet all production guidelines and are fully compliant to end customers upon delivery. Basically, you have to find the tool that separates the bad from the good. To do so, quality operators use specifications, i.e. a list of analyses accompanied by values (or ranges of values) with which the tested products must comply.
However, these specifications do not always exist (e.g. when new raw materials are used) or may be insufficient, in cases when the inspections put in place make it impossible to identify the batches causing problems. It therefore becomes necessary to create or supplement these specifications, which is exactly where the expertise of the Applications Team comes in handy. Using samples provided by the partner (and labeled good or bad according to how they react on the production line), the Applications Team performs a series of tests to identify the solution [ = instrument + test protocol + unique parameter(s)] that is best able to separate the good samples from the bad ones.
- We modify protocols to meet the technical or economic requirements of our users:
In general, an analytical solution consists of 3 different elements: a measuring tool, an operating mode (or protocol), and one or more results. In order for comparisons to be performed by laboratories, the most critical analytical solutions are usually subject to standards, i.e. consensus texts describing, in detai,l the tools to be used, the test procedure to be implemented, and the way in which the results are to be calculated and expressed. Most of the devices designed by CHOPIN Technologies therefore comply with national or international norms (NF EN ISO 27971, ICC 121, AACC 54-30.02, GOST 51415-99 for the Alveograph HC test; NF EN ISO 17718 for the Mixolab Chopin+ test; NF EN ISO 17715 for the SDmatic test, etc.). These norms expressly facilitate the development and circulation of the methods they describe and can also serve as a regulatory basis for commercial transactions, which are not to be taken lightly.
However, these standardized protocols are not always adapted to the technical (e.g. new raw materials) or economic constraints (e.g. analysis time too long) of a particular user. Most CHOPIN Technologies’ tools allow for the adjustment of test conditions (faster kneading, slower rising, more intense heating, longer proving time, etc.) and/or the calculation of new result parameters (area under the curve, first derivative, difference in torque, etc.), which often makes it possible to bypass these initial difficulties and provide suitable solutions. The NF EN ISO 27971 standard relating to the Alveo HC test was developed to analyze white flour with low fiber content. However, this standardized procedure is unsuitable for analyzing whole-wheat flours (or flours rich in bran), which are currently most popular. For some time now, the Applications Department has been conducting Alveograph tests during which hydration of the dough in increased and the test reduces the flow of air as the dough rises. These tests are very promising and could lead to an Alveograph solution for the analysis of high-ash flours in the coming months.
How can you support manufacturers who are forced to adapt to new market trends?
In recent years, new trends have appeared on the market. Consumers want products that are both healthier (less salt, fewer additives, gluten-free, high in fiber, etc.) and more eco-friendly (local products, free of palm oil and GMOs, etc.). To meet this demand, manufacturers must modify their recipes and learn to do without certain ingredients, additives, and processing aids, all the while incorporating new products which are known to be beneficial to human health (quinoa, flax, spelt, ancient grains, pseudo-grains, etc.). These modifications are often complex and usually accompanied by two main challenges: selecting the right ingredients and, once selected, putting into place the supply chains and tools allowing for the quality of the supplies to be checked on a consistent and regular basis.
Selecting the most suitable substitute ingredients is often a lengthy process and requires numerous manufacturing tests. Nevertheless, the use of instrumental analyses to screen the various ingredients and quickly eliminate the least promising ones, usually reduces the number of pilot tests and consequently saves time and financial resources.
Setting up quality control tools is often just as delicate. Because of the novelty of these substitute ingredients, there remains very few (or no) criteria or methods for testing them. Although the technical and scientific literature is full of tools to characterize the rheological behavior and machinability of wheat flour, publications dedicated to the technological analysis of cassava, teff, or sorghum flours are much more scarce.
As illustrated by our tests on cricket flour, the CHOPIN Technologies Applications Team can help with the selection and characterization of the most innovative and astonishing raw materials.
Who can contact the Applications Department, and how?
The Applications Department gladly accepts inquiries from any industry player interested in collaborating with CHOPIN Technologies, whether they already use the brand's tools or not. For more information, simply contact your local CHOPIN Technologies representative. A member of the Applications Team will get back to you to learn more about your challenges and needs and to set up a test plan, discuss the best way to implement it, and define the criteria for its success.
To contact the CHOPIN Technologies' Application team: firstname.lastname@example.org