Although MIWE felt the impact of the global economic and financial crisis, we did not suffer any losses, thanks to total sales of approximately 76.5 million euros and our continued practice of across-the-board internal financing. Our activities in the domestic market contributed significantly to these good results. While we met our goals for domestic sales for the year, we actually recorded an increase in sales in other segments, especially baking stations. However, sales in foreign markets once characterised by strong growth (especially the US and Russia) were affected by the general plunge in capital expenditure brought on by the downturn. Our export quota fell from 55% to 47%.
Our newly established Purchasing Department helped cushion some of the impact of the economic crisis. Several major orders also contributed to this success. These included an order for a fully automatic pretzel production system with an hourly output of 10,000 pieces. MIWE provided the proofing, stiffening and baking oven technology for this order in addition to the entire transport and refrigeration technology. Another such order was for a tunnel oven with an automatic proofing unit for a major German bakery chain. There were no layoffs due to the downturn, although we did introduce short-time working hours at the Arnstein site for a period of 5 months.
MIWE also took advantage of the slowdown to prepare for future markets through a series of sweeping in-house upgrades, new international activities, a brand new business division and a wide range of new and innovative products.
MIWE synchro: optimising production and administration
"Breathe more freely - see more clearly - work more effectively". This is the slogan of MIWE synchro, a continuous improvement process for production and administration that has been vigorously pursued by the Executive Board. The initiative has one key aim: to use time and space more effectively and avoid circuitous processes whenever possible. This will free up employees so that they can focus their attention on the things that are really important. MIWE customers will be the main ones to benefit from the initiative, thanks to improvements in quality and better, faster results.
Following a pilot phase in selected areas of the Production Department beginning in 2008, MIWE synchro has been consistently and gradually implemented in all other MIWE departments during the current business year. The response from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. MIWE synchro aims to organise workstations, team work and work flows so that the best possible results can be achieved with the least effort.
MIWE synchro consists of four successive phases that build on each other. Each department, each office in the areas of production and administration must complete each one of these phases in the prescribed sequence. The first phase focuses on improving self-organisation. Each workstation is organised to ensure the best possible ergonomics, and all sources of inefficiency and wastefulness are eliminated.
During the second phase, employees work together to define rules and set down agreements on cooperation in the workplace. All employees are then required to comply with these rules in the future. Compulsory standards are established for all recurring tasks in an effort to facilitate the daily routine for employees.
The third phase focuses on ensuring clear, transparent and smooth processes. Objectives of this phase might include reducing the number of process interfaces, minimising lead times and improving the quality of results. Once processes have been improved, the fourth phase involves analysing metrics that provide reliable information about performance in each individual field of responsibility. This data helps each employee in the team to evaluate and manage his or her own work.
MIWE synchro is already showing tangible results. In our baking stations segment, we consistently identified potential ways of improving production and fully exploited these options. Baking stations are much more standardised and therefore more suited to rigid production lines than products in other areas such as plant construction, where more personalised, customer-specific solutions are always required. As a result, production efficiency rose by 15 to 20%, and lead times decreased by up to 30%. Lot sizes for rack ovens have already been reduced from 45 to 6, although the process of improvement is still far from complete. At the same time, MIWE is streamlining the range of product versions in its product line. All these measures are designed to aid the customer by lowering costs and accelerating production.
Cost-effective and innovative: professional development at MIWE
MIWE has always stressed the importance of providing its employees with advanced training and educational opportunities. In fact, we have been so successful and consistent on this front, we were chosen by a panel of experts as the winner of the South Thuringia Business Award (MuT). MIWE prevailed over 35 other competitors in the summer of 2009 and received the MuT Award in the "Specialists are the Future" category. The award was presented by Minister President Dieter Althaus in Suhl, Germany. This year marked the fifth time that this entrepreneurship prize was awarded by the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Skilled Trades of South Thuringia, and the regional newspapers "Freies Wort" and the "Südthüringer Zeitung" newspaper.
As further evidence of the emphasis we place on in-house education and training, we established a new apprenticeship programme for production technicians in Meiningen. We know that in the future there will be demand for employees with the broad mix of technical, organisational and IT expertise needed to ensure the reliability of production processes and the quality of products.
In light of these future requirements, a new career path for production technicians was introduced. In a project initiated by the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), MIWE helped design this new vocational job title in cooperation with other member companies, business and social partners. The plant in Meiningen was among the first companies in Germany to adopt the new apprenticeship programme for production technicians.
New business division: MIWE energy
MIWE has launched a new business division called MIWE energy as an addition to our other business divisions, which include Standard (in-store baking stations, batch and rack ovens), Bakery Refrigeration and Plant Construction (production baking ovens, loading systems and tunnel ovens). The new business division will focus on concepts and solutions for improving energy consumption in bakeries. The inspiration for the new division came from the realisation that bakeries are the biggest consumers of energy in the production sector and that they use the lion's share of energy, especially for baking ovens (gas, oil and electricity) and refrigeration (electricity).
Expenditures for energy already account for the largest portion of bakehouse budgets, and these costs will continue to grow as energy prices rise in the future. In the spirit of our motto, "MIWE makes baking simple," MIWE energy's activities focus on lowering energy consumption, thereby reducing CO2 emissions from bakeries. A worthwhile goal, even though MIWE baking ovens are already among the most energy-efficient appliances in today's bakeries. Our long-term goal is to follow recent innovations in the construction industry and design a "low-energy bakery." Initially, MIWE energy will focus on the German-speaking markets, i.e. Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
However, MIWE energy will do more than just develop a small number of system components with features such as improved heat recovery. Instead, the new division will take a more holistic approach to energy efficiency. MIWE energy is a comprehensive consulting and engineering service for bakeries. It offers an expert grasp of the complex interrelationships in bakeries, can tap into the full range of energy-saving options and keeps a constant eye on the technological requirements of proofing, baking and freezing - very important when dealing with a delicate raw material like dough.
MIWE guides bakeries through the entire process of energy optimisation. This includes analysing the current energy situation, developing the best possible energy-saving concept, planning the new system as well as installing, operating and maintaining the whole system. The concept rests on four pillars: energy efficiency, energy recovery, combined heat and power, and alternative energy sources. By drawing on this extensive range of systems and approaches, we can develop the best possible solution for every type of business, every requirement and every budget.
Efficient use of energy should be ensured before a heat recovery solution is implemented. For MIWE, this challenge involves more than just optimising our own products for maximum energy efficiency, it also means being as economical as possible when it comes to our own use of energy. We are therefore planning to install solar collectors on the roof of our building. For our own products, our fixed goal is to reduce energy consumption by 5% each year. The first result of these efforts is the new MIWE roll-in e+, which is presented in more detail under "product innovations."
In 2008, MIWE got off to a head start with heat recovery systems by introducing the MIWE eco:nova, a highly efficient system designed especially for bakehouses as it processes steam and flue gas separately. The super-efficient eco:nova converts large portions of the energy used for backing into hot water, which can be re-used for other applications.
This system is now a tried and tested component in many bakery installations, and MIWE has developed further systems to go alongside it, including the MIWE eco:box, a highly efficient flue gas heat exchanger, the MIWE eco:recover, which uses waste heat from compression refrigeration units, and the MIWE eco:freeze, an absorption refrigerator unit that can convert waste heat into refrigeration - a technological innovation that judges called "an outstanding new heat recovery solution" when they awarded the IBA trophy 2009.
Optimising energy efficiency in bakeries is a complex challenge, especially if the goal is not to compromise product quality and process reliability. For this reason, we offer all these components as part of a comprehensive energy consulting package, and never as out-of-the-box solutions. To begin with, MIWE offers the MIWE energy:check, a basic survey of the energy situation in the bakehouse. This check helps bakeries determine where they stand in terms of energy consumption and which measures will provide the most successful results in their specific situation. The questionnaire for the energy:check is available online and can be completed by any bakery.
For customers who want a more detailed and comprehensive assessment of all the energy-related data for their site, MIWE offers the MIWE energy:analysis using this analysis, MIWE proposes solutions for optimising energy efficiency in the bakery. If the bakery decides to implement the proposed solution, MIWE develops a comprehensive plan (energy:concept) and implements the entire project, including system installation and maintenance.
By establishing a new subsidiary in Italy and launching operations in France, where progress has been excellent right from the start, we have expanded our international presence and made significant headway in capturing these important neighbouring markets, which have vibrant cultures of baking. The Middle Eastern markets have also become another stable source of international sales. We are still keeping an eye on the Chinese market, but have no plans to capture it in the near future.
As always, MIWE is perfectly equipped for the changes happening in the world of baking. Conventional artisan bakeries, which are on the decline in German-speaking countries and already insignificant players in international markets, are now facing a huge challenges, including new demographic trends, dramatic changes in purchasing processes and eating habits, an increasingly important retail market for baked goods and a rise in gastronomic concepts for bakeries. Since MIWE's guiding principle is to be at home in every professional bakery, we offer tools, systems and concepts for success strategies that are tailored to every type of business, from artisan bakeries and chain stores to industrial manufacturers or restaurants with a wide array of business models.
The increasing internationalisation of the market for baking was also apparent in MIWE's interactions at the IBA 2009 trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany, where the quality and depth of expert discussions has improved dramatically and much larger numbers of delegates attended from a wider variety of countries around the world. As a result, MIWE has also showcased its products and services at numerous international trade shows such as Modern Bakery (Moscow, Russia), Bakepol (Kielce, Poland), Anuga (Cologne), Mobac (Osaka, Japan), Fooma (Tokyo, Japan), Salon de la Boulangerie (Paris, France), Internorga (Hamburg), Artoza (Athens, Greece), Gulfood (Dubai, UAE), Indagra (Bucarest, Romania), Broodway (Kortrijk, Belgium), ibex (Teheran, Iran) and Hofex (Hong Kong, China).
In addition to the products in the MIWE energy business division mentioned above, MIWE has introduced an array of other enhancements and product innovations.
The newly developed MIWE roll-in e+ rack oven was inspired by the MIWE energy concept. It is a well-known fact that energy conservation begins with efficient use of energy. With this principle in mind, MIWE developers made the MIWE roll-in rack oven even more energy-efficient than it already was, developing what may be the most economical baking oven in the world. At its core is an additional flue gas channel (patent pending) on the rear wall, where the steam bars are now located. As a result, the roll-in's already impressive combustion power has increased by about 5%, and its connected load has dropped from 85 to 70 kW. Air conduction has also been optimised so that the MIWE aircontrol now controls air circulation more efficiently with even finer adjustability.
Tests have shown that the baking chamber temperature can be set up to 15°C lower -- with exactly the same baking results. In total, the new oven saves up to 15% more energy than the previous model. There are also some positive side effects. The life span of the heat exchanger is improved and baking results are more even and remain stable even when the steam bars begin to show signs of calcification. In a very short time, the new baking oven has won over the hearts of bakers and become one of MIWE's top-selling, flagship products.
The new MIWE TC computer control system, previously used exclusively in baking ovens, has now been integrated into MIWE bakery refrigeration systems, bringing a whole array of significant improvements to baking professionals. Enhanced usability is only one of these new features. The new control system is much more efficient than its predecessor and therefore allows for more precise sensors and enables greater accuracy of measurement. As a result, temperature/humidity profiles can be controlled much more accurately than before.
The new energy package offered along with the new MIWE TC makes MIWE refrigeration systems even more precise when it comes to climate control. As a completely unique feature, bakers can precisely adjust the temperature difference between the evaporator and the room, the much-cited"Delta-T" value, to meet the specific requirements of the air-conditioning program or product. For example, a higher temperature difference can be set for flash freezing and a lower temperature difference for long-time dough methods. This can be done individually for each program section.
With this energy package, the refrigerating unit follows the defined setpoint curve exactly, without the slightest undershooting or overshooting.
This has two important effects. On the one hand, the evaporator always works with this control system in the optimum performance range. At the same time, because there is less strain on the unit, it uses less energy and will have a longer life span. Even more important is the effect on products: the lower the "Delta-T" between the evaporator and the room, the less moisture will be withdrawn from products. This withdrawal of moisture, however, is precisely the problem with many refrigerating units and is usually remedied with complicated air conduction techniques or inconvenient re-moistening methods.
This type of regenerative humidification is no longer necessary in systems with a MIWE TC and an energy package. The resulting improvement in quality is dramatic, a fact unanimously acknowledged by users everywhere. The MIWE TC also features a variety of processing modes: 8 process phases with up to 12 control parameters can be freely combined and used successively. In this way, all processing methods, both current and future, can be implemented with the greatest of ease. To our knowledge, no other system on the market currently offers so much flexibility. The MIWE TC is used wherever refrigeration technology can benefit from its strengths, meaning in all systems that scan temperature-humidity curves. Such systems include the MIWE GVA automatic proofing machine, the MIWE GV proofing retarder, the MIWE GUV proofing interruption unit and the MIWE SF flash freezer. Because of its completely new system technology, the MIWE TC is only available for new systems.
Another new addition to our product range is the MIWE thermo-static, our thermal oil trolley oven, which has undergone a complete overhaul and now outshines its predecessor in both details and overall performance. Here are just a few of the improvements to the MIWE thermo-static: flat, sanitary front surfaces, a control column for up to two ovens that can be freely positioned to the left or right of the baking chamber or anywhere in the room when controlled remotely; a door with an intelligent elevating mechanism and adjustable seal; a floor tub made of 316-grade stainless steel; a highly effective multi-therm insulation mat; a new, completely overhauled interior air conduction system with a two-stage turbo fan with on/off option for even more evenness and flexibility; the MIWE slide, an incredibly rugged mechanical loading aid for baking trolleys that comes as a standard feature with all 3-trolley versions or as an optional feature with the 2-trolley version. But the list doesn't stop there. An optional cool-down system allows the user to accelerate the drop in temperature, which is typically slow in these systems (the hot water gained from this process can be reused elsewhere for maximum cost-effectiveness). And finally, there's the new steam device, which features a rapid recovery time of 12 minutes and allows for steam-filled batch-after-batch baking. Thanks to its cartridge design, the steam device can be easily replaced whenever necessary, thereby minimising maintenance work.
In 2009, we began putting some real colour into our baking stations. The MIWE aero as well as the MIWE condo and the MIWE econo are now available in a wide variety of colours. The MIWE FreshFoodSystem has also been enhanced: the MIWE cube:air is now available in a 5-tray version, and we introduced a new system module called MIWE cube:fire for applications requiring high temperatures (e.g. baking pizza).
We are anticipating further stabilisation of our international markets and continued internationalisation of activities in 2010, though we also expect growth in the German-speaking markets to remain strong. We predict that the variety of improvement initiatives we have launched will begin to bear fruit in 2010. This will help us bring innovative ideas to market even faster, manufacture products more quickly and cost-effectively, and ultimately reinforce our position as a leader in the bakery sector.