What are the current challenges Lantmännen Unibake faces as second largest bakery group in Europe? How does Lantmännen Unibake rise to these challenges? Bart De Coninck, COO for the group, organized an inspiring networking event at Living Tomorrow (Vilvoorde) for Agoria's Food & Beverage Technology Club last Monday.
Lantmännen Unibake is, with a total of thirty-five production sites in fifteen countries, the second largest bakery group in Europe. The parent company is established in Copenhagen. In March 2018 the Belgian branch, Bread Valley Londerzeel, was awarded the prestigious 'Factory of the Future' title.
Innovating to stimulate growth
Food producers such as Lantmännen Unibake are challenged by the growing world population to keep increasing their productivity. This requires significant changes in the supply chain and production processes. "The first production line producing industrial baguettes was in Londerzeel. Twenty years ago, this was a major innovation for both ourselves and the market in general. We have not stopped innovating since. At the time the production was about 800 kilogram per hour, nowadays we produce 5 tonnes an hour," says Bart De Coninck.
"As a company you have to try to combine an extremely high output with a high demand in individualized products." This forms the basis of the challenge, for both Lantmännen Unibake and their suppliers, in order to realize a mature company. "The bakery industry is lagging behind when compared to, for example, the brewing industry. The breweries also developed along the same lines, from small breweries to automation. We are at the start of this phase and need to undergo the consolidation process," he says.
Organization of global food production
Lantmännen Unibake has grown organically for many years. "In 2015 we took over the Finnish Fazer bakery group in which we invested heavily for the last two years. In 2017 we also bought a fast food bakery and a small bakery in Sweden. We grew significantly through acquisition, but we pay attention to the integration. We move slowly, with respect for the various countries and companies," says Bart.
Standardization of the various production sites becomes more relevant in a globalized food industry, but it is not easy to realize. "Our group has 35 separate factories. This includes new and old production lines. The challenge is to adapt modern technology, from the perspective of Industry 4.0, to the older production lines."
Asset strategy for a new bakery landscape
Bart De Coninck also explained Lantmännen Unibake's asset strategy, which aims to systematically change the future bakery landscape. This requires investments to be and remain cost-competitive and to decrease the complexity throughout the 101 production lines.
"In 2015 Lantmännen Unibake acquired the Finnish bakery group Fazer. Alongside the operations effort (digitisation, automation and production speed increase) we launched a new product in Finland. We also invested in Poland, in a green field, which produces 60,000 buns an hour," Bart informs us. The group also invested in Russia, against the flow of other companies that were leaving the country. "We built a new freezer warehouse at our Russian site, to support further development."
The asset strategy did not include the burning down of our Londerzeel factory in 2015. "Just before the fire we build an automated freezer warehouse, which was launched in May 2015. We rebuilt the site based on a completely new vision. The objective was to have four new bread lines. The first production line started production a little over a year after the fire. The other three production lines will follow in due course."
Energy efficiency 'from field to fork'
Food production not only requires large quantities of raw materials but is also energy intensive. "Sustainability is one of our main objectives. Our products are based on agricultural products and agriculture is one of the main polluters in terms of CO₂ emission. We invest in R&D to develop products that have a lower impact on the environment from field to fork," says Bart.
The group defined a number of goals which are followed up meticulously. "We want to decrease our CO₂ emission by 40% by 2020," says Bart. We have invested in a system to monitor energy consumption at the factories at various locations. This data allows us to define specific activities to reduce energy consumption. "We also focus on the daily energy consumption, implementing relatively easy changes such as LED lighting and transport optimisation. In Scandinavia we have already switched to 100% green energy," states Bart. "All energy is supplied water and wind energy sources. Meanwhile in Belgium we still have to purchase green certificates. We have to implement changes here but cannot do this without the cooperation of the government."
"The Client Seminar of the Agoria Food & Beverage Technology Club delivered our COO, Operation Director & Corporate Engineer, valuable insights and contacts to innovative companies in the area of food processing technologies. The presented companies were well-aligned to our interests and challenges. Through the discussions we identified several concrete possibilities for cooperation that we will explore by setting up test cases and try-outs. We recommend the work of the Agoria Food&Beverage Technology Club and are looking forward to their future projects."
Bart De Coninck, Chief Operation Officer
Hendrik Decock, Cluster Operation Director
Tom Ossieur, Corporate Engineering Manager