Four storeys on a floor space of 1,000 m²: After five years of planning and a construction phase of three years, the long-anticipated move into the new IREKS Technical Centre took place in July 2022. To mark this occasion, Dr Thomas Kunte, Director of Research & Development at IREKS GmbH, and Gudrun Weber, Research & Development – Organisation at IREKS GmbH, give us an initial insight into the new world of microbiology, ultra trace analysis as well as sensory analysis and explain which possibilities the Technical Centre offers.
Dr Kunte, why was the IREKS Technical Centre built? The IREKS IQ Centre exists already, where everything revolves around Innovation & Quality.
Dr Thomas Kunte: In the IREKS IQ Centre, tests for quality and baking tests, which we can carry out properly in the extended and modern premises of the new Technical Centre, are the main priority. But the Research Technical Centre makes it possible for us, above all, to optimize the refinement of our field crop plants and to try out completely new processes to launch unique and innovative products onto the market which can be used to manufacture baked goods with an unmistakable aroma. In this way, we carry out tests and examinations along the whole value added chain “from farm to fork” for our customers in our Innovation and Quality Centre.
To be quite specific: What are the possibilities which have opened up as a result of the new Technical Centre?
Dr Thomas Kunte: Unique within the sector is our ultra trace analysis laboratory, where tests with a value of 2.5 million euros are carried out every year and which has now been extended once again. To have this competence in our company is a decisive advantage, as, in this way, we can carry out safety-relevant tests on our raw material and products quickly and at frequent intervals and recognize possible problems with the raw materials much faster, i.e. before they are used in our Production Department and not only when the products have arrived at the premises of our customers. Also making a contribution to this is our newest analysis equipment which, due to the space gained, could now be acquired. In this way, for example, we can detect more than 200 pesticides at the same time with only one reading or determine traces of wheat in spelt flour by using a completely new method (digital PCR) – the latter being an absolute unique selling point.
Gudrun Weber:But there is not only new analysis equipment available in the IREKS Technical Centre, but also mainly premises by means of which an even greater connection between the Production section and the laboratory is created. The centrepiece of the Technical Centre is the Research Technical Centre, which provides scope to carry out important test series to refine our raw materials (e.g. fermenting, malting, drying or heating). We could previously only conduct tests in the IQ Centre on a very small scale or in the Production section on a very large scale. We can now set up a small roasting installation as well as an extruder in the new Technical Centre, for example. And: Together with our customers, we can test special installations.
This means that our customers are not only benefiting from a comprehensive analysis and your know-how, but can also really do things in practice there?
Gudrun Weber: Exactly! Together with them, we can develop quite individual products which match their portfolio and their production installations.
That sounds exciting, as if this is a really promising investment. How is the construction of the new Technical Centre consistent with the investment and installation strategy of IREKS?
Dr Thomas Kunte:Of course, an investment of this kind involves high costs – in this case, a figure going into tens of millions. But with the construction of the Technical Centre, an investment has been made for the future. The new Technical Centre provides IREKS with all the prerequisites to be able to react to changes in the market at an early stage and to be able to advance the development of new, innovative and, above all, reliable products without any limitations in the coming years.