Meet a miller

A day in the life of a … flour miller

Flour millers play an integral role in keeping the nation fed and healthy. Bread provides 11% of the protein, fibre and folate in our diet as well as almost 20% of the fibre we consume.  And more people in the UK buy bread than any other product – even loo roll! A whopping 99% of GB households buy bread.

So, what does a flour miller do each day to create the flour to make your bread? Dan Lister is Head Miller at a mill in Worksop, Notts. He lives in Yorkshire with his wife and three daughters. He loves his job so much that he describes a trip to the USA, visiting flour milling facilities, as the highlight of his working life. Here he tells us more about his working day and career so far.

What time do you wake up?

I used to work shifts in the mill, back then It was 5am or earlier. I’m currently Head Miller which for the most part is working through the day, so I now get up at 6am.

What do you have for breakfast?

Generally I eat porridge for breakfast but also love a bit of toast.

What's the first thing you do when you get to work? 

Our mills run through the night, and my first job in the morning is to check that there haven’t been any problems, and if there have, I put a plan in place on how to resolve these issues and re-optimise production asap.

What skills do you need for your job?

An important skill is the ability to prioritise multiple issues and keep a clear head when things aren’t going according to plan.  There are often several things needing attention at once so it’s important to be able to manage and prioritise competing demands.  And having a solid knowledge of the intricacies of the mill and all the machinery within it helps a great deal with complex decision making.

To help with this I   have  completed a wide-range of learning programmes to keep myself up-to-date: from all seven flour milling correspondence courses to the advanced milling diploma programme. This involved time at a food and drink research centre to study the science behind flour milling; and a week in Switzerland refining my understanding of the flour milling process. The advanced milling diploma was extremely challenging so I was very pleased when I found out I had successfully completed the programme. I’ve also travelled to Germany to attend the annual milling technology convention which gives good insight into the future direction and innovation of the industry. I’ve also been fortunate enough to spend 16 days in the USA visiting several milling facilities. This was a fascinating couple of weeks that I will never forget and the experience was certainly the highlight of my milling career so far.

What's the best (and worst) thing about your job?

dan-lister-family_0.JPGThe best thing about my job is the satisfaction I get from setting up each individual piece of wheat cleaning and milling equipment to its performance optimum and then seeing the results. It’s a great feeling when you know that every piece of equipment is set up correctly, that the individual parts are working in harmony to bring the balance of the mill as a whole unit to its optimum performance in terms of extraction, throughput, reliability and finished product quality. I cannot think of the worst thing? In 22 years of working in the milling industry I can honestly say that I have never had a boring day. 

What question do you always get asked?

This may sound strange but when I tell people that I’m a flour miller I always get asked what type of bread I make! Then I have to explain that I’m a miller not a baker, its sometimes as if people think that milling was something that used to be done in ‘the olden days’ and doesn’t happen anymore. It’s surprising how many people buy bread and other wheat-based products from the supermarket and never really think about the journey or process the product went through to get from a field to a shelf.

What do you most want to tell people about your job?

I am proud to be a flour miller. Flour milling has advanced into a modern and progressive industry and the future looks bright. Plus the product that we produce – flour – plays such a vital role in keeping the nation healthy. Not a lot of people know this but flour contains protein, calcium, fibre, B vitamins, zinc iron and folate. All of which are essential for good health. So in a way, flour is a health-food product!

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