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Individual egg handling
Moba egg graders are packed with technology. Some designs are worth further investigation as they represent crucial customer value. In this series of articles, we will be zooming in on these "hidden gems." This time, we are focusing on an aspect you can almost call "Moba's signature", our individual egg handling.
"The Gentle Touch"
Since egg grading began, there have always been two methods to combine random incoming eggs into trays and consumer packs. In all graders produced by all manufacturers, eggs are weighed, examined and graded — always using an infeed roller conveyor and some kind of transport and release mechanism to group eggs together based on weight and other quality aspects. After releasing the eggs into one "category", there are two methods for further handling:
1) Reservoir function
In this method, the eggs are released onto a conveyor where they can randomly move around. The accumulation and orientation of the eggs take place after this conveyor. Once a row of six eggs (or five, depending on the pack type) is completed, it is handled further and packed into the tray or consumer pack.
Schematic overview of the reservoir-based packer technology
The advantage of this method is that the grading and packing processes are to a large extent decoupled. There comes a time when the reservoir is full, but until that moment the grading process above in the machine does not have to interact with the packing process down on the packing lane. This results in a fairly simple process.
However, the disadvantages are massive: First of all, eggs fall randomly, so something soft is needed to catch the eggs and guide them onto a conveyor belt. In almost all graders, brushes are used, which are known to harbor dirt and bacterial growth, touching all consecutive eggs. Secondly, accumulation takes place in the reservoir. Eggs touch and collide with each other and this results in additional egg damage. Thirdly, surfaces are scrubbed and carefully applied hygiene measures such as upstream UV treatment are nullified. Last but not least, a balance must be found between fewer eggs in the reservoir, resulting in less damage but reducing efficiency and allowing more eggs in the reservoir, resulting in higher efficiency but more damaged eggs. This makes the reservoir method inferior, particularly from a food safety perspective, because when an egg breaks, dozens of other eggs are contaminated.
2) Individual egg handling
Individual egg handling means that once an egg is processed individually, the grader does not let go of this single egg. It will not touch other eggs during the whole process. This creates a technical challenge since at any given moment the egg will occupy a discrete position in the egg grader, so the grading and packing processes must be perfectly aligned.
Because the bell curve in the egg weight distributions input and output of a grader is per definition not in sync, this system will occasionally result in an "unplaceable" egg, an egg that you would like to place on a certain packing lane, but there is simply no empty spot available at that particular moment. A reservoir can be constructed in such a way that you can push the limits to include one extra egg, but with individual egg handling it is either possible or it is not, black or white, there is no gray area to simplify the algorithms. This is the only disadvantage of this system, but Moba has over 50 years of experience coping with this technical challenge.
The extra technical demand of individual egg handling is massively outweighed by the enormous advantages. Moba invented this method in the 1970s and since then always considered this the only plausible way to handle eggs. There are multiple ways in which this system has an advantage:
- Food safety & Hygiene
- No contaminating the brushes
- No eggs touching, preventing cross-contamination
- Maximizing the effect of UV surface disinfection
- Fewer cracks and damaged eggs
- Since the content of each consumer pack is controlled, the quality of the eggs per pack can not only be monitored but also controlled
- Since the content of each consumer pack is controlled, the total weight of a consumer pack can be controlled
- Combined with Moba's product-oriented programming, the grader can determine at any moment if a certain egg fits in any of the consumer packs currently being filled based on the full content. This maximizes the use of all incoming eggs resulting in a higher Grade A%.
- Product and egg type changes are quick to do, since there is no reservoir that needs emptying manually.
- A product can also consist of, for example, a total pack weight or mixed weights with a certain guaranteed minimum pack weight. All these functions enable customers to make use of every incoming egg, again increasing Grade A%.
- Traceability & Information
- In a reservoir, eggs from different suppliers can easily mix and a 100% guarantee is simply impossible. With individual egg handling the position of every egg is known, so traceability is 100% accurate.
- Since the content of each consumer pack is known, details about the product can be printed on the pack with 100% accuracy, such as the total egg weight, origin of eggs or information related to the laying date, such as best before dates.
The industry is changing
Slowly but surely the egg industry is adopting the concept of individual egg handling as the only correct way to handle eggs. The food safety factor is key to this change, but egg losses resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands dollars per year are also convincing. Almost all egg grader manufacturers worldwide provide this technology, but even today, many old-style machine types are still sold.
Moba has perfected the functions and possibilities of individual egg grading in every machine generation developed since its invention, from economical smaller graders up to the highest capacity Omnia's. A complete software suite is available to monetize all the benefits of this technology and Moba is on a mission to keep pushing the benefits of this technology even further!!
Interested in more details? Contact your local sales representative and find out what Moba's gentle touch can do for you.