Grading facility puts its eggs in the Rotamec basket

When shopping at the supermarket or eating at a restaurant, you want to be assured that your food has undergone proper quality checks. These checks can be quite the challenge for a foodstuff as delicate as eggs. Grading eggs is a specialty of grading facilities, which quality check eggs from nearby prior to distribution. One such facility operates a wide array of specialist equipment on-site and trusts Rotamec, an electro-mechanical engineering service provider, to deliver repairs and source spares.

Eggs are a staple food for many of us, which means that there is a high level of demand for the produce irrespective of season. Consumers will only settle for quality produce, so grading facilities assesses each egg that reaches its processing lines from partnered farms before packaging. By checking for any imperfection with specialist equipment, grading ensures every egg is in optimum condition before it is packaged and delivered to customers. With millions of eggs passing through grading facilities each year, keeping specialised equipment running is especially important in helping shops meet the demand.

However, the more specialised your equipment, the harder it is to repair or replace parts in the event of a failure. Lead times from OEM’s are often unforgiving, which in the pressurised world of food supply adds further stress to operators. For one grading facility, keeping the machines running and eggs moving demands the assurance of a dynamic service provider, which is where Rotamec – a leading service provider for engineered equipment – comes in.

Reducing downtime via responsive maintenance is very important to this facility, as Darryl Beecham, Business Development Executive at Rotamec explains:

“We have to react quickly to minimise downtime. For example, the customer required a double-sided open length timing belt to keep a conveyor operational after a failure of the OE part. The cost of downtime on this machine is around £3,000 an hour, so lead time was all important. In this case the maintenance team decided to order two parts, one from us and one from the OEM, to maximise their chances of getting the machine back up and running the same day.

“We were able to deliver the belt in 2 hours, while the OEM took 6 hours. Ours was installed and the OEM item added to spares. All in all, we managed to save them roughly £12,000 in downtime costs.”

The egg grading facility operates varied motors and gearboxes, reliable supply of a wide range of standard parts from a single supplier is important in keeping equipment running. Thanks to existing warehouse stock and in-house distribution capabilities, Rotamec is able to deliver standard parts quickly – typically same day if required. Further, its in-house machining capabilities mean that bespoke items such as shafts in various bore sizes can be easily produced too. Specialising in motor repair and refurbishment helps as well, with Rotamec able to offer 24-hour turnarounds on motors and gearboxes. So, despite different configurations and equipment throughout the site, Rotamec can still offer reduced repair and sourcing lead times.

This customer does present specific challenges though, as Darryl reiterates: “One repair job required us to source specialist foam material that cushions the eggs during grading. The egg comes through to a sensor, where it taps against the foam, which detects any hairline cracks as part of the quality control process. Improper foam will crack the egg, so only an exact solution will do. Th grading facility required replacement foam for the machine, but the OEM lead time was going to take too long, so we were approached. It was a bit different from the mechanical issues we typically deal with, but we managed to source the foam within the required timeframe.”

Both the grading facility and Rotamec understand that reducing downtime is one thing, but preventing it is another. This is why engineers from both businesses are building redundancy into maintenance and repair operations. By undertaking asset inspections and identifying ‘showstoppers’ – equipment that risks overall uptime if it fails – the engineers are prioritising maintenance to focus on the most critical assets. Rotamec has also enacted a policy of ordering spares from relevant OEMs during each repair, ensuring maintenance work is backed by a growing spares inventory.

Familiarity with the customer is also beneficial, Darryl relates: “We’ve been working with this facility for 9 years, so we are well acquainted with the site and its equipment. This is especially important in understanding what is required for such specialised and varied assets.”

By combining rapid repairs with high speed sourcing – Rotamec is able to keep pace with the multitude of requirements to keep the egg grading facility’s equipment running reliably. By working together to tailor inventory and identify critical equipment – maintenance is also being streamlined. When every lost hour can cost thousands of pounds, a dynamic maintenance service partner can ensure operators in the food industry needn’t play chicken with downtime.

[Image Source: istock – Chalabala]

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