Marking system helps processor track egg freshness.

The S.C.I. F.I. 3200 prints 30-day “sell-by” and packing information on pallets of Hidden Villa Ranch eggs. Source: Matthews International.
TIM LUBERSKI HAS A SIMPLE LIFE FORMULA: HAVE FUN, make money and do the right thing. As founder and president of Hidden Villa Ranch, the "right thing" has taken on different connotations through the years but nowhere is this philosophy more evident than in the importance the egg processor places on safety. Among other safety precautions, Hidden Villa Ranch was the first distributor in the U.S. with a salmonella testing program. So when the latest marking technology became available a few years ago, Hidden Villa tried it, hoping to eliminate the manual sticker system it used for dating its product.

With more than 4,320,000 eggs processed each week, Hidden Villa not only needs to mark its product quickly but also accurately since the dates affixed to each pallet are vital for traceability and freshness. Although the system they selected was faster than manually applying stickers, it didn't offer the efficiency Hidden Villa needed. "At the end of each day, we incurred a lot of downtime because we had to warm up the printer," says Ron Stevens, Hidden Villa Ranch's San Jacinto, CA, plant maintenance manager. To improve efficiency, Stevens and Ron Petersen, Hidden Villa's branch manager, evaluated other marking systems, eventually choosing Matthews International's Jet-a-Mark S.C.I. F.I. 3200 system. "We selected the system because it takes less than half the time as the previous equipment to start up, shut down, clean and maintain," says Petersen.

After the ranchers deliver the eggs, they are loaded on the egg processor, washed and rinsed with a chlorine solution, dried in a blower, and examined for defects, which are removed by hand. A detector, which operates by sound, further checks for defective eggs and afterwards the eggs are weighed. The eggs are then conveyed into bins and packed into 20 or 60-egg pallets. The S.C.I. F.I. 3200 system marks the pallets with the appropriate "packing" and "sell by" dates and the eggs are shipped by truck to grocery stores, restaurants and warehouses. Approximately 90 percent of the company's eggs go to local outlets in Southern California while the remaining 10 percent go to Asia and elsewhere in the U.S.

The equipment change is already helping to improve operations at Hidden Villa Ranch. "We have approximately 50 percent fewer maintenance issues because the 3200 print head doesn't clog," says Stevens. "This gives us more time for marking." The print size on the unit can also be varied from 1/8-in. to 13/16-in. as needed and the ink used in the system costs the ranch less than the previous unit. "We can add bar code marks too, although we don't currently use them," continues Stevens. "But I really like the fact that it's simple to use. We can turn it on and off with one button."

For more information:
Michelle Spaulding, Matthews International, 412-664-2488