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Key Technology Introduces Automated Grading System

Image courtesy of Key Technology Inc. Grading_System_KEY_TECHNOLOGY.jpg
New automated grading system automatically removes defective green beans and foreign material.

Key Technology introduces a new automated grading system for fresh green beans. This turnkey solution automatically removes defective green beans and foreign material (FM), while also separating green beans in clusters or with attached stems and then directing them for further processing.

This integrated grading solution, consisting of Key’s Iso-Flo vibratory and rotary separation equipment combined with a Veryx digital sorter, reduces labor requirements, increases throughput, and achieves consistent product quality, even during times of high incoming defect rates.

“Prior to this development, most fresh pack green bean lines had to rely extensively on manual labor, which is expensive, hard to find and often unreliable – packers need a better option,” said Jeff Nielsen, area sales manager at Key. “With our new automated grading system, customers are able to reduce the number of manual graders by up to 70%. Additionally, the system’s high throughput achieves faster grading and packing, handling the same number of loads in a shorter period of time to create a shorter workday or work week for the entire packing house. This enables the grower to harvest and pack ahead of incoming adverse weather conditions that can destroy his crops and lower his pack-out rates.”

This automated grading system removes product with defects such as tip rot, wind scars, and wormhole damage, as well as a wide range of FM including rocks, insects and animal parts, glass, metal, cardboard, corn cobs and roots, cotton stalks, peanuts, and more. The Iso-Flo vibratory feed shakers ensure good product spread, while the rotary separator removes small particles and small FM. The Veryx digital sorter separates incoming product into three streams. The ‘accept’ stream sends good green beans with no clusters or stems on to final inspection and packaging. A second sort stream is dedicated to green beans in clusters or with attached stems, which are directed for further processing to recover more good beans. A third sort stream collects green beans with defects and FM, which go to waste.

“With manual packing, packers must staff their grading lines for the highest incoming defect rates,” said Nielsen. “When defect rates spike, it causes ‘per box’ costs to increase, supply to tighten, prices to go up, and the hourly throughput to drop to a crawl. Key’s integrated solution including Veryx flips this scenario – the packer maintains higher throughput rates with less labor for a lower ‘per box’ cost and greater ‘per box’ profit. The impact on profitability as well as quality of life for operators, managers and employees is impressive. The resulting shorter work days reduce worker fatigue, accidents and preventative maintenance. Packers often tell me that, for the first time in their lives, they feel like they have control over what they’re sending to their customers.”

Veryx is equipped with powerful information analytics software that collects data about every object flowing through the sorter. The segmented data can be used to profile incoming field loads in terms of its quality and defect rates. These quality profiles can be used to manage payment plans for growers. Insight into the product condition of individual loads is also valuable for understanding the impact of various field locations and growing practices on the quality of the green beans that come into the line for packing.  

Inspecting the product entirely in air, the belt-fed Veryx sorter is ideal for products with challenging shapes like green beans. The sorter’s LED lighting system is designed to minimize shadows for accurate inspection of each green bean and detection of stems, product clusters, and any defects that may appear on the surface of the bean. Positioning the inspection sensors away from product splatter sustains accurate inspection throughout long production cycles. Veryx is designed to run unattended during normal operation.

Key Technology Inc., Walla Walla, WA 509-529-2161 www.key.net

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