I know this is a broken record from me, but my work came in like a tsunami and swept away my daily life once again. I have a list of blogging friends saved in my web browser favorites. A few weeks ago, I was about half way through that list, as I visited my friend’s spaces and enjoyed what they had to share and then making comments to their (your) blogs. That’s when I discovered the mountainous wave of work problems sweeping toward me, causing me to abandon my family life, computer, sleep, religious life, and everything else but trying to survive the flood of work problems which I am required to do to provide for my family.
A work problem snowballs very quickly here. The type of processing plant I manage is one where if we have a problem with anything in the processing side of the business, our producing side won’t stop and wait for us to do what we have to do to get things going again. It’s like a wreck on the busy city freeway system during rush hour, where the cars just continue to back up and jam behind the original problem. Every time this happens in my processing plant, where a million eggs a day flow through the process and out to consumers, I think of the old comedy “I love Lucy” where Lucille Ball is working on the chocolate candy assembly line, wrapping the candies as they pass by her on the conveyor belt. The chocolates come faster and faster until she is frantically trying to keep up by eating some of them, stuffing them in her pockets and throwing them in the air.
Well, this latest breakdown was a real bugger to fix. Our egg grading and packing process is amazingly automated where the million eggs a day are never handled by human hands. They are gathered, washed, dried, candled, graded, packed, and boxed all by machines. The electronic technology in this process is amazing. Computers control the speed to the belts which carry the eggs. Computers identify each egg as they leave the washing and drying stage of the process and enter the candling phase. Through electronics, our machines can see a dirty egg that needs to be sent back to the washer, and send it there. Our crack detectors can find and remove any egg with the slightest crack in the shell, even those imperceptible to the human eye. The accuracy of the twelve scales which weighs those million eggs a day is accurate to one tenth of a gram. Packing machines place the eggs, small end down to preserve quality, into the many different types of packaging material and then those machines code date and close the pack before sending it to the caser where they are place with robot precision into the shipping carton. These boxes are sent down another conveyor though taping machines before being palletized and loaded onto the trucks for delivery into the human food chain.
When running well, our processing plant can pack about 140,000 eggs per hour. That works out to just over 7 hours a day to do the job. But with all these electronics, when something goes wrong, it can be a nightmare to find and fix. There are many computers working together to make this process work as I have very briefly described it. Besides the many PC’s, there are literally hundreds of electronic circuit boards, even more sensors, hundreds of feet of special shielded computer cables, and miles and miles of wiring, relays, servo motors, and the list goes on.
Sometimes when the process breaks down, it is hard to find a fix the problem. It could be something as simple as a single wire shorted or a sensor malfunctioning. But which one? Often there are thousands of possibilities… tens of thousands. And the whole time we are working on the problem, those eggs are backing up like that freeway traffic jam.
Two weeks ago, the day after taking a day to go up and play in the snow with my Beautiful Wife, this marvelous machine of modern technology became an unending night mare of torture and misery. It took us two full days and nights to find and fix the problem. The residual problems of over loaded egg belts and related problems kept me at work almost continually for the next two weeks.
I’m home today, away from the processing plant for the first whole day since that little ski trip I took with my Beautiful wife. I’ve enjoyed my family immensely today. Things are good at work again. And my day of rest has been heaven sent.
This is not the next story I wanted to tell, though it’s closely related. But first I want to go back and catch up with all my friends. That will take a day or two… I’ve got at least two weeks to catch up on… for some of you it’s been even longer.
Life is good again.