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The case of the occupancy control

Article-The case of the occupancy control

The case of the occupancy control
Sometimes the best solution is the easiest solution, as KC Boxbottom demonstrates once again with his tag idea to control how many people can enter a packaging cleanroom.

Al called with an odd problem. "I know this will sound weird but I am having trouble controlling room occupancy. It's an aseptic process, and we can never have more than 14 people in the room at once."

"I love weird problems because they are fun problems Al, you know that. Let me come over and eyeball this one."

The next day I was in the plant. We gowned up and observed people going in and out of the room. The problem was not so much the eight operators. They entered in the morning and pretty much stayed. During the course of production, however, there would be quality inspectors coming to collect samples, mechanics coming to make adjustments or repairs, the supervisor checking up and visitors like me. There was no way to keep track of the traffic and make sure the maximum number wasn't exceeded.

I saw the problem right away but I also saw the solution. "Fiddlesticks on occupancy control. One word, Al: plastic.

"Make up 14 plastic tags, about 2x4x1/8-inch. Place all 14 in a rack outside the room. When anyone goes in the room, they grab a tag and place it in another rack inside. No cards in the outside rack means the room is full and they have to wait until someone exits. Make the tags for this room red, the next room blue and so on to prevent mix-ups." 

Simple solutions are usually best. Highly visual is a bonus.

Known as the Changeover Wizard, John R. Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He has written the book, literally, on packaging machinery ( and is the face and personality behind packaging detective KC Boxbottom, the main character in Adventures in Packaging, a popular blog on


See a host of new ideas to optimize packaging production at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City.

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