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The case of the slippery suckers

Article-The case of the slippery suckers

The case of the slippery suckers
How do your suction cups look? And how well do they work?

The door opened, and in walked Chris. “Wassup, Chris?” I called out. “Come in and tell me about it. I know you are not here for my coffee.”

“Nope. I’ve got a problem in my cartoner. The cartons keep jamming. They seem to pick out of the magazine OK but then jam going into the pocket. I can’t see what is knocking them out of position.”

“Let’s go take a look,” I told him.

Later that day, we were at the machine and every couple of minutes a carton would slip out of position, causing a jam. They would lose a minute or two of production each time. Over the course of the day, they were probably losing 20 to 30 minutes, which adds up to two to three weeks a year.

“Fortunately, it is an easy problem to solve,” I said. “Look at these suction cups or suckers that pull the carton into the pocket.”

Chris looked and opined that they looked OK to him.

“Fiddlesticks on slippery suckers,” I told him. “Look closer. See how the edge is feathered? See this small nick in the edge? It doesn’t take much of an air leak to prevent the suckers from gripping positively. Suckers need to be checked every day and replaced at the first sign of wear. Running them till they have big, obvious, wear is a recipe for problems.”

New suckers cost a couple dollars to buy. Worn suckers cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to run. Don't be a sucker yourself, replace them now.

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

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