Packaging Digest is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The case of the crooked cartons

Article-The case of the crooked cartons

Tommy called me with a problem.


“Our cartoning machine won’t stay in adjustment,” he confided. “Some days it is so bad that I have to keep a mechanic babysitting it. I need your help ASAP-get off your duff and get here!”

I moved quickly and soon had eyes on the machine. Tommy and I watched for just a few minutes. Sure enough, it jammed. It appeared that the carrier pockets had closed up slightly. We watched for a few minutes more and they went out the other way, opening up and causing a different type of jam.

I took a random sampling of carton blanks from the infeed and stacked them one on top of the other. The problem was obvious.

“Fiddlesticks on cartoners not staying adjusted” I roared over the plant noise.

I showed him the stack: “Here’s your problem. You are getting variation in the width of the carton blank. If you look at the manufacturer’s joint, you will see that it not only varies, it is often not square. No amount of cartoner adjustment will compensate for variable cartons.”

Tommy’s plant brought cartons in as flats and folded and glued them in-plant. The folder/gluer was worn with lots of play. It’s a problem I have seen before. The line may get maintenance attention but at the expense of ancillary equipment.

“Rebuild the folder/gluer so that it runs consistently and your cartoner problems will go away.” And that was my final answer.

Quality without maintenance is not possible.

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.