The case of the crumpled corners

KC Boxbottom in Case Packing Machinery on May 17, 2012

Damaged corrugated carton

It was a case packer the party on the other line was calling about and needed me to fix, pronto.

When I got there, Tim, the line supervisor, showed me the problem. They were side- loading 12 large cartons into a corrugated case. Cartons were stacked two wide by three high, then pushed into the case.

“When we push the cartons, four gates are supposed to guide them in smoothly,” Tim explained. “Many times, the corner of a carton hits the case as it goes in. Sometimes this is serious enough that it causes a jam. Too often the crumpled corner is not found until the customer grabs it off the supermarket shelf. “It feels like some days our mechanic spends all her time adjusting the gates and we still have the problem.”

“Stop the line,” I told him.

With the line came to a halt and the case packer locked and tagged out, I reached in and gave the gate a shake. It was just as I had feared.

“Fiddlesticks on adjusting the gate!” I told Tim. “Your mechanic is chasing butterflies she’ll never catch. All you are doing is wasting her time.”

I showed Tim how I could move the gates about half an inch. “See all that play? There shouldn’t be any. You can see the wear on the shafts. The bearings are probably bad as well. Replace them all to eliminate the play. Then set the gates properly and you will have no more problems.”

Cutting corners on maintenance was giving them crumpled corners on cartons.


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].

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I can’t tell you how many times I go to grab a box of (whatever) off a shelf and I have to sift through a few of them until I find one that I deam ‘not damaged’. Great advice and now the mechanic can spend her time on more important things in their shop.