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The case of the tipsy bottles

She had a hat pulled low as if ashamed to be recognized and had a gin bottle in her hand. I knew her, of course. She was the bottling plant superintendent at a large distillery.

“Hi, Ginny. I don’t know what is wrong but I do know that the bottle is not the solution.”

“No, KC, the bottle is the problem.” she replied.

It was a special commemorative bottle. She first saw it when 50,000 cases hit her dock.

I could see the problem. It had an inverse taper, smaller at the bottom than the top. They would have been fine had there been a line screw to keep them separated. There wasn’t and, as soon as three or four bottles accumulated, they would start knocking each other over.

It looked like an impossible situation. I saw no good way to run them short of an expensive line makeover taking months.

“Crikey, Ginny. This is beyond even my abilities. The underlying problem is that the package designers don’t understand the plant capabilities. The true solution is earlier and better communication between designers and producers before any new design is finalized. This is not the first time I’ve seen lack of communication cause production problems.

“That doesn’t help you now. You have to run these bottles somehow,” I told her. “I recommend that you hire some temporary workers and station them all along the line to keep them from falling over.”

Bottles like this are why I stick to coffee.

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 Changeover.com, 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 johnhenry@changeover.com.

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