The case of the tipsy bottles

By KC Boxbottom in Container Handling on August 08, 2011

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, 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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Reverse taper bottles are becoming more common in the sprits world. The wine industry has had this type of bottle for sometime now and one way to help keep these bottles upright during conveyance is by reducing the friction between bottom of bottle and conveying surface as well as the guide rail surface. To discuss further please feel free to contact me at 262-347-1909
Thanks for all the comments Mary: Yes, the Infinity would accumulate the bottles just fine but buffer accumulation was not an issue. There was none. The problem was as the bottles accumulated at the infeeds of the filler, capper etc. Here they need to be single file on a conveyor with some back pressure. Coaster- What you are suggesting is common in cosmetics where the bottles are often very unstable. Instead of a disk, it is a cup called a "puck" into which the bottles are placed. See here for more info www statemfg com Bob - Tapered bottles are attractive. Properly designed, they can run quite well. As you note, plenty of slip on the conveyor as well as minimal accumulation can allow them to run on a standard line. It may take lubrication and special chain, though. Or, a line can be designed with a line screw to keep the bottles isolated from each other. Tapered bottles can run well but it may require some redesign of the line. The real problem here was that the designers and the packaging plant did not talk to each other. In this case they redesigned the bottle with a bumper ring around the base. This preserves the taper appearance but allows them to run on existing equipment as if they were straight sided. KC Boxbottom A/K/A John Henry
can the bottles be places on a round riid disk that is equal or slightly larger than the max bottle diameter. the disks would have to be hand placed and recovered but they would prevent bumping nad tipping
Frankly I think that’s asbolutley good stuff.
most logical solution would be just to drink the 50,000 bottles
The answer is the Garvey Infinity Accumulator. This accumulator has been running reverse tapered bottles for years in the wine industry. No back pressure and they won’t fall over. This machine can send your reverse tapered bottles out single file or in multiple lanes if needed.
Wheoevr edits and publishes these articles really knows what they’re doing.