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The case of the funky photoeye

The call came while I was relaxing with the latest Packaging Digest and a cup of 100-mile coffee.

It was Sandy and she was having a problem with her filler. Sometimes bottles would stop under the nozzles. Sometimes they wouldn’t. It sounded like it would be either fairly simple to fix or really hard.

Other commitments prevented me from going to the plant so we figured we would try some assistance from a distance.

Sandy set up a webcam so I could watch the filler from my laptop. While watching, Sandy and I were also talking via Skype.

The slug of four bottles would cycle under the nozzles. The photoeye was supposed to activate a stop when the leading bottle was in position for filling.

Several cycles stopped normally. Then a slug came through without stopping. Another dozen or cycles and it happened again.

“Sandy,” I asked, “Can you position the camera so I can see the back of the photoeye? I want to see the indicator light.”

Sure enough the next time a slug passed through the light did not go on.

“Fiddlesticks on sloppy sensing,” I told Sandy. “I’ll bet your photoeye is dirty.”

Sandy checked and some product had spilled on the lens causing erratic operation. After a quick swipe with a damp cloth everything was back to normal.

I like this distant assistance thing. My 100-mile coffee never would have lasted the 200 miles to Sandy’s plant.

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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