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The case of the vanishing vision

“Hey KC!” It was Jorge on the phone, and he sounded like he had a problem.

“Hey, yourself! What’s up, Jorge?”

“The vision system on our labeler worked fine yesterday. Today, it is rejecting a lot of labels for bad lot/date codes. The problem is that the codes are good. Like I said, it was working fine yesterday, but now it’s not and I don’t know why”

My standard first question: “What changed, Jorge?”

“We are running a new product but it is in the same bottle as other products and the label is identical. So, nothing really.

“Sounds like I need to apply some of my vision to your system,” I said. “I’ll be there in a bit.” I grabbed my hat and trenchcoat, and walked out the door.

When I arrived, Jorge and I went through the setup. Everything seemed normal. We checked out the printer and found nothing amiss. In short, neither Jorge nor I could find any reason for the system to be rejecting good codes.

I was fondling a bottle when I noticed something off about the label. I asked for a sample of another label that they had not had problems with. Comparing the two under magnification, the problem was obvious.

“Fiddlesticks on vision problems! The label is the problem. The new label uses a darker ink and screens it to make it look lighter. This pattern confuses the camera. Label backgrounds need to be printed in solid, or ‘spot,’ colors. Do that and your problems will become invisible.”

Sometimes what you get isn’t what you see.

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 [email protected].

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