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The case of the crooked bottle

I hadn’t even had my first coffee when the call came.

Joseph was having trouble with labels. As always, he needed me yesterday.

I got on site and he showed me his problem.

It was a tall 16-oz round bottle. The pressure-sensitive label covered it top to bottom with a 365-deg wrap. The label ends did not align at the overwrap. His customer, a chain store, was complaining.

“We adjust the labeler and sometimes it is okay, sometimes not. It seems like a random problem,” Joseph told me.

“Fiddlesticks on random.” I exclaimed. “Virtually nothing in packaging is random. There is always a cause.”

I checked the labeler and it seemed tight. I used a level and square to check alignment, and that seemed good.

Finally, I checked a dozen bottles for straightness using the square.

“Here is your problem, Joseph. The bottles are crooked. You will never be able to label them correctly. Your only real solution is to go back to your bottle supplier.”

“But there is no time, I need to get product to the customer or I will lose them,” Joseph wailed.

Fortunately, the caps had a dispenser tip. Some experimentation revealed that the crookedness was uniform. If properly oriented, the labeler could be adjusted to suit.

It was neither a great nor a permanent solution but putting an operator at the labeler infeed to orient every bottle the same way kept Joseph from losing the business.

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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