I was in my office when the call came in. It was my friend Ralph, plant manager at a personal care packaging company.
”My labels are wrinkling, KC. I need help now!”
The plant wasn’t far and 45 minutes later I had eyeballs on the problem. The label was self-adhesive on a thin plastic film. The bottle was rectangular, labeled front and back. The labeling machine was in-line, fairly new and of good design.
The label/bottle/machine combo had been working well for over a year. Now some labels were wrinkling, some not. “What changed?” was my first question. “Nothing” I was assured. They still had the same bottle supplier and the same plant. Ditto the labels.
Next was a thorough check of the setup. The engineer, mechanic and I started from zero and went through a complete setup. Nada. Everything looked fine but it was still inconsistent.
“Hey, KC,” one of the operators said, “the bottles feel different today. I don’t know what it is but they don’t feel the same.” The felt OK to me but what do I know.
“Can we go back in the warehouse and find a case of bottles from a month or two back?” I asked.
We did and put them through the labeler with perfect results. Close inspection revealed a subtle surface difference between new and old bottle. This almost unnoticeable difference kept the leading edge of the label from tacking reliably, causing them to wrinkle.
Further investigation revealed that the molder had recently changed from flame to corona treating in their plant. A different label adhesive solved the problem.
Verdict: Never change anything until you know exactly what will happen. Otherwise the law of unintended consequences will bite you.
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].