The case of the pliable parts

KC Boxbottom

April 7, 2015

2 Min Read
The case of the pliable parts

KC Boxbottom cleans up a sticky situation with plastic precision machinery parts for a tablet feeder.

Jody had a problem and needed my help.

"KC," she told me on the phone, "I have a problem and need your help. My tablet feeders don't feed."

"Maybe they aren't hungry?" I quipped.

I could feel her look even over the phone. "I'd best get over there," I told her and was there the next morning.

She showed me a box-style feeder that dropped 48 pills at a time into the pockets of a thermoformed blister. "It worked great when we got it but it has gotten less reliable over time," she explained.

I cycled it by hand a couple times and could feel it sticking. "Let's take a look at the innards," I told her. We opened it up and I immediately saw that some of the polyethylene sliding plates were warped.

"Show me how you clean it," I asked.

She took me to the washroom and explained the process.

"Hold it right there," I exclaimed. "Fiddlesticks on sticky parts. You can't wash plastic parts in 140 degree water. They get soft and warp.

"You need a new cleaning process. Perhaps warm water with a stronger detergent will do the trick. Make sure that the detergent is compatible with the plastic. Since these are product contact parts, that means you have to work with your quality department and it may take some time. Then, after the change is implemented, replace the warped parts.”

Hot water and plastic precision parts is a recipe-for-disaster soup.

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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