The case of the flying fliptop

KC Boxbottom

November 6, 2015

“KCeeee…you’ve got to help me,” Raylette was desperate. “My cap keeps coming off.”

“Perhaps a smaller size? Maybe a chin strap? Stay out of high winds?” I suggested.

“Not funny. I mean the flip cap on my glass vials. They fly off the vial as they are applied. Not often enough to see what is happening but often enough to cause serious problems and cost serious money. I need help and I need it now.”

When I got to Raylette’s line, I could see what was happening. Or rather, I could not see what was happening. Line speed was 400 vials per minute. Most of the time the flip-off aluminum ovecap went on fine but every couple of minutes one would go flying. It happened so fast that it was impossible to see. If I couldn’t see what was happening, I could not see why.

“High-speed problems require high-speed video,” I told Raylette.

We broke out her high-speed video camera and filmed the escapement at 1,000 frames per second. Watching the caps going on the vial in slow motion made it easy to see the problem.

“Fiddlesticks on flying caps. At these speeds, the adjustment of the escapement has to be perfect. As you can see, it is not. Every cap bobbles a bit and some bobble enough that they fly off."

Precise adjustment of all machine settings is always a must. The higher the speed, the mustier it becomes.

Known as the Changeover Wizard, John R. Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He has written the book, literally, on packaging machinery ( and is the face and personality behind packaging detective KC Boxbottom, the main character in Adventures in Packaging, a popular blog on


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