The case of the screwy caps

KC Boxbottom

March 11, 2015

2 Min Read
The case of the screwy caps

I was woolgathering at my desk when the call woke me up. My old pal Jack was on the other end.

“KC,” he said, “my cap torques are screwy and my mechanic is being run ragged. Can you help me out?” Minutes later I was out the door.

I got to the plant and Jack was right, torques were screwy. High, low, all over the lot. Susan, the mechanic, told me that they were keeping her on the hop tinkering with the capper settings. We stepped aside and she told me “I keep all my machines clean and well adjusted. I am pretty sure it is not the capper.” A quick eyeball confirmed this.

“Let’s see how you check cap torque,” I told Jack.

The torque tester was a common, hand-operated model. The bottle is clamped, an operator twists the cap ’til it breaks free and the release torque is read. I watched as a couple of operators tested sample bottles.

“Fiddlesticks on capper problems,” I exclaimed. “Susan knows her craft and has that capper humming. It’s a training problem. One operator slowly loosens the cap till it breaks free. The other snaps it loose. This causes different readings for identical torques. It’s an easy fix. Write an SOP, then make sure all operators do it the same way. Better yet, get an automated torque tester.

“McConnell, in his excellent book on quality ‘Safer than a Known Way,’ teaches us that quality is the absence of variation. Drive all variation out of your process. That includes variation in testing.”

And now back to catching up my Zs…

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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