Chris asked me to come to his plant to help with changeover on their capper so I went.
"KC, we really struggle with this capper. It is about 15 years old and our mechanics take forever getting everything aligned properly when we change bottle sizes. How can we make it better?"
As I watched Chris' mechanics struggle through a setup, I quickly saw the problem.
"Fiddlesticks on lengthy setups, Chris," I told him. "Your capper isn't centerlined."
I explained: "Everything must be adjusted to the centerline on an inline capper. Bottles must be centered on the conveyor, the side belts and tightening wheels centered on the cap and bottle and the cap escapement centered on the bottle neck."
Most of these machines adjust symmetrically with one knob controlling both side belts, another both sets of tightening disks and so on. When I looked in the machine cabinet I saw the mechanisms to do this but they were disconnected. Mechanics were adjusting each side individually and were not on the centerline.
I showed Chris. "You need to reconnect these linkages and calibrate everything to the centerline. That is the real fix but may mean taking the capper offline for a day."
"A quick and dirty fix is to make a set of gauge blocks for each bottle/cap combination. These will be sized for belts and disks with a scribed centerline to align the cap escapement. Make them 4-6in long so they sit flat on the conveyor.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.