Engineering at its Best

Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:45 am

A consumer product manufacturing and packaging company was fielding an excessive number of complaints about empty cartons without product being shipped to the stores.

Occasionally the fully automated packaging line would fail to fill a carton which was then sealed, stacked, wrapped and shipped without detection.

The company commissioned an engineering firm to ferret out and eliminate the problem at the final expense of over one hundred thousand dollars.

After the 3 month study of the packaging line and the subsequent generation of reports, the manufacturing company sourced a material handling firm to build the solution the engineering firm recommended.

Due to the complexity of the packaging process, the engineers suggested it would be more cost effective to catch the problem after the fact instead of eliminating the actual intricate carton filling problem at its source.

An automatic weight scale system was installed on the belt line after the cartons were filled and sealed but before the cartons were palletized and wrapped. When a carton crossed the scale weighing less than the target weight of a filled carton, the belt would stop and a pneumatically operated arm would push the empty carton off the scale into a bin. Per OSHA regulations, before the belt restarted, a brief alarm would sound signaling the line was again starting into motion.
The modification to the conveyor belt worked flawlessly and the CEO was pleased even though quite a bit was spent, the customer complaints immediately dropped off.

The packaging line was completely computerized and monitored so packaging reports could be generated upon request. The CEO studied the report from the first month the scale and carton rejection device was integrated into the packaging line to see how fast the huge expenditure would be recouped. He was shocked to find what seemed to be an error in reporting.

According to the report, the scale device's first day in operation caught about a half dozen empties an hour on their way to be palletized, consistent with the amount of prior complaints generated from the stores.

From the second day forward, the scale had rejected 0 empties. Knowing this was impossible, he directed maintenance to inspect the sensors and to look for a loose plug end or damaged cable.

The next day the CEO pulled another report after maintenance assured him everything was operational. The previous 24 hours was no different. Not understanding how this could be happening, the CEO went out into the plant to look for himself.

The CEO looked at the scale, looked at the wiring, looked at and wiggled the plugs but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He assumed it must be an internal sensor or a photo cell that must be causing the problem.

Upon returning to the office, he noticed about 10 feet before the new rejection station, someone had placed a table with a desk fan on it blowing across the belt. He summoned the closest employee asking what the fan was supposed to be cooling.

The employee stated someone from maintenance put it there to blow the empty boxes off the line so the annoying alarm buzzer wouldn't keep going off.

Re: Engineering at its Best

Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:41 am

:bellylaugh: :bellylaugh:

Re: Engineering at its Best

Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:42 pm

difference between engineers and technicians.

Re: Engineering at its Best

Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:56 pm

Sounds like the company of my last employment.

Re: Engineering at its Best

Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:09 pm

I was in a meeting yesterday and someone was telling a similar story, he referred to them as "Tweakers". I had to forward it to several people at work that can relate to similar things going on in some of our plants.

Thanks for sharing,

Re: Engineering at its Best

Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:15 pm

KISS Keep it simple stupid.