Monday, December 21, 2015

High Innovation, the elegance of simplicity:

Colgate Palmolive in Brazil had a quality control problem in their toothpaste factory.  Tubes of toothpaste are inserted into individual boxes, and these individual boxes are then packaged together into a larger carton.  Unfortunately, every so often something would happen and an individual box would get sealed without its companion tube of toothpaste.  The problem wouldn’t be discovered until a
store clerk went to stock the shelves.

Solving the problem at the point of insertion proved to be extremely costly and management asked engineering to find an alternate solution.  One idea was to put an Xray detector on the line that would enable them to see an empty box and grab it before it got packed.  Another idea discussed was to but an inline scale into the process and weigh the boxes to identify the lighter box.  There was a lot of discussion around how you would calculate the box-weight when the product is moving vs standing still.

While all this was taking place in the management and engineering offices, an older worker on the factory floor solved the problem by placing a fan next to the line.

Thank you Pat C. for this story.