Title:
Method and apparatus for carton label identification
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An open-top carton configured for stacking in a nested configuration with similar cartons includes at least one external surface on which an identifying label or indicia is provided. Marking indicia disposed on a surface of the carton facilitates rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label surface when the carton is standing alone and viewed from any angle, or when partially disposed within another carton in the stacked or nested configuration, obscuring direct visual inspection of the label.



Inventors:
Kowalczyk, Patrick Michael (Waterloo, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/070763
Publication Date:
09/07/2006
Filing Date:
03/02/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ACKUN, JACOB K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, PC (St. Louis, MO, US)
Claims:
1. An improved carton having an open top and at least one external side surface on which a label is disposed, the improvement comprising: marking indicia disposed at least adjacent an upper edge of the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

2. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed on an upper edge of the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

3. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed adjacent an upper edge of an internal side surface associated with the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

4. The improved carton of claim 3 wherein said marking indicia is continuous over an upper edge, from said external side surface to said internal side surface.

5. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed partially along, and adjacent to, an upper edge associated with each external side surface adjacent the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

6. The improved carton of claim 5 wherein said marking indicia is disposed no more than halfway along, and adjacent to, said upper edge associated with each external side surface adjacent the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

7. The improved carton of claim 5 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed on a portion of said upper edge associated with each external side surface adjacent the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

8. The improved carton of claim 5 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed partially along, and adjacent to, an upper edge associated with each internal side surface adjacent the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

9. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said marking indicia includes at least one contrasting mark.

10. The improved carton of claim 9 wherein said marking indicia includes a contrasting pattern of markings.

11. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said marking indicia is selected from a set of visually distinct markings, said set including solid markings, contrasting pattern markings, and color markings.

12. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said carton is configured for stacking partially within a second carton of similar configuration; and wherein said marking indicia is externally visible on an exposed portion of the carton when in said stacked configuration.

13. The improved carton of claim 1 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed on said upper edge of the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

14. An improved carton having an open top and at least one external side surface on which a label is disposed, the improvement comprising: marking indicia disposed on at least a plurality of external side surfaces of the carton, said marking indicia configured to provide visual indication of the external side surface on which the label is disposed.

15. The improved carton of claim 14 wherein said marking indicia is further disposed on at least a plurality of internal side surfaces of the carton, said internal side surfaces associated with said plurality of external side surfaces on which said marking indicia is disposed.

16. The improved carton of claim 14 wherein said marking indicia is selected from a set of visually distinct markings, said set including solid markings, contrasting pattern markings, and color markings.

17. The improved carton of claim 14 wherein said marking indicia is configured to provide said visual indication of the external side surface on which the label is disposed from any observed orientation of the carton.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present application relates generally to a method and apparatus for the identification of individual stackable or nested cartons, and in particular, to a method and apparatus to facilitate the rapid identification of a label location on a single carton within a stack of cartons.

Open top cartons, totes, tubs, trays, and bins are commonly utilized in a variety of applications, and in particular in sorting applications such as mail distribution. While these open top cartons, totes, tubs, trays, and bins, such as shown in FIGS. 1-4, hereinafter generally referred to as cartons, are produced in a wide range of styles, materials, and dimensions, they generally are configured in a rectangular shape with flared or sloping sides, such that empty or partially filled cartons can be stacked or nested within one another to reduce storage space, as shown in FIG. 5.

Commonly, a label L or other form of identification is affixed to one end or short side, of a carton to provide an identification, category, or destination associated with items sorted into a carton. On an individual carton, the label L can be identified by observation of the proper end of the carton. If the label is not observed on the first end, the carton is rotated to view the opposite end. To further facilitate location of the label L, a suitable instruction or warning W may be placed on the opposite end of the carton, directing a handler to look for, or place, the label L on the opposite end.

When handling the cartons and viewing them from above, the flared or sloping sides of the cartons which facilitate stacking or nesting, typically render it difficult or impossible to view the label L without the handler taking the time to rotate or tilt the carton. Furthermore, when multiple cartons are stacked or nested, as shown in FIG. 5, the ends of the cartons, on which the labels are disposed, are often concealed from view by the lower cartons in the stack. Hence, a significant amount of time is wasted by a handler who, in searching for a label, is required to remove a carton from the stack, and rotate the carton to view at least one end, which may or may not be the end on which the label is affixed.

Accordingly, it would be advantageous to provide open-top cartons with a means by which a handler can rapidly and accurately identify the location of a marking or label affixed to an end of the carton without requiring handling, when viewed individually, or when stored in a stacked or nested configuration.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly stated, one embodiment of the present invention provides an open-top carton having at least one external surface on which an identifying label or indicia is provided with marking indicia disposed to facilitate the rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label surface.

An alternate embodiment of the present invention provides an open-top carton, which is configured for stacking in a nested configuration with similar carton, and which has at least one external surface on which an identifying label or indicia is provided with marking indicia disposed to facilitate the rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label surface when the carton is partially disposed within another carton in the stacked or nested configuration, obscuring direct visual inspection of the label.

The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention as well as presently preferred embodiments thereof will become more apparent from the reading of the following description in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings which form part of the specification:

FIG. 1 is a side view of a prior art open top carton;

FIG. 2 is an end view of one end of the carton of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an end view of the opposite end of the carton of FIG. 1 from that shown in FIG. 2, illustrating placement of a conventional label;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the carton of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is an illustration of a set of cartons of FIG. 1 stored in a stacked or nested configuration;

FIG. 6 is an end view of one embodiment of an open top carton of the present invention, illustrating label-identifying indicia;

FIG. 7 is a side view of the carton of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a top view of the carton of FIG. 6;

FIG. 9 is an illustration of a set of cartons of FIG. 6 stored in a stacked or nested configuration.

Corresponding reference numerals indicate corresponding parts throughout the several figures of the drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The following detailed description illustrates the invention by way of example and not by way of limitation. The description clearly enables one skilled in the art to make and use the invention, describes several embodiments, adaptations, variations, alternatives, and uses of the invention, including what is presently believed to be the best mode of carrying out the invention.

Throughout the description, the term carton is used generally to refer to any open top container, such as totes, bins, trays, tubs, etc. which is configured for stacked or nested storage in which at least a portion of one carton is seated within the open top of another carton. Cartons preferably have flared or sloped sides to facilitate stacked and nested storage, but may have straight sides as required by the particular application for which they are designed. Similarly, cartons preferably have rectangular footprints, but may be of any shape or configuration as required for the particular application for which they are designed.

Turning to FIGS. 6-8, a carton C is shown configured with a label L disposed on an external surface of one side, identified as the label side LS. To facilitate rapid identification of the location of the label L on the carton C, marking indicia M is disposed on the carton C in proximity to the label side LS.

The marking indicia M preferably consists of contrasting stripes at least adjacent the upper edge of the label side LS, on both the internal and external surfaces thereof. However, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that any marking indicia M which provides a handler with a visual identification of the label side LS may be utilized, including solid markings, colored markings, or any combination thereof. Preferably, the marking indicia M is continuous over the upper edge, from the external surface to the internal surface, and is visible along the adjoining upper edge of the label side LS. As best seen in FIGS. 7 and 8, the marking indicia preferably extends partially along, and adjacent to, the upper edges of each side of the carton C adjacent to the label side LS. The marking indicia M on the sides of the carton C adjacent to the label side LS preferably does not extend more than halfway along the sides, facilitating rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label side LS, when viewed from a side orientation as shown in FIG. 7. When the carton C is viewed from the side completely opposite the label side LS, the absence of any visible marking indicia M provides an indication to the handler that the label side LS is disposed on the opposite side of the carton C.

Similarly, when viewed from above as shown in FIG. 8, the portions of marking indicia M on the top edges and internal surfaces of the carton C facilitate rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label side LS. In effect, the visible location of the marking indicia M, or visible absence thereof, facilitates a rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label side LS when the carton C is viewed from any orientation.

When cartons C are stacked or nested, as shown in FIG. 9, the marking indicia M adjacent the upper edge of label sides LS remains visible, facilitating rapid visual identification of the label side LS of each carton C in the stack. Similarly, if the stack of cartons is viewed from different orientations other than the one shown in FIG. 9, the visible location of the marking indicia M on each carton, or visible absence thereof, will facilitate a rapid visual identification of the orientation of the label side LS of each carton C in the stack without requiring the removal or repositioning of any cartons C from the stack.

Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the marking indicia M may be any suitable marking which is visible on the surfaces of the carton C to a handler or handling machinery. Preferably, as shown in FIGS. 5-9, the marking indicia M consist of contrasting stripes printed onto the surfaces of the carton C. Alternatively, marking indicia M may consist of a solid marking, or of a contrasting material, such as tape, applied to the surfaces of the carton C. Any suitable marking indicia M may be utilized with the present invention, provided that a suitable visual indication is provided by the marking indicia M to a carton handler of the orientation of the label side LS when viewed from the top of the carton C, sides of the carton C, or when the carton C is stacked in a nested configuration with other similar cartons.

Marking indicia M provides a handler with a visual indication of the orientation of a label side LS of a carton C without requiring the handler to pick up and manipulate the carton C. By facilitating identification of the orientation of the label side LS of the carton C, a significant time savings can be achieved in the handling of carton C through the elimination of the need for the handler to lift or rotate the carton C. Eliminating the need for a handler to lift or rotate a carton C, particularly when the carton may be filled with a product or material, increases handler safety, and reduces the possibility of injuries associated with the lifting, rotating, and handling of a carton C.

For example, in a mail processing facility, individual cartons C may include labels L identifying particular routings of sorted articles of mail. Hypothetically, if a handler processes 1200 cartons in a day, and on average, spends 4.5 seconds lifting and rotating each carton to identify the label side LS to read the label L, a total of 1.5 hours will be spent each day to identify the label side LS of each carton. If by utilizing marking indicia M on the cartons C to facilitate rapid visual identification of the label sides LS, the average handling time for each carton C is reduced to 1.25 seconds, over 1 hour of time will be saved each day. Additional labor savings can be expected due to the reduced effort a handler must expend to manipulate each carton C to locate the label side LS.

Similarly, since the marking indicia M facilitates identification of the label side LS of a carton C in a stack of nested cartons, a handler can readily standardize the manner in which cartons are stacked, such that all of the label sides LS are orientated in the same direction. As cartons C are subsequently added or removed from the stack, time will not be spent manipulating the cartons C to identify the label sides LS.

In view of the above, it will be seen that the several objects of the invention are achieved and other advantageous results are obtained. As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.