Abstract This paper proposes a method for operating robotic fingers to manipulate cartons in a complex folding process in packaging industry. With this method, a carton is modelled as a mechanism whose links present carton panels and joints present carton creases. The carton-folding position can be analysed by this hypothetical mechanism and the trajectory can be generated from the carton motion model and from the sequence analysis. Manipulating different sections of a carton is realised by creating a path connection based on configuration control points (CCPs) and newly introduced geometry guiding points (GGPs). Hence, the cooperative operation of two robotic fingers can be implemented on the generated trajectories. The method will generate a minimum number of fingers required in manipulating a carton and integrate the carton motion into the trajectory of a robotic finger. Having modelled a dexterous packaging unit of dual robotic fingers, the paper presents a simulation of manipulating a complex carton based on the new method. The discussions are then produced on the simulation results.