In 1989, at the Clean Show in Dallas (remember the snow?  And the 18 degrees?!), I stumbled upon a product called No-Knot cords, an early incarnation of today’s Rope Tie.  Years later, I learned that the product was originally invented to wash roll towels.  You don’t see these much anymore, but if there were already 50 US states when you were born, you probably need a short introduction to roll towels.  Instead of a paper towel dispenser in a restroom, there was a towel dispenser.  This dispenser had a real cotton fabric towel hanging out of the bottom of it.  It didn’t have a visible end.  The towel disappeared back into the dispenser.  What you saw was a hanging loop of fabric with the clean part in front of you and the soiled part of the towel would roll back into the dispenser.  When you pulled of the clean part of the towel, the front roller would unroll the clean towel and the rear roller would wind up the soiled towel.  The laundry would tie up and secure the soccer-ball size dirty towel roll with a No-Knot cord and wash the big ball of fabric as such.  When it came time to finish the toweling, the roll was released from the “rope-tie” and the length was fed into the ironer.  On the opposite end of the ironer, the towel was wound onto a spool with a crank and was then ready for re-use.  There was a small amount of rope-tie usage for shirts in the 60’s, but it never caught out, but I did revive the product in the late 1990’s.  The No-Knot cord was refined into a more sophisticated product in the late 1990’s by MBH Enterprises.  The latest version of the product was invented by yours truly and is marketed exclusively by Cleaner’s Supply.  What MBH brought to the table nearly 20 years ago, was the spring-loaded button, in 5 colors.  This is something that we were unable to do successfully with No-Knot cords.

What I want to tell you about today is the awesome things that you can do with those color buttons!

I am gonna be all over the place with this because I have so many ideas.  You can’t use them all because some are mutually exclusive, but I think that your mind will really open up to even more ideas.

First the basics;  there are 5 colors.  Red, White, Yellow, Green & Blue.

Idea #1: The color indicates the level of starch desired.  It’s hard to imagine 5 levels of starch, but some say that there are; No starch, Light, Medium, Heavy and Extra Heavy.  I think that most people have a bastardized version of that and end up with less than 5.  Most have some starch, no starch and a lot of starch.

Idea #2: I always thought that you should use Blue Rope-Ties for no starch and white ones for starch.  My reasoning is the memory aid that is built in.  Starch is a white powder/liquid (hence the white rope-tie) and No-starch has no additive so the water is clear; clear, blue water.  But, lots of places that I visit already have an established color indicator for starch.  Perhaps they put shirts that need to be starch in yellow net bags.  In that case, I don’t hesitate to use Yellow Rope Ties for starch.  Some see logic in using a white rope for no- starch.  The memory aid that I introduce in that scenario is no-starch = no color (white).  When you introduce a new procedure of any type, its always helpful to establish a memory aid too.  It really helps new procedures to catch on quickly!

Idea #3:  This one is easy.  If you have two starch levels plus no starch, you will need 3 colors.  One for no starch, one for some starch, and one for extra starch.  The colors are arbitrary.

pic2 pic1Idea #4:  Wait!  Maybe you don’t need 3 colors for that.  In the interest of keeping the cost down as well as the inventory of a thousand Rope-Ties in 3 colors, try this:  Let’s say that white indicates starch and blue is no starch.  Because you need two Rope-Ties for every bundle of 7 shirts, let’s take advantage of the 2 Rope-Ties.  For a bundle of shirts that must be heavily starched, use two white Rope-Ties, use two blue ones for no-starch.  For regular starch, use a white Rope-Ties at the top and a blue at the bottom of the bundle.  This will pare down your initial purchase substantially.

Idea #5:  Let’s think a bit more on how we can use the two ropes per bundle to our advantage.  This is going to open the floodgates to a whole bunch of new ideas.  Let’s think about 3 colors; Red, Blue and Green.  These can indicate sequencing Red = rush (memory aid: UPS Red), Blue = Next up (memory aid: UPS Blue) and then the last priority, GReen (memory aid: GRound service).  The 2nd rope tie indicates the starch level (for example white for starch, yellow for no starch).  If you need a 3rd starch level, first decide which is the least popular.  Let’s say that heavy starch is rare, but relevant.  In those cases, staple a Heavy Starch instruction flag around the Rope-Tie near the white button. The washman needs to observe the white button so that he knows if it needs starch or not, he will see the instruction flag at that time and act appropriately.

Idea #6:    Building on the previous idea, Red doesn’t really mean “rush” per se, but it does indicate sequencing.  Many plants plan to do everything that same day, so everything is due, but sequencing is important.  Red is for the satellite stores; shirts that need to be delivered.  Getting those stores out promptly means the driver leaves earlier and the customers get serviced earlier.  Blue is second priority, perhaps that is the plant store.  They don’t need to be shuttled so they come next.  Finally is the home delivery shirts.  They can be done last because they get delivered tomorrow.

Idea #7:  Undoubtedly, the biggest drawback of barcoding is that every tag is virtually identical.  Using Rope-Ties to indicate the source is essential.  How many stores involved will dictate what you do with the Rope-Ties, but here are some ideas: 5 stores; 5 colors.  That was easy.  But suppose that you have 10 stores?  The top rope indicates the group of 5 that Frank delivers to and the bottom one is the store.  Similar for Joey’s 5 stores

Idea #8:  In a tailor shop, you can avoid tagging routine items and simply tie the order together.  And use the colors for sequencing.  See the photo.

Hopefully I have got your creative juices flowing and you’ve created your own ideas.  You’re welcome to share them with me!