Cream City Ribbon began more than 100 years ago in Milwaukee making string for the city’s bustling leather industry. Fast forward to 2019, and owner Eric Crawford uses the same manufacturing process to make high-end decorative wrapping ribbon that is both beautiful and sustainable.
However, the company needed ways to increase efficiency by automating manual processes typically performed by the person designated as the master ribbon maker. The shop uses a mix of machinery ranging from the early 1900s to the present. Each piece plays an important role, but the ribbon maker is the key.
Throughout each step, the ribbon maker must make sure nothing goes wrong. This becomes especially challenging during the ribbon’s time on the accumulator: If the speed is off, it could snap or fall off, requiring it to be respooled, adding extra time to the process.
“Our previous master ribbon maker was a professional dancer, and she would literally dance around the shop checking on things constantly, watching the speed of the accumulator and manually adjusting the speed,” Crawford notes.
When the company brought in a new master ribbon maker, Crawford saw it as an opportunity to identify ways to increase efficiency. The new ribbon maker was spending about 40% of his time adjusting the speed or fixing other things that went wrong — time Crawford knew could be better spent on other tasks.
Unique Ribbon Making Process
Rather than weaving the yarn strands, Cream City uses an adhesive to bond 55 individual strands together, which makes them stronger than your average ribbon. The company sells custom and stock ribbon to large and small specialty gift retailers and individual customers. This makes for an array of variation in the product. Spools leaving the facility on any day can differ in width, color and print pattern.
No matter what the final touches are, the process always begins the same way.