Before you make a firm decision about whether or not to provide this service at your printing company, you should consider a range of factors, such as demand, the cost of an embroidery machine and your marketing strategy.
When you do think about all of the variables, you'll be able to decide whether or not embroidery services are right for your business.
With this in mind, let's look at the three variables...
Is There Demand for This Service?
Most printing company owners decide to invest in embroidery machines because clients are asking them for embroidered garments. These company owners buy embroidery machines so that their customers won't go elsewhere! Also, the heads of these companies want the profits that embroidery jobs will bring. If you've gotten requests that you can't fulfill, you're likely to get more of them in the future. This is why you should start considering the cost of high-quality embroidery machines, thread and staff training. Even if you haven't gotten requests, you should consider that adding this service will help you to take business away from competitors. It's likely that your printing rivals do offer it. When you offer it, too, you may be able to grab some of their market share and also get other business from clients who've switched to your company. If you currently have a lot of embroidery orders that you send out to get printed, you will be able to save a lot of money by doing these jobs in house and you will also shorten turnaround times.
Things to consider before buying:
Single head machines will get you started, but a multi-head machine will make you money and you won't need to expand down the road. Many shops start out with a single head, but quickly realize that they should have bought a multi-head. Another regret buyers have is not having a big enough sewing field area. If you plan on just doing shirts a small sewing field should be fine, but if you want to get into bags and bigger items this is definitely something to consider. Embroidery is great for large volume orders such as custom uniforms for sport teams, schools, and businesses which can include shirts, jackets, hats, jerseys and more. You can also take on small, one off orders such as custom names and numbers on various items such as golf and polo shirts, tote bags, towels, aprons, bags and the list goes on.
Digitizing is the process of taking your design or artwork and converting it into what is called a DST file that allows your machine to read it and recreate your design out of thread. Digitizing is similar to the process of taking a jpeg and turning it into a vector file. It takes the dots and pixels of your design and turns it into the stitches that the machine will need to be able to embroider your job. There is a steep learning curve when it comes to learning how to digitize properly and a good percentage of companies choose to send these files out to another company to get it done.
Whether you buy a new or used machine, here are a list of questions you should ask.
How long is the warranty?
Who pays for shipping to get it fixed?
Do you get training?
Where is the training and can you bring employees?
Do they offer on site training and setup?
Do they offer online training if you are in another city or country?
Does the machine have any warranty left?
Am I able to contact support as the second owner?
Will the former owner train you and your staff?
Is the digitizing software transferable?
How old is the machine?
How many hours has it ran?
Are parts still available and if so, how long will they be available for?
Can You Afford an Embroidery Machine?
Pricing embroidery machines online is a great start, but visiting trade shows or the manufacturers in person is the best route. It's important to consider the level of investment that you'll need to make. Look for highly-rated machines such as Tajima or Barudan and also consider the realities of owning and operating an embroidery machine. It's a complicated piece of equipment, which means that you'll need to show your staff members how to use it. As well, you'll need to access technical support or repairs now and then. Even the best embroidery machine isn't going to work flawlessly all of the time.
If you have the capital to buy one of these machines and you feel that you or your staff members have the determination and smarts to learn how to use an embroidery machine, it may be time to move forward. If you will need to access financing in order to acquire one of these machines, you should think things over carefully. For example, will you be able to pay back the loan on time? Do you anticipate generating profits which are large enough to cover the cost of the principal, interest and fees?
Most printing companies do earn great profits from embroidery machines. The most successful companies create marketing campaigns which let everyone know that they provide embroidery, in addition to other printing options. If you're ready to grow your business, adding an embroidery machine may be the key to making more money and giving customers exactly what they want.
James Perry reporting for American Screen Printing Association. Mr. Perry is the owner of T-Shirt Printing Toronto, a provider of screen printing, direct to garment printing, embroidery, vinyl printing, signs, banners & flyers. He is an ASPA member and has been involved in screen printing and graphics arts since 1997.