Is it Time to Digitize In-House?

If you’re ready to take on digitizing, follow these steps to pick the best software for your embroidery business

By Connie R. Smith, Contributing Writer

January 11, 2016

Starting a new business takes months, even years of preparation. The same consideration is needed when you feel it’s time to expand one or more areas of a growing business. Knowing when to expand your business by moving to a new location, adding new employees or new equipment takes good record keeping and knowing your business inside and out. Expanding too soon can be a disaster.

If you have an embroidery business and have someone outside your company doing your digitizing, keeping good records will make your decision to add in-house digitizing a lot easier. But, picking the right software requires a lot of research.

First, look into what software packages are available and at what price points. Make sure you ask for the names of other embroiderers who use the software you are interested in and get phone numbers so you can talk to them. Also ask about training. Are there classes available nearby and what does the training cover? Can you send more than one person to the classes? Can you take the class again if you feel you need to?

Also ask about the cost of upgrades. Most programs require specific computer “keys” in order for the software to work. See if the manufacturer will replace a lost or broken key and at what cost. Remember, you may not need a program that has a ton of features. The more it does, the harder it can be to master and typically the higher the cost of the program. Its most important to buy a system with good lettering, editing and digitizing so that you can learn step by step.

Downloading software online is risky, especially if you don’t have digitizing experience. Learning how to use new software with only the guidance of printout is not ideal for beginners. You need good support and someone there to answer your questions. Written instructions that say to adjust the “pull-comp” won’t mean anything to if you have never heard that word. You will feel discouraged, set the project aside and never learn. Paying the price for support is worth it.

There are many different digitizing systems on the market today, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Not all are worth the money. That’s why you have to research. Also what kind of designs you need digitized can play an important part in what software is right for your growth.

Once you have the software you want, you can figure out if it’s the right time to get it. Total up how much you spent on digitizing for one year. If you are a large company you may be surprised at how much you have paid out for digitizing. If you are doing four to five designs a day, then one digitizer may not be enough. A smaller company may be able to tell right away that it may not be a good move financially to add digitizing.

Two things to consider: Do you have someone working for you already that is a good candidate to train, or will you have to add a new employee that is already trained? If you have an exiting employee that is willing to be trained then you won’t have hire anyone, adding another expense on top of the software. Hiring a new employee that has experience is tricky. The more they know the more you will have to pay them. The up side to that is you can be pretty sure their work will be “machine ready” and you won’t have to waste time on stitching a lot of samples to make sure the designs are perfected.

A less experienced digitizer will require a learning curve to make sure they are digitizing efficiently. How to lay down the colors, stitch direction, pull-comp, density, etc., can take years to learn. They may have to stitch and edit a design many times before it’s ready to take to the machine and stitch your order.

Many business owners feel they need to do everything. Step back and think of all the other things that take up your time to make your business run smoothly. Do you really want to put other things on hold while you spend several hours a day digitizing? This is one thing that can cause a business to fail. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn and pitch in once in a while; just remember your first priority is making sure the business on a whole is running at full capacity. If it’s not, there will be no need for a digitizer.

You know the cost of your software and you know how much you have been spending to out-source your digitizing. So, what do the numbers tell you? Be sure to consider the time to train a current employee or the cost of a new hire. How long will it take these numbers balance this out? Can you afford the software and another employee and still make a profit?

Expanding is not always the right thing to do. Keeping good records and doing research is the key to knowing if the time is right for your business to take on a new project.

Connie R. Smith has been in the embroidery industry for more than 30 years and has been an industry speaker and consultant. She also is an award-winning digitizer. For more information or to comment on this article, email Connie at lickatstitch@yahoo.com