Quality Control Starts Upfront

There are things you can do before taking an order to ensure a satisfactory result for your customers.

By Connie R. Smith, Contributing Writer

Writing down thread color choices specifically is important because people see color differently.

October 20, 2015

We all have bought something and — upon opening it — wondered how it ever left the manufacturer that way. How can one thing be promised on the box and turn out to be something completely different or have major problems when the box is opened?

Regardless of whether you are a mom-and-pop embroiderer working out of a spare bedroom or a high-volume shop with 100 multiheads, your customer has picked you for a reason. If you want the orders to keep coming, you must learn good quality-control procedures.

Ensure your customers are getting what they paid for. This involves doing your part before starting the order, as well as inspecting it properly after production is completed.

Quality control starts when the order is placed, not as you’re reviewing it when it’s done. When I was a consultant, I noticed people writing orders on scrap paper and later trying to decipher and transfer the information to an order form. Take the time to gather information upfront and write the order with complete details from the start. You may have to look up prices or find the item your customer wants. If you have to call the person back at some point, you will need everything you talked about to be about written down so you can refer to it later. Keep order forms nearby so you don’t spend time trying to find them.

Things like thread colors, sizes and design can be forgotten as soon as the phone rings and you start taking another order. Also, a word like “blue” for thread color is insufficient. Even royal blue can be incorrect if you use more than one brand of thread.

Take the time to write the thread number that’s indicated on the cone along with the color given to that number by the manufacturer. Here’s an example: “XYZ #1045 Bluebird.” Notice that it’s not just “blue.” If you are adding to an order placed earlier, you can bet your customer will notice if the colors are different.

Also, color is different to everyone, so giving as much detail as possible can save replacing items later. For an experiment, I asked two friends to pick out color threads from my inventory (light green, light blue, light yellow, medium blue, light pink and medium pink). Not once were their choices the same.

Always keep track of each order you produce. Just because someone only wants one T-shirt with “Buzz” in black on the left chest doesn’t mean he won’t want another one just like it in six months. I have a “one-of-a-kind” folder in my digitizing program for each calendar year. As I do one of these orders, I place that name or design in that folder. This makes it easier to find if I need it later.

It also helps to have folders for your customers who often place orders. Doing this for designs, billing and orders can save time later. I even “cross-save” designs in different folders. When Joe Smith comes in and wants more caps, similar to a previous order, you can just go to his folder and find the design, invoice and all of the information about where you ordered his caps, how much you paid for them and even his business information. Setting things up in this manner enables “one-stop shopping” in a folder on your computer.

After a scare last year, I got several thumb drives and now I backup everything at least once a week. There also are several companies that offer this service and you can pay for it monthly or annually. All it takes is one tiny thing to go wrong and your entire computer can be wiped clean in a second.


When writing the order, detail also is important. You should list men’s, ladies or youth sizes, the item’s style number and its name, if available. For example: “XYZ #419 — Ladies Aviator Jacket, black/gold.” Give the prices for the garment and the embroidery (each location). If you “bundle” and charge one price that includes everything, then the price will include the garment and all embellishments. Make sure your customer knows what he is paying for. Quoting a jacket price as $95 can cause someone to have reservations about placing an order, but if you tell the customer it’s a jacket with an embroidered name, left-chest logo and maybe some lettering on the back, then it’s a different product altogether.

Make sure the customer signs off on the design before you start the order. I do a sewout of the design and place it on a form that lists the thread colors and customer information. There is a place for the customer to sign and confirm that the design is OK to run as is, or indicate the changes that need to be made.

If you are sending information via email, you should have a disclaimer stating colors may be different than the actual thread colors. Taking the time to send the sewout and have the customer look at it in person can save you the problem of replacing an entire order because of one small thing.

If you are embroidering names, make sure the customer types them so the spelling is the way they write it and not what you interpret over the phone. Handwriting — and even block printing — can be hard to decipher. If you do have to take this kind of information over the phone, then email a copy of what you wrote and have the customer approve it.

This may sound like a lot, but doing all of this upfront can save you the trouble of replacing an entire order that could cost hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars. Obtaining the customer’s signature confirming an order is ready to go, and knowing that you have done everything to make sure the order has been taken properly, can allow you to start it with confidence. Remember, you can never have too much information.

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.

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