This article discusses the equipment and accessories involved in the process and describes the floor plans that will help you optimize the embroidery workflow.
If you're wrestling with the idea of adding embroidery to your screen-printing shop, knowing what is involved beforehand can mean the difference between success and failure. First you'll need to decide the following: Will it be a retail or contract operation? Will it be a storefront or manufacturing plant? Who will be my customers? The answers to these questions will determine which setup is best for your business and what equipment will be needed to start. Ideally, you should do your homework and due diligence before you purchase any equipment.
What you need to know about machinery
First of all, let's define what a high-volume shop is. Shops with more than 500 sewing heads have fast become a dying breed. Today, a typical high-volume shop has about 24 heads. A handful of mega-huge direct merchants easily have in excess of 1500 heads, but that's probably not the type of business you have in mind. Multiple smaller embroidery machines (four- and six-head units) provide greater flexibility and versatility (Figure 1). Embroiderers aren't seeing the really large orders anymore, so it's just not as efficient to run machines with more than 12 heads. Smaller machines also give you more options when configuring your shop.
"We recommend that you initially start with at least two four- or six-head units, plus a single head for personalizations and samples," says Steve Hobbs, northeast regional sales manager (IPD Embroidery Systems) for Brother Int'l Corp. "Go to industry trade shows to see all the machines available up close, watch them sew, talk to the manufacturers, and ask them all your questions. I tell potential customers to find a business similar to one they want to model after, but be careful it's not someone they would compete with, and they'll be surprised at how helpful and willing they are to share their experience and knowledge."
Since most embroidery machines have similar features and functions, it's best to buy one from a manufacturer that will give you great service, support, and training. What good would it be to have state-of-the-art equipment that you and your staff don't know how to operate? What happens when your machine breaks down in the middle of a large, critical job and the technician says he can't get to you for another few days? Don't necessarily purchase from the cheapest guy—it may cost you big-time in the end.
All about accessories
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