While some designs are simply lettering or monogramming keyed from pre-programmed alphabets, others are custom designs that are generated from customer supplied art. An average entrepreneur with moderate computer skills can learn how to lay-out and manipulate lettering. However, the skill sets necessary to convert art into custom designs are not quite as simple.
The big question that all embroiderers face is whether or not they should learn how to digitize in-house, or outsource their digitizing.
First, let's quantify the digitizing process and then explore what options are available.
The process of digitizing high quality, fluid running designs is an art. It is acquired through training, practice and understanding fundamentals of graphic design. The best way to assess a contract digitizer is to consider their hours or years of full time digitizing experience.
Even though our present level of technology offers some automatic features such as “auto vectoring” and “auto digitizing” software, these features alone are a means to an end. While this software can convert very simple graphics into fundamental designs, they cannot convert typical or complex art into a finished, fluid embroidery design. In the hands of a novice, these features can render some simple embroidery. In the hands of an accomplished digitizer, these features can be used as tools to quickly render limited sections of art into stitches and speed up the digitizing process.
Now that we have quantified the process, let’s look at the pending criteria.
- For any start-up process where the embroiderer has little or no prior embroidery experience, custom digitizing should be outsourced. As with any business start-up, there are many skills to learn. Outsourcing the digitizing task saves time, improves quality and adds profitablity to new embroidery business. How well the embroidery performs and how it looks will be controlled by the design, thread condition, machine condition and operator skill sets. By depending upon a skilled digitizer, you can ramp-up quicker and reach higher production yields.
For the beginning embroiderer, it is also wise to consider purchasing new embroidery machines, rather than used, if at all possible. New equipment brings a factory tuned machine into the equation, reducing risk and thus improving production objectives.
- For any existing embroidery operation, the decision to digitize in-house or outsource can be assessed with the following considerations:
Volume of designs – A skilled, full time digitizer can produce approximately 1 to 2 left chest designs per hour, depending on size and complexity of design. That’s 3 to 6 designs per day. By contrast, a beginning digitizer may produce 1 to 3 designs per day. If your demand reaches these numbers, an in-house digitizer could be a good economic decision.
Type and size of orders – An embroidery shop who processes numerous, single piece orders will consume a lot of designs. Orders that vary the material or application of designs may require a lot of editing to get the best performance on all jobs run. Shops that provide mostly personalization would consume very few custom designs. Shops who process mostly large orders will also consume fewer custom designs.
Customer types – While some customers allow a lot of discretion on the part of the embroiderer, others are more particular about the design details. In order to service these customers, an in-house digitizer or at least and in-house editor is a must.
Control desired – Every shop has different management styles and control comfort levels. Those with more tolerant levels may chose to work with an outside digitizer whereas those who prefer tighter control should employ an in-house digitizer.
Graphic art skills in-house – Digitizing requires a certain temperament and certain computer graphic skills to succeed.