What to consider when buying an embroidery machine

Thinking about getting into embroidery? Wondering what type of machine you should purchase? Here are the 5 things to consider when shopping for an embroidery machine. Hint – it’s not just the machine.

Getting Started:

For an embroidery business, a single embroidery machine can generate as much as $50-$60 per hour. And the cost of consumables is next to nothing. A cone of thread lasts 3-5 million stitches and 5 square inches of backing will cost you $0.01. As you can see, an embroidery business can be very lucrative while giving you the opportunity to make creative, high-quality products for your customers.

What’s the big investment? Simple, beyond the time you put into the business, the largest investment is the machine itself.

There are a lot of machines on the market. So how do you maximize the return on this investment? Here’s what to consider when looking at embroidery machines:

The 5 S’s:

1. Speed:
It’s a simple equation: the faster your machine can sew, the more you can get done. When you’re first looking at machines, 1200-1500 stitches per minute may seem faster than you’ll ever need. But remember, you’re getting paid per sew-out, not per hour. So the more you can produce per hour, the more money you make.

However, stitches per minute alone does not tell the full story. Thread breaks, color changes (especially if you have a single needle machine), hooping, and clean up time are all factors that will affect how much you can produce.

2. Sew field:
There are a many different makes and models of embroidery machines available and each has its own size of sew field. Will a design take up the entire sew field? Probably not. So why does the size of the sew field really matter?

You may start out doing a single type of design or catering to a single market. Take golf for example: maybe you start by doing just left chest logos and caps and a smaller sew field is just fine. But what happens when winter comes around and a hockey team asks if you can do hoodies, sleeves, bags, or other long/wide designs. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re turning down work because your machine can’t fit the specific type of garment and design.

3. Scalability:
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is right now”.

The same rings true when looking at your embroidery business. When you’re first starting out, it’s tempting just to go for a machine that works for now; something that keeps up with your current volume of orders. But what happens when your customers are delighted with your work and they tell their friends? Or someone comes across your website and starts placing orders? Again, you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re turning away work because your machine can’t keep up.

Also consider what happens when your volumes grow and you move from a single head to a multi-head configuration. There are pros and cons of both a conventional multi-head configuration (a single machine with multiple heads running the same job at once) or modular multi-head (multiple machines networked together, running either the same or different jobs at once). We’ll cover conventional vs. modular multi-head configurations in future posts.

4. Service:
Investing in an embroidery machine is a lot like buying a car. You need to make sure it works and if it doesn’t, getting it fixed should be simple. When your machine is not sewing, it’s not making you money. Finding a supplier with an excellent track record of servicing customers is critical. You don’t want to buy a machine only to find out they’ve disappeared right after getting paid.

But how do you determine what level of service you’re going to get after you pay for your machine? Important questions to ask are: Where is the manufacturer/supplier located? Do they have other customers in my area? How long have they been around? Is selling/servicing embroidery machines their primary business? Do they stock parts? Does it come with a warranty?

5. Support:
Yes this is different than service. Support goes beyond fixing the machine if something happens. You may be brand new to embroidery or you could be a seasoned vet. But you’re not going to know everything and having a supplier that is truly an expert in this field is crucial.

This could be walking you through choosing the right type of needle or selecting the correct stabilizer. It could be looking at a design that you’re working on and offering advice. Support means being available to help you operate the machine and ensure it’s doing what you need.

In closing:
When you’re buying an embroidery machine, you’re investing in a business asset. This asset needs to be able to make you money now and in the future. It needs to be able to keep up with wherever your business takes you. Make sure whatever machine you buy covers all of these 5 S’s.

About the author:
Embroidery Systems Canada/Del Caribe (ESC) is a distributor of Melco Embroidery Machines for Canada and the Caribbean. ESC also provides a huge variety of embroidery supplies and accessories for customers all over the world. The company was founded in 1989 and the team has more than 150 years of combined experience in teaching and supporting embroiderers.