Rob Smith, director of Wilcom Europe, explains the reasons why a growing number of embroidery businesses are doing just that

With overseas digitising companies charging a fraction of what UK companies used to charge 20 years ago, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would even consider bringing digitising back in-house these days. Yet that’s precisely what is happening and for good reasons, according to Rob Smith, director of Wilcom Europe. The cynics amongst you might be thinking: “Of course Rob Smith of Wilcom Europe, the company that makes the software that many digitisers use, is going to be in favour of embroidery companies bringing digitising back in-house: he’d be daft not to, because more digitising in the UK means more sales!”

The reality, though, is that there are benefits to handling the digitising yourself rather than sending it out, the first of which is cost. The standard price now for overseas digitising is around £10 per design, irrespective of the size. From reputable companies such as NetDigitizing that includes a 24-hour turnaround and an emailed picture of the finished embroidery along with the design.

Rob puts the cost into context: “If you’re paying £10 a design and have maybe half a dozen a week done, that’s £60 a week, which is £240 a month: £240 a month would get you a digitising software at quite a high level that is paid for in 12 months.”

The costs aren’t limited to the price of the software, however – the time taken to digitise a design in-house also incurs a cost to an embroidery business in terms of man hours, although digitising is a relatively swift process, Rob advises. He says a corporate logo without too much complexity will take around half an hour to digitise. There is also the initial training for digitising novices: this could be condensed into two days, although for those that want to do the training alongside their usual work Rob estimates that a month is usually more than adequate for someone to become proficient in the digitising process. There are no other costs once the software is paid for (usually the purchase is spread over a few months) as updates are optional and there is no licence fee.

Smarter productivity and designs

By bringing digitising in-house, a company will also be able to ensure that any possible efficiencies become a reality. Rob explains: “A £10 design that you just stick on the machine is all well and good, but there could be productivity savings and time-saving designs [to be had] as it might not have been designed with you in mind. There could be too many colour changes in it, or too many stitches that you may be able to reduce by 20% and still not have an effect on the running of the design. For instance, if you’ve got the colour red repeated three times in the design, it’s making sure that those colours are blocked together – if possible – so the design can run more seamlessly.”

Madeira offers general embroidery courses that are suitable for any type of machine or software. The courses, which take place around the UK and Ireland, briefly touch on certain aspects of digitising, says Madeira UK’s managing director Karen Burrows, highlighting how criticial the design is and why the embroidery may not stitch well

If you’ve carried out your digitising to a high standard with your own machine and set-up in mind, adds Rob, then you’re not going to get the frequent and time-wasting thread breaks that require someone to rethread the machine, wind back a few places and start again: “It could be that a certain stitch type is being used where it’s going round a tight corner, or that the software being used is dropping too many stitches in a similar place, therefore the needle breaks the thread.”

Rob reports an increase in people in the UK bringing digitising back in-house as they’ve started to realise the savings they could be making, as well as wanting greater control over their designs. “What we’re seeing is a split, so people will do the less complicated designs themselves, and if something is more complicated then they will send it out,” he reports.

For those who still aren’t completely convinced that they want to do all the digitising themselves but would like more control over their designs, Wilcom offers an editing software so they can continue to send the designs overseas for punching, explains Rob, but then manually make changes that will help the design to run better for them in production.

We’d be interested in hearing what you think. Are you planning on bringing digitising back in-house or do you think the digitising companies are hard to beat?


If you want to learn digitising quickly, then consider fast-tracking your way. Read our guide here