This article was originally published in Graphics Pro Magazine, September 2020 Edition. Graphics Pro owns the rights to the content and images, with permission to republish on Stitchitintl.com. The original article can be accessed here: 6 Workflow Tips by Jennifer Cox.
By Jennifer Cox, NNEP President
For many embroidery professionals, our happy place is our embroidery workspace. We enjoy the process of creating the products for our customers, and even for ourselves. Once in a while, take the time to look at your work area with the intention of making it even more enjoyable. When you streamline the space, you will be able to create more with less hassle, and that is an excellent recipe for success.
Here are some of my favorite hacks, ideas, and suggestions to make the most of the space and the time that you spend creating your embroidered and decorated products.
ONE: TOOL AVAILABILITY
Have the tools everywhere you need them. If you find yourself doing the “tap tap tap” with your hands on any flat work surface, here is my first and most important hack: buy more! Buy more scissors, nips, screwdrivers, pens, flashlights, small rulers… whatever it is that you are trying to find over and over again.
You do not want to walk across the room every time you need the scissors. Have a pair at the machine. Have a pair where you hoop. Have a pair where you trim and fold products. Have the hoops where you prepare products to go on the machine.
TWO: TOOL LOCATION
Put the tools where you can see them. Now that you have tools where you use them, it is time to find ways to keep them where you can see them and grab them instantly. We spent so much time looking for the nippers because they are so small that they get buried under the corner of a shirt or a scrap of backing that we finally strung them on lanyards. Everyone wears their nippers, and we no longer stab ourselves trying to find a pair on the flat surfaces.
We taped clear vinyl pockets between the sewing heads specifically shaped to hold large, small, and duckbill (appliqué) sewing shears. They were always handy, and it is quick and easy to put them back.
Make things adaptable. For the hooping stations, we put these tables on casters and added pegboard to three of the sides. We hung the various hoops for any given machine on different stations. Be sure to use hooks that keep the hoops in place so they don’t fall off when you move the cart around.
The person running a job moved the hooping station over near the machine and could keep up with feeding the machine with the next run by hooping product while the machine was running. With the hooping stations near the machines, we were able to keep an eye on the sewing fields, quickly fix thread breaks, and not have to walk across the room to load the next run. At the end of the day, we pushed all the tables aside to sweep up the floor.
Store things properly. You likely love our embroidery thread and certainly have invested in it, so give it a proper home. According to Talia LeBlanc of Madeira USA LLC, “A quality thread stored away from moisture, dust, and sunlight will retain its original characteristics for years. Conversely, improper storage will lead to brittle thread, prone to breaking and even color fading. No one wants that! A plastic storage container or thread chest are commonly available options and are well worth the investment.”
Reduce your step count. I wear a tracker now, as I like to see my step count on a daily basis. In general, a high step count is an admirable goal. However, when you are at work, a high step count is one indicator that your workflow could be improved.
Over the next few hours, or days, pay attention every time that you walk across your work area. Why are you doing it? To get a tool? To answer the phone? To load a design to the machine? To get the next piece to load on the machine? To get threads? To get the stabilizer you need to hoop the next product? Once you discover when, where, and why you are taking repetitive or excessive steps, look for ways to eliminate them by rearranging the order of your workflow, where you store your stabilizers, or by putting your threads closer to the equipment, for example.
Make things obvious. There is nothing as frustrating as knowing that you have an order that is due today, yet you cannot find the product, or the customer’s information, or the design. Designate space where you can unpack inventory as it comes in and separate the products into job boxes. Use something as simple as binder clips to label each box. By storing the boxes on shelves instead of in piles, you will not have to move any boxes out of the pile to grab the next order and get it onto the machine.
There are more steps than you might imagine when you can create an embroidery order when you examine the process from start to finish. By reviewing your entire process, the workflow, the space, and the tools, you may find ways to streamline the process and level up so that you take less steps or have exactly what you need right where and when you need it.
Even a few simple or minor tweaks add up to higher productivity and higher profits over time. How much more income would you make if you were able to produce even just one more product per day? How about four more, or six more? If you made just one more $20 item per day and you worked 200 days a year, that adds $5000 to your business. Six more $20 items a day nets you an extra $30,000 a year.
Jennifer Cox is one of the founders and serves as president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), an organization that supports embroidery and apparel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profitability and production. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org