MECHANIZED EMBROIDERY MAKES U.S. TOP GLOBAL CONTENDER ABROAD
Byline: MAZI GAILLARD
NEW YORK — By using the latest technology, the embroiderer has identified ways to eliminate the time and material it takes to meet the demands of a marketplace calling for detailed, high-quality goods more than ever before, both in the U.S. and internationally.
“What all this technology has given us is a broader range of stitch effects and it has sped up the process completely,” said embroidery consultant Walter A. Floriani. “The emergence of mechanized embroidering is growing and growing. Now you get a faster stitch, the equipment is easier to program and it allows for faster color changes and finer stitchery.”
The implications of this technology in today’s marketplace, industry sources said, is compelling embroiderers, large or small, to look to emerging markets. U.S.-based embroiderers agree that the opportunities for multinational companies are practically endless.
“For the little guys, auto stitch and photo embroidery design have opened up a lot of new markets. They now have the ability to produce anything to satisfy the customers’ needs,” Floriani explained.
“For the big guys, technology has meant speed, diversification, networking,” he added.
Yet, embroidery suppliers and observers also contend that automation and computerization technology alone is no match for pure aptitude. Although embroidery technology is catching on all over the globe — from England to Pakistan at basically the same rate — the quality that U.S. embroiderers can produce is unique.
“Computer-aided design has really enabled industrialized countries to work more with developing countries,” said Bruce Anton, president of Robison Anton, Fairview, N.J. “But the U.S still leads in the quality supply of goods.”
Digitizer Klaus Schnabel, president of Haus Of Klaus in Marietta, Ga., who also recognized the influences of developing countries, said the world has a great deal to learn from U.S. creativity.
“Internationally, India and Pakistan, I think, also deal with an incredibly high demand of embroidered goods and they also use the technology we use. But the thing is, no one is on top of everything in this business, because no one [else] is good enough yet,” said Schnabel.
According to Floriani, Mexico has also re-emerged into the market as its economy continues to stabilize. “They’ve taken to [the technology] very well. There are some beautiful things coming out of there,” he said. Yet in echo of his colleagues, he stated, “But you can find that on every continent. Everyone is unique. For example, Europe traditionally does logos less well than we do here. But there’s really this wonderful exchange between countries. Everyone can learn from everyone.”
As Sally Ann Smith, an embroiderer with Paterson, N.J.-based Primetime Merchandise, said, Japan is responsible for the machinery development and it appears that there is a lot software-system development in Australia, whereas she noted that much of the fashion sense comes from Italy.
Competing in this industry, Floriani explained, is a gradual process of adaptation. “Countries that are not as up to speed technologically need to start with simplicity and work up from there.”
Also a prohibitive factor in the ability to compete effectively with the U.S. is the capital necessary for integrating the cost-saving, high-tech embroidery systems now available. This is also true of smaller companies in general, sources said. The fledgling firms or low-volume embroiderers may not have use for the larger, high-speed equipment and may instead choose to upgrade what they already have.
Primetime has acquired three new machines recently, bringing up their total embroidery heads to approximately 350. But, as Primetime’s Smith recalled, “You used to only be able to use six colors at a time, now you can use nine to twelve.”
“There have been dramatic changes in the embroidery business since 1987 with computers first being connected to users in their homes. From the late ’80s to now, the growth has been phenomenal,” Kim Smith, instructor, educational services at Melco Inc., reminisced. “Now embroiderers can take images and scan them into embroidery. The quality of the end product more is consistently high-end.”
But companies still run old mechanical machines, Floriani said. “I mean, there’s no full range of old machinery still running, but retro-fitting equipment is ever-increasing the ability to keep old equipment going and never make it obsolete.” This may aid smaller users and those abroad who may not have caught on to the technology craze.
Yet as time efficiency, convenience and international exchanges have brought positive innovations for the embroidery industry, trying to incorporate the technology too quickly or with less than adequate experience can in fact cause problems.
“The good [part about the technology] is that there’s less time to be spent on the tedious aspects of the process, but the bad is that people who are not good designers take shortcuts and knock off a lot of other designs,” said Robin Bergman, president of Robin Originals Creative Knits, Concord, Mass.