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Sharing my digitizer comparison

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Old November 25th, 2011, 12:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
stjohnsports stjohnsports is offline
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Default Sharing my digitizer comparison

A couple months ago, St. John Sports went on a quest to find a new digitizer. We got samples from a number of people on the digitsmith forum as well as a couple others from elsewhere. As a thank you to the companies/individuals that participated, I have offered to present our results here, as a form of free advertising. Also I hope the information can be useful for those on the same search for quality and affordable digitizing service.

Sadly, of the 6 samples we received, only 3 elected to be identified here on this forum. I will present all 6 sewouts for comparison, but 3 will be identified only by the letters A, B, and C.

Anyway, here (260kb) is the image I requested to be digitized. This is actually the job that made us change our digitizer (stay away from ideasplus.biz, their customer service is terrible and they collect payment before you see your design.)

The following is the request I sent to each digitizer. It was important for us to find out if the digitizers can follow instructions and what sort of liberties they take with those instructions.

“I found you at digitsmith.com and I am interested in finding out more
about your service. Would you be willing to digitize the attached logo
as a sample, along with a quote for what it would typically cost? I have
sent this logo to a number of digitizers in order to compare quality,
price, and turnaround between them all. If you are willing, please
digitize for 4.5" left chest logo on cotton polo, .dst format. Our
previous digitizer had trouble with this one. Its important for the
parallel lines to be true parallel and the spacing between the pieces of
the triangle to be correct. Just do the red and the lettering, no blue fill.”

The following are commentary on the sewouts we did from each digitizer’s completed work. You can view a high-res photo of all 6 side-by-side here (2.2mb)The number next to each name in the photo is the number of stiches in the sewout. As you can see, all the sewouts look pretty nice. I solicited commentary from the women in our embroidery department to find out what they though about the sewouts:

A) A’s design sewed out nicely, and had among the fewest stitches (in general the companies that did not charge by the stitch used fewer stitches). The ladies were not crazy about the parallel lines you can see in the fill however. They thought maybe it actually needed more stiches. They also preferred the border that most of the other digitizers placed around it. Vector Pipeline was nice and bold, but the smaller text beneath was a little sparse and the “P” in “Springville” was deformed. They did a good job keeping the lines of the pieces straight and parallel, getting the spacings between the pieces correct. As a result both the outer triangle and the inner triangle look pretty good. There was no explicit pricing structure, but the typical price for designs was quoted at $15, this design included.

Steve) Steve’s digitizing was good as well. The lines could have been a little crisper but you can see he got the spacing between the pieces correct and the lines are straight for the most part. The way the corners taper gives the pieces more of a curved look though. Steve also chose to place a border around each piece, which we think looks nicer. The “Vector Pipeline” text needs to be cleaned up by hand before we could give a customer this embroidery, and the “TM” and smaller text could be more bold. Steve also had a relatively low stich count. Steve quoted us a flat fee of $10 for most left chest and ball cap designs, and $20 for jacket backs. This makes him among the most affordable of the digitizers we considered.

Vlead Services) Vlead services was the favorite of our embroiderers. Vlead took the liberty of increasing the size of “Springville Compressor Station” and as a result it looks much cleaner, in that respect, than the other jobs. While some may not like a digitizer who takes liberties, our embroiderers LOVED this. To them it meant that Vlead knows that text below a certain size will never look good, no matter how skilled the digitizing. When the completed .dst file was returned we received the following commentary:

“Digitizing Director’s comments: Our minimum, standard size for text while digitizing is 1/4" tall. Since the bottom tagline was below our minimum, standard size requirement, we took the liberty to increase the height of the text slightly to sew and look better post sewing. We have also made sure that the parallel lines are truly parallel and the spacing between the three pieces of the triangle to be aligning correctly.”

Also, their lettering requires minimal manual cleanup. “TM” could have been a bit bolder but they were willing to fix this small thing for free. As mentioned in their commentary, they got the spacing correct on the triangle and the lines straight, as well as placing a border around each piece. Vlead’s website says digitizing runs $3.50 – $4.00 per 1,000 stitches, but volume customers can apply for more favorable pricing. We were able to find a price that was favorable for both parties, but I have been asked not to reveal the price we were given as this is negotiated individually with all volume customers.
Marc and megrisoft like this.
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Old November 25th, 2011, 12:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
stjohnsports stjohnsports is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

Elle) Elle’s digitizing looked very nice. She had some of the sharpest lines and fullest fill. The lettering presented some issues though. Again, “Vector Pipeline” would require manual cleanup after it came off our machines. Further, the smaller text appeared to pose a problem. The same “P” in “Springville” gave Elle trouble as gave A trouble. Personally, she was my second choice among the six. The price for the digitizing was quoted at $16.06

B) B was a VERY expensive American digitizer. While you can see from the quality of their digitizing job on the triangle why they are still in business, you can see from the lettering that there is a limit to what a skillful digitizer can physically do. The lettering doesn’t really look any better than anyone else’s. “Springville Compressor Station” doesn’t look that great, and manual cleanup would be necessary on “Vector Pipeline”. We didn’t feel the extra cost was justified for the marginal (if any) superiority in quality. The price for the job was quoted at around $35

C) C looked very nice too. They did among the best jobs on the “Vector Pipeline” and “TM” lettering. It’s nice and bold and readable, with minimal manual cleanup required. “Springville Compressor Station” looks among the best as well, although it’s still a bit fuzzy. For the number of stitches, the fill on the triangles seems a bit sparse still. C also had the best per-stitch rate of $1.00/1,000 stitches. While they used at least 10% more stitches (and 70% more than the least number of stitches used), they still came in the cheapest, at $9.15 for the digitizing. I am surprised they didn’t want their name to be known, as they did a very nice job at a very nice price.

I then sent the following e-mail to the digitizers, except B who was judged to be too expensive to pursue further:

“We are still working on our decision. I had some more questions regarding your embroidery digitizing.
1) What are acceptable forms of payment? Our accounts payable person very much dislikes Paypal.
2) What do you charge for revisions? (for example [I described required changes here].)
3)What upsize/downsize fees are there?
4) Minimum/maximum fees?
5) Rush fees?
6)Any other fees or information we should be aware of?”

All the digitizers responded promptly within 24 hours, so I commend them all for their responsiveness to customers. In particular, A, Steve, Vlead, and Elle were especially prompt and thorough in their responses. Vlead sent us an entire informational packet and a personal e-mail from the owner. From the e-mails and the digitizer’s websites, I obtained the information available in the spreadsheet linked here:

Standard Turnaround: All the digitizers had satisfactory turn around, within 24 hours. Of special note is Steve, who got our digitizing job back to us in 3 hours. Vlead and Elle also got our jobs back to us faster than the remaining 3.

Billing: As a good sized screenprinting/embroidery company, its important for us to have simple billing. Ideally, we wanted monthly invoicing rather than weekly or per-job. This means only 1 Paypal payment to keep track of for our accounts payable. Also, it would mean that we can see the work before we paid, which was not the case with our previous digitizer who demanded paypal microtransactions for each job and didn’t let us get the .dst for a sewout until we paid. In this respect, we were inclined towards Vlead, Steve and Elle, who offer periodic Paypal payments.

Revision Charges: Vlead, Steve, and C all quoted minor revisions as free. Elle quoted them as “mostly free” which I think really means “free” but was hedged against major changes a customer could try to characterize as minor revisions. A responded that all revisions would be quoted individually. Obviously, we favor the digitizers who provide free revision.

Upsize Charges: Steve was the only digitizer to offer free upsizing of previously done digitizing. A again said upsizing would have to be quoted. Vlead was $5 and Elle was “mostly free.” Upsize charge for C “varies.” While free is preferable, we feel a small fee for upsizes is acceptable since it will often require re-digitizing as the larger embroidery will require more stitches.

Downsize Charge: Downsize charges were identical to the upsize charges, except that C stated explicity that downsizing would be free.

Minimum Fee: Minimum fees were a non-issue as all digitizers’ (except our old digitizer) minimums were so low as to be immaterial.

Maximum Fee: A and Vlead had no maximum fee. Steve had a flat rate, so max/min doesn’t come into play. Elle had no maximum but said a discount would be offered for jobs over $75. C had a $80 minimum fee, but at $1/1,000 stitches, it’d be a heck of a digitizing job to reach $80.

Rush Charge: A had no rush charge, but simply required to be informed when the digitizing was needed. Vlead offered 4 hour turnaround for a $5 fee on ball caps and $9.50 for left chest. Elle and Steve offered 12 hour turnaround free so long as we let them know in advance we needed it rushed. C offered 12 hour turnaround for a $3 charge.

Communication: I should mention that while all the digitizers could communicate in English, Marcus and Elle were especially well-spoken and easy to communicate with.


Why did we choose Vlead?
In a word, Customer Service. Vlead compares favorably to the other digitizers in all the tangibles. They are not the cheapest (beware the absolute cheapest) but they are affordable. However, price is not our greatest concern. As sole proprietorship screenprinting/embroidery businesses go, we are a fairly decent size with 4 retail outlets and lots of sports leagues, high schools and universities that we do business with. It is more important to deliver satisfactory and timely work than to shave a few dollars off the bottom line. We therefore require a long term, cooperative relationship with our digitizer that ensures good communication and timely, satisfactory results for our customers.

We were very impressed with Marcus’ (Vlead’s owner, whom we dealt with directly) efforts to demonstrate his willingness and ability to form a long term business relationship. He went to great lengths to show us his business has the infrastructure and stability to become a productive long term partner. We received photos by e-mail of his staff, IT assets and offices in India, which was further assurance of his abilities to deliver what we need. We were just plain impressed with Marcus’ motivation--he clearly has a passion for his business and recognizes (as we do) that superior customer service is vital for success. We were not convinced that some of the other digitizers would share our outlook the way Marcus does, or that all the digitizers had the size and professional-ness to handle our business.

We also liked that, while Vlead has a website, all our business dealings are carried out by e-mail. As one of our sales reps once told me, “I went to school for Rec Sports Mgmt, not IT” Our sales reps are not experts with computers and it’s not their jobs to be. They are not familiar with file management or webforms, and had trouble submitting digitizing jobs to, and retrieving their completed files from, the website of our previous digitizer. Also, e-mail allows better communication than filling in a few text boxes on a webform. Of all the digitizers, only Steve and Vlead offered to do business solely by e-mail.

Now that we’re customers: We have been using Vlead since August now and have had time to discover how our dealings as a client will be. We are very satisfied. Upon choosing Marcus, we were presented an information sheet to fill out, requesting details on our standard preferences for digitizing jobs.

As you can see from the 6 sewouts, the same image and instructions can be interpreted many ways. Our standard preferences are therefore kept on file at Vlead, in order to minimize edits and better serve our requirements.

Marcus calls his customers once-monthly to make sure Vlead is meeting their expectations, and to address any issues, requests, etc. that customers may have. We have made several requests, such as changes to the information presented on invoices, inquiries about billing, etc. Marcus has always responded to us promptly, and made accomodations to satisfy our requests. Our salespeople RAVE about Vlead for their digitizing quality, price, responsiveness and ease of communication. Overall, we feel the price we pay is outstanding for the level of personal attention and service that we receive.

In summary: For a good-sized organization, I would highly recommend Vlead. I would also feel comfortable dealing with Elle although I don’t see how she could surpass the job Vlead has done.

For a smaller organization or a one-off digitizing job, I would feel comfortable with Vlead, Elle, C or Steve.

I had questions whether Steve could acommodate our volume, given that he appears to be a one-man operation doing a fair bit of work already for members of this forum. I had questions about C's longevity and web-based interface for communication and job submission. The price and quality are good for both however.

Contact info for the non-anonymous digitizers:

Elle: http://www.momols.com and s a l e s @ momols.com

Steve: g n i z i t i g i [email address] (remove the spaces in the username, I typed it this way so Steve doesn't get his e-mail picked up and spammed by bots)

Vlead: http://www.vleadservices.com/ and m a r c u s @ vleadservices.com

I hope everyone finds this info useful, please feel free to comment with your own opinions.

Gerald
St. John Sports
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Old November 25th, 2011, 01:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
gnizitigid gnizitigid is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

Hi Gerald,

First of all i really appreciate your detailed review which will help other forum members to select and test the digitizer.

I liked the method and presentation of your this review.
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Old November 28th, 2011, 09:57 AM   #4 (permalink)
harleydude777 harleydude777 is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

hi all......Just a quick FYI....I was not involved in this test....I would have been happy to reveal my identity if I had been asked to participate......I just did not want anyone to feel I was one of the 3 that would not identify themselves....thank you for your time.....I hope no one thinks that this was an inappropriate post....hope everyone has a great week.

Brent
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Old November 28th, 2011, 03:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
drdoct drdoct is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

I didn't get in on this either, but then again I don't really advertize. FWIW, after looking at all of them I'm wondering if your machine isn't out of adjustment a little, or wrongly hooped. There are uneven letterings within a word that shouldn't be there unless the digitizer actually digitized the font by hand. B&C look the worst on this. I'd be curious to see another stitch out from a different machine just to see. Your thread looks loose, which will make a design look messy. Thanks for the test though. It helps to see other's work and how they approach a problem. Below all the tracing, there is a certain art to it all.
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Old November 28th, 2011, 10:01 PM   #6 (permalink)
nametags nametags is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

Very nice post,,,,very informative and it appears very fairly done.

I've used Steve many times and he always does top notch work,,,,and if there is ever any issue, he fixes it promptly. I'll post it here since he did allow himself to do the test blindly and didn't mind putting his name on the line.

This post sort of reminds me of the TV show Undercover Boss,,,,,,we love that one.
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Old November 29th, 2011, 02:28 PM   #7 (permalink)
powerstitch powerstitch is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

Personally you should get this test repeated with another logo and post the job on this thread to whoever wants to participate.

That way no digitizer will complain they never got a chance to participate.

ofcourse this is if you have the time....

Im sure you will get much better results than you already have with a broader choice of digitizers.

If you are genuine and not bias towards any particular digitizer, I think this would be an amazing test and reference point for those looking for digitizers.
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Old November 30th, 2011, 06:39 AM   #8 (permalink)
megrisoft megrisoft is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

To me, this post is 100% true and genuine and nothing is biased.....he has posted lengthy review and yes, i would have liked my name also in the list ....
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Old November 30th, 2011, 09:27 AM   #9 (permalink)
stjohnsports stjohnsports is offline
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Default Re: Sharing my digitizer comparison

Apologies to anyone I wasn't able to include you in the evaluation who would have liked to be. I would have preferred a few more and especially a few more willing to be identified.

Unfortunately, as this is all "on the clock," I couldn't really justify running another digitizer evaluation unless we actually needed a new one. I hope you all found it informative though.

Gerald
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Old November 30th, 2011, 10:20 AM   #10 (permalink)
harleydude777 harleydude777 is offline
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with all due respect "Powerstitch" no where in my response did I come off as complaining !!!!!! just merely stated a fact that I missed out on the test comparison and did not want people to possibly associate my name with some of the digitizers who would not identify themselves......"it's that simple"

Harleydude777
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