Price of thread breaks

Calculate the Cost of Thread Breaks

Manager of publications and education for Madeira USA. Alice has marketing expertise developed through accomplishments in publishing, public relations, and sales within art, home decor, film, and television production. Email her at

With cost-cutting, the driving force in the majority of businesses these days, don’t be fooled by a misstep when it comes to buying embroidery thread. Beware of “Save money, buy cheap.”

No! You wouldn’t expect your car to run smoothly on inferior, low-grade motor oil, or your home to be heated by cheap, potentially noxious fuel. The same thinking should be used when deciding which thread to run on your embroidery machines in order to keep them running fast, smooth and break free.

Having made the considerable investment in your machines, scrimping on thread is not a wise option. While some embroidery thread undergoes massive testing throughout the manufacturing process and after––checking its strength, colorfastness, and resiliency––some does not. And those are the ones you need to stay away from. The cost to you in time, stress and peace of mind will be far greater than the dollar or two more you may have to spend for a cone of 5,000 yards of high-quality embroidery thread that will produce around a million stitches.

To show customers just how much they stand to lose if inferior thread is used, we’ve created and updated a series of simple equations that will actually calculate what you stand to lose each time you have to deal with a thread break. So grab a notepad, pencil, and calculator and go through this simple exercise with me to see how much buying cheap will cost you.

Step 1: Calculate stitches per hour

We’ll use the same example throughout so we can illustrate with real results. First, you need to calculate the number of stitches you are capable of producing each hour. Use this formula:

Number of machine heads you operate X stitches per minute (spm) X minutes in an hour ÷ 1,000.

Our imaginary embroidery shop operates six heads. Our machine speed is set at 700 spm. This works out to:

6 X 700 = 4200; 4200 X 60 = 252,000;
252,000 ÷ 1,000 = 252

252, therefore, is the number of stitching units we are capable of producing per hour.

Step 2: Calculate what you charge the customer>

Now, using the number of stitching units you calculated in Step 1, you can calculate what you would charge the customer per unit. Apply that result to this formula:

Stitches per hour X your rate charged
per 1,000 stitches

In our example, we can produce 252 stitching units per hour and we charge $.50 per 1,000 stitches, so 252 X $.50 = $126 per stitching unit.

Step 3: Calculate minutes per run

Next––this one’s easy!––use this formula:

Number of stitches in your design ÷ stitches per minute.

Back to our example, there are 10,000 stitches in the design and we are running our machine at 700 stitches per minute, so 10,000 ÷ 700 = 14.28, which we will round to 14.3.

Step 4: Calculate runs per hour

Use the result from Step 3 in this formula:

Minutes in an hour ÷ minutes per run.

Thus, 60 minutes ÷ 14.3 = 4.19, which we will round to 4.2. This means, that, using our example, we should be able to get 4.2 runs of the design done each hour.

Step 5: Estimate the time to re-start

When a thread break does occur, embroiderers estimate that it takes a minute to re-thread, back up the machine and push start, so now our minutes per run would look like this:

14.3 + 1 minute to re-start = 15.3 minutes per run with 1 thread break.

Step 6: Calculate the runs per hour with one thread break

Don’t give up, you’re halfway there. Apply your results so far to this formula:

Minutes in an hour ÷ minutes per run with 1 thread break, so 60 ÷ 15.3 = 3.9215, which we will round to 3.92.

Step 7: Calculate the stitches per hour with one thread break

This step looks more complicated than it is. Using the answers you’ve arrived at in the steps above, use this formula:

Number of machine heads X runs per hour with 1 thread break X stitches in the design ÷ 1,000 so, in our example, 6 X 3.92 = 23.52; 23.52 X 10,000 = 235,200; 235,200 ÷ 1,000 = 235.2.

Step 8: Calculate profitability with one thread break

Use this formula:

Stitches per hour with 1 thread break X rate charged per 1000 stitches, so 235.2 X $.50 = $117.60.

Step 9: Calculate profit lost per run with one thread break

Use this formula:

What we charge the customer less what we make in an hour with one thread break, so $126 – $117.60 = $8.40 lost in the time it takes to re-thread and re-start machine.

Step 10: Calculate profit lost per hour with one thread break

Use this formula:

Profit lost per hour with one thread break ÷ runs per hour with one thread break, so $8.40 ÷ 3.93 = $2.137, which we will round to $2.14.

In our example of a six-head embroidery company which runs its machines at 700 spm, is working on a 10,000 stitch design and charging the customer $.50 per 1000 stitches, the company will lose $2.14 for each design that suffers one thread break. And, instead of making $126 per hour while running the design, the company will only make $117.60, losing $8.40 for the hour of running the design on six heads!

Summary of results

Here’s what you can expect, applying the above formulas:

                                        No thread breaks    One thread break

Stitching units per hour   252                           235.5
Profitability                      $126/hour                 $117.60/hour
Minutes per run               14.3                          15.3
Runs per hour                  4.2                            3.93
Profit lost per run              0                              2.14
Profits lost per hour          0                              8.40