Military, transportation, clothing, sporting and healthcare production often utilize commercial sewing contractors to produce uniform merchandise such as upholstery, protective covers, hosiery and flags. Because these products often require heavy fabrics or many layers of fabric to be sewn together, commercial sewing machines are heftier than consumer grade machines. Many sewers are self-oiling with the intention of being run for hours at a time. The machines are most often made of metal with plastic components to ensure durability. A metal case houses a machine motor, the size of which varies with style, use and production needs. Commercial sewing organizes production layouts around the design and volume needed, often creating assembly lines to pull together a completed product. Many commercial machines carry out only one specific job, such as zippers or welting, per machine, though more sophisticated equipment may be programmed to perform a number of different tasks.
The words "commercial sewing" are used to describe operations that offer sewing and other related services. Product engineering and fabric cutting based on client designs are also integral elements of the commercial sewing industry. Commercial companies often use sewing pattern software that allows design measurements to be entered in and sent to the sewing machine with options to automatically configure size changes. These programs are most commonly used in clothing production as many sizes of the same merchandise may be required. Commercial sewing businesses often have in-house engineering to oversee computerized patterns. After patterns are made the fabric must be cut. This may be done at the sewing company, but several independent fabric cutters also work in conjunction with manufacturers as more equipment requires more space. Fabric cutting equipment includes, but is not limited to, die electric heat sealers, strip cutters and cutting tables. Once a design is engineered and fabric is cut, the materials and pattern program are sent to the sewing machines themselves. Some machines are automated while others are operated manually. A variety of stitch options and accessories are also available on commercial grade models. Hobbyists and artisans have come to make use of commercial sewing equipment on a small scale, though commercial sewing machines are used mainly by manufacturers, apprentices and professionals who operate them continuously.