September 27th, 2011
Thinking About Buying Used Equipment? Oftentimes Buying New is Better in the Long Run
With the downturn in the industry, we have all seen the increase in used equipment bargains available, but in many cases buying new equipment may be the better choice. Buying pre-owned equipment can and often does save a considerable amount of expense, but the buyer must make sure he or she does their homework up front and avoids making a hasty choice!
Be aware that buying used isn’t always the best long term investment, especially when it comes to automated equipment. The first rule of thumb is to never buy a piece of equipment sight unseen. The price of an airline ticket is cheap insurance when it comes to evaluating an expensive piece of used equipment before buying it. But I am shocked how often companies will buy a pre-owned piece of equipment sight unseen! By all means, hop on a plane and go see what you are buying. Bring your maintenance technician along on the trip. He or she is the best person to ascertain the condition of the equipment and they can tell whether or not it has been well maintained or if it has been run ragged. Oftentimes, pre-owned equipment is purchased at an auction and it is not set up and running. There is really no certain way to ascertain the working condition of such equipment other than correlating working condition to age and assuming that the more recent the date of manufacture, the better chance that it was working when it was disassembled. The ideal situation is to find a company that has ordered a new machine and wants to sell their existing machine. In this case, the buyer of the used machine can go visit and see the equipment in operation prior to purchasing it. Training can be conducted so that once the used machine is set up at its new location the new owner already knows how to run it. Also, the best method of disassembling it and shipping it can be ascertained. Improper disassembly and shipping methods can cause damage to the equipment. Buying it is one thing – then you have to disassemble it, ship it correctly and safely, and then re-assemble it in working order. This is not always as easy as one thinks!
The other big factor for consideration is how serviceable the equipment may or may not be. This is especially an issue with automated equipment that uses servo motors and motion control boards. Analog servo motors have been obsoleted by digital servo motors. This means if you buy a used piece of equipment with an analog servo motor, you may not be able to find a replacement should that motor need to be replaced. The same story goes for motion control boards. Over the last 20 years, motion control boards have become obsolete about every four years. First there were SE Boards, followed by G, H and then K Boards. The newer Boards are designated “KMotion.” If you buy an automated glass cutter, for example, that runs on one of the older Boards, and the Board needs to be replaced, you may not be able to find the part as it is no longer made. In this case, you will have a “not so inexpensive” boat anchor sitting on your floor!
Finally, when it comes to automated equipment, hardware is only half the consideration. One must take into consideration the software that runs it, and the level of support that is available for this software. If one buys an older piece of automated equipment, the software that runs it may no longer be supported by the manufacturer. Even if it is, the manufacturer will usually charge you a relicensing fee in order to provide continued support to the new owner. It may or may not be upgradeable to more recent software that runs on newer operating system platforms, so there may be an additional software expense to upgrade it. Remember, the software is the soul of any automated machine. It is what drives the hardware and makes the machine run efficiently and hopefully user friendly. If that software system is no longer supported, then you may very well be on your own. In this case, realizing your used equipment bargain may turn out to be a giant headache.
So, the purpose here is to not discourage companies from taking advantage of the used equipment market, because in many cases it has saved companies a considerable amount of expense and they have purchased just what they needed and are quite happy. But I have also seen the flip side of the coin. So, the purpose here is just to encourage window manufacturers to maintain a long term focus on their needs. In many cases, buying new may seem more expensive at first but may represent a better payback in the long run!