As Good As New, Only Better
Material handling systems (conveyors, sorting systems, shelving, etc.) are a significant purchase regardless of how they are sliced. Making the wrong choice can be costly, and making the right choice can be challenging, owing largely to the sheer number and variety of available options.
Of course, you could simply purchase new equipment at a premium price. You know exactly what you are getting, as long as the equipment meets specifications. Your only concern is that you may have paid more for it than was necessary.
By purchasing used equipment, you can save money (or at the very least spend less, which is not always the same thing). All that remains is to ensure reliability—or, at the very least, the cost of replacing the equipment if it fails to perform as intended.
Finally, reconditioned equipment is available. This will save you some money, but not nearly as much as purchasing used. On the other hand, it should perform as well as new, if not better. That is the theory, but you can never be certain of anything other than a quick paint job being performed on the equipment. In an ideal world, reconditioned equipment would strike the ideal balance between new-like quality and cost savings associated with used equipment. However, unless you know precisely what to look for, predicting performance and comparing it to the cost of the equipment will be difficult.
Fortunately, there is a fourth option that attempts to eliminate this uncertainty by specifying – and guaranteeing – precisely what has been done to used equipment prior to its resale. Equipment that has been “renewed” enables informed purchasing. As with new equipment, you can calculate the purchase’s value based on anticipated performance versus cost.
In Whom Do You Put Your Trust?
Of course, anyone can slap a “renewed” label on some used reconditioned equipment, so you have to be cautious about who you are dealing with. How are they able to “renew” their equipment? How are you aware of the maintenance performed on the equipment? What will the supplier do if the equipment does not perform as promised?
If possible, work with a supplier of material handling equipment that you are familiar with. Unless this is possible, it is critical to find a supplier with experience refurbishing the type of equipment you are considering and a solid reputation in the industry for standing behind the products they sell. Consult with other customers. To be safe, attempt to speak with customers who are not on a list provided by the supplier.
If possible, pay a visit to the supplier’s facility. Are they equipped with qualified engineers and shop personnel to inspect, test, rebuild, and retrofit the equipment? They improve the cosmetic appearance of the product but overlook the additional work required to revitalize the equipment’s performance. Is their process rigorously inspected and tested? Do they offer a warranty on the equipment’s performance?
The Renewal Procedures
A true equipment renewal program adds value to the equipment throughout its lifecycle, from disassembly at its previous location to installation and operation in your facility.
Disassembly. Material handling equipment is subjected to wear and tear over the course of its useful life. Regular maintenance and intelligent operation of the equipment can help keep this to a minimum, but careless disassembly can undo all of this good work. The supplier must inspect the equipment on-site and any maintenance records before accepting it as potentially renewable. More importantly, an experienced, dependable crew must be hired to dismantle the system, classify it, palletize it, and transport it to the renewal facility.
Evaluation. As previously stated, some degree of wear and tear is unavoidable. Some is acceptable, which is one of the reasons that refurbished equipment is less expensive than new. However, excessive wear is not acceptable. Certain components of a system may be rejected or sold as used at a discount. Often, wear and tear is concentrated on easily replaceable components such as seals, rollers, and bearings. A well-managed renewal program will replace critical components in this category even if they appear to be in good condition.
Testing. Renewed equipment should operate in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. (It may not perform as well as new equipment, but that is why you are saving money.) A good renewal program will test each component to determine the performance of the reassembled system.
Design. You are unlikely to operate this equipment exactly as the previous owner did. A competent design and engineering team can assist you in seamlessly integrating the equipment into your existing system.
Creative Work. Any reconditioned equipment will come with a repaint job, but the paint on renewed equipment is not there to conceal flaws. It is purely cosmetic in nature.
Reassembly. While refurbished equipment may not be as easy to assemble as new equipment, it is easier to work with than used equipment. A certain amount of additional adjustment, as well as re-drilling of holes and other minor modifications, will almost certainly be required to retrofit the system properly. A well-trained crew can be a significant asset in this situation.
Living on Refurbished Equipment
For a specified period of time, renewed equipment will continue to operate within specifications (less than new, more than used). However, this is not a straightforward case of “you get what you pay for.” The reality is that the majority of material handling systems have a finite life. Increased volume changes in business processes or materials handled, the availability of new material handling technologies-all of these factors can and will eventually render your new system obsolete. Why would you pay for more time than you require?
Naturally, capitalizing on this factor requires forethought. Occasionally, the solution is quite straightforward. For instance, your current system is completely inadequate for your requirements and must be replaced immediately. On the other hand, you intend to consolidate material handling operations in four years into a single facility. Paying extra for a ten-year-old system makes no sense. Renewed is a no-brainer.
On the other hand, the choice is not always binary. Frequently, a combination of new, refurbished, and even used equipment is the most cost-effective option. For instance, you might wish to capitalize on recent advancements in control systems. For high-traffic, densely populated areas, you may want the newest, quietest, and fastest-rated conveyors. In these instances, purchase new. On the other hand, renewed may be the best option for the majority of your conveyor component. Used or reconditioned conventional equipment may be sufficient to meet all or a portion of your shelving requirements.
The point is to consider all of your options, keeping in mind that complex systems may benefit from a combination of them, and then make the best choices for your requirements, budget, and future plans.