Don't get burned when purchasing used equipment

Unless your company has unlimited funding, the thrifty among plant management are normally careful with the capital budget. While some might purchase equipment directly from the OEM to guarantee machinery quality, others on a more restricted budget might opt to purchase used or refurbished equipment to save a few dollars.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find used capital equipment on eBay or Amazon, but you’ll certainly be able to find such goods on other sites. There’s a market for used equipment, that’s for sure.

But, purchasing used equipment presents certain risks in terms of usability. Operating manuals and other documentation probably won’t be coming with the machine.

Someone sent me a digital missive recently that informed me that Larry Stoma, a design engineer at The Witte Company, Inc., in Washington, NJ offers seven tips for not getting stung when buying on the used market. His company manufactures process equipment (new, of course). His ideas are pretty basic, but can get forgotten in the heat of the moment.

• First, he advises, determine your process needs before searching the Web. Equipment that doesn’t do what you need it to do is, by definition, already too costly.

• Investigate what’s being sold. If you don’t understand something in the ad, find an experienced engineer who designs and operates similar equipment.

• Stoma recommends getting the machine’s serial number and contacting the OEM, if it’s still in business, to inquire what’s known about the hardware. Perhaps you can verify the original specs haven’t degraded from the specs on your prospective purchase.

• While you’re at it, see if you can get the seller to send copies of the O&M manuals, any training materials, maintenance records, and anything else on hand.

• You’re probably going to want to install the equipment out on your plant floor. It might be wise to confirm that the hardware can be transported, will fit through your doors when it arrives, and can be installed where you think it ought to be located.

• Don’t expect to get a warranty. These can be transferred and most OEM’s won’t honor them if the equipment has been field modified.

• Finally, Stoma suggests that you get familiar with current local regulations.

• Most sellers aren’t to date on your specific regulatory environment or those found overseas.

In any case, Keith Mobley says it’s sometimes possible to apply predictive maintenance to mothballed equipment.

Remember, it’s all a case of caveat emptor.