When your solution provider presents you with a proposed equipment project to solve a current manufacturing need, is he or she really offering you the most cost effective approach? How can you be sure that your partner has left no metaphorical solution stone unturned, and that you are in fact being offered a well thought out and thorough answer to your requirements? We have discovered that a complete investigation should involve a check to see if a retrofitting (read this as used with upgrades) equipment approach would be a fit that might offer near comparable performance at a fraction of the cost.
Wait, I can hear the objections now…how will you know what condition the equipment is in, and how much useful life is left in it…what about obsolete technology, particularly in the controls, and how will you support this…how will you know that an available machine is a suitable fit for your product and process conditions, and the list goes on. All of these potential obstacles can be removed with a project approach that embraces the challenges of repurposing equipment that has been once loved.
But it’s not as simple as finding a used piece of equipment and bringing it to your facility. There’s a right way to go about retrofitting equipment. First, good equipment pedigree and documentation is highly important. If the former owner has not provided system information in the form of drawings, wiring diagrams, operations and maintenance manuals, and routine maintenance records, we have found that these gaps make the machinery unusable in our repurposing model.
Next, we only pursue and secure used equipment using channels that we know and trust. Working with a supplier of used equipment that knows the trade, and the machines typically employed in it, helps immensely with understanding the viability of the repurposing goal.
A firsthand look at the equipment is also high on our list of qualifying steps, although not a must. This step gives us a window into the condition of the machinery and controls, and helps us understand how much refurbishing will be needed. We look for a match between operating conditions between our new use, and the equipment’s previous engagement; this aids in understanding the gaps that might exist in speeds, horsepower, structure, etc.
Ultimately, we then put together a prospectus for our client that shows the level of effort that will be required to bring the available and qualified used equipment up to requirements. This may include such scope as: Drives and controls replacement; machine dismantle, clean, and repaint; inspect/test rolling elements and replace as needed; design, fabrication and install costs for new function modules; and the list can go on to meet the client’s User Requirements.
Our Prospectus for repurposed equipment can then be compared to a new equipment/system purchase, and if we have a qualified source of hardware to start with, and good match on the application, a refurbished once loved line can be a near match, and can save our clients as much cost as up to half of the price of new machinery.
That’s what we call a thorough investigation into all possible solutions for our customers. We recently helped a client with a refurbished coating machine.