Before You Invest

10 pre-purchase considerations when buying new equipment

New equipment has the ability to transform a business. Modernizing or investing in essential technology can increase capacity and open doors to new markets. But, adding machinery can also strain workflow and cause other issues if it isn’t successfully integrated into operations.

To have a successful integration, it’s important to have a vision for what the equipment will mean for your company as well as grasp the realities of your internal organization. It’s not just about placing the machine on the production floor that makes you more productive. But, integrating new equipment provides the opportunity to reexamine how things are done around the plant.

Here, we examine the 10 crucial elements to consider before you invest, as advised by consensus of top industry sources.

1. Consider Your Goals

Set product, production and service goals before purchasing new machinery. Think about what you want to do, both in the short and long term. Thinking about where you see your business in five years can help you avoid purchasing technology that may be obsolete or insufficient for your goals.

2. Look at your Facility and Operations

A company’s manufacturing space dictates the size and power of any machine purchase. Most process goals can be met using machines in a range of sizes, and equipment suppliers can assist in helping to choose the best fit.

Additionally, companies should look at how a new piece of equipment will affect other operations or departments. Be aware that integrating even the simplest pieces of equipment can change a business’s constraints, where you may have a gain in one department, but the physical constraint shifts to another. Or, in this same vein, new equipment may require increased workflow, orders and/or shifts to make sure it is utilized to full potential.

Finally, what may seem common sense and yet is often overlooked, consider the electrical capabilities of the facility.

3. Think Initial and Long-Term Costs

Machine cost is frequently a top consideration. However, factors such as quality, maintenance, availability of parts and technical support can all affect the long-term cost of a machine.

Consider service after the sale, too. Investigate whether the company you purchase from has a qualified service team. This plays into the price factor—one option may be less expensive, but if there is no support when it breaks down, it may end up costing more in the long run.

4. Check Parts Availability

Throughout the life of a machine, numerous parts will need replacing. The availability of parts can impact production and cost, particularly if parts need to be shipped from overseas.

Investigate what the provider has on hand as far as items and parts. Many times, equipment suppliers track what happens to a machine over its lifespan and know what parts and pieces fatigue more quickly than others.

They should have such items on hand for faster delivery to get you back up and running.

5. Look at the Market

The demands of your customers can direct you to the best equipment choice. What are customers demanding? What do they want and need? What do their customers want and need? Think about the entire supply chain and how new equipment can serve each link.

6. Create an Action Plan

The adage “a failure to plan is a plan to fail” applies in terms of new equipment. Often, employees fall back into old habits instead of learning to utilize new technology, and ultimately waste the investment as the equipment sits idle.

But, if there is an action plan in place, this risk is minimized. Envision the flow of information and material in a way that supports your investment.

7. Train Operators Thoroughly

Any new equipment will change responsibilities for the departments that will benefit from its purchase. While hopefully for the better, it’s still a good idea to review job descriptions and responsibilities of those whose positions are directly affected by the new equipment.

Further, while many organizations complete initial operator training, some fail to retrain operators, or to train new operators. Don’t be one of them. And, don’t just invest in training, but also in quality employees. Recognize the skill it takes to operate the machinery and pay the operators accordingly.

8. Prepare for Delivery

Many companies underestimate the logistics of receiving and installing their new equipment, our sources say. Beyond thinking through the actual delivery—what manpower, space and other logistics it requires—consider also any production downtime that might occur during the receiving and installation process.

9. Keep a Clean Environment

As with maintenance, a clean environment can have a large impact on the life and operations of a machine. Production areas produce dust and debris that can inhibit the performance of your equipment.

Cleanliness and safety are not to be taken lightly.

10. Create a Maintenance Plan

A regular maintenance program can greatly increase the life of a machine. Preventative maintenance is vital to extending the life of your equipment and reducing costs associated with keeping machinery running. In addition, a well maintained machine will improve the overall efficiency, accuracy and general throughput of material being processed on the equipment.

Because it is so important, have a technician train operators on not only using, but also maintaining the equipment.

Editors Note: This article was adapted from Window & Door's sister publication, Glass Magazine.