Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Equipment. New, used, reconditioned.

Either you are expanding your business or your current equipment is worn out, you are looking for a new piece of machinery. The question is, what is the best use of my money? There are many options available. Multiple manufacturers have great new products. Many manufacturers and suppliers offer reconditioned machines. There is always the used market through industry forums, EBay and Craigslist. What to do, what to do.

Let's start with used machines. You can find these anywhere. The web, local competitors, trade publications all list machines that other printers are wanting to sell. This is a lot like buying used car from someone you don't know. There is a reason they are getting rid of it that they are not going to tell you. Let's see how that effects different pieces of machinery.
  • Conveyor Dryers. No matter what they say, something is broken that is expensive to fix. I say this from experience. I have taken a lot of used dryers as trade-ins. They are never fully functional. It may have been running when the original owner replaced it but they are replacing it for a reason. If the machine is available at an auction remember that the company that is out of business did not have the money to maintain it. Repair costs will range for $250 to $1000 depending on what is broken.
  • Manual textile printers. The biggest risk you take as a buyer of used machinery is registration. A press will have increased problems as it ages due to wear and tear. Maintenance can prevent much of this, however, some presses do not age well. If there is registration issues they can be expensive and time consuming to remedy. If the press holds register well but has some broken parts, make sure that those parts are still available.
  • Flash cure units. These are used up. Do not buy. You can purchase new ones for very little money.
  • Exposure systems. These may be a good deal. You will probably have to replace rubber and reseal the frame but if you are handy they are a pretty good buy. Make sure that the bulb is currently available.
  • Automatic textile presses. How handy are you? How good of a printer are you? Can you figure one of these out without manufacturer's help. When you get done, will you make any money on it within 3 months without serious aggravation? If you can answer yes to all of these, then take a look. But parts are expensive and your time is valuable.
Reconditioned machinery is usually a good deal. The manufacturer or distributor has made sure that the machinery is functional. Parts have been replaced with new or reconditioned parts. There is usually a warranty on the unit for 30 days or so. There is still a risk. These are reconditioned but they are not new.

  • Conveyor dryers. Heaters, motors and switches can work one day and break the next. Within a few months you may be repairing the unit because the original parts that are still in the unit are old. You will have maintenance costs within the first year. They may be minimal but you risk the $1000 of another rebuild.
  • Manual textile printers. These are a good buy. The registration has been secured. The press is functional. They are just dirty. Yes, they are really dirty. Reconditioned does not mean new paint. If you are willing to clean them up or work around the "Ugly Betty" effect they they are a good buy.
  • Flash cure units. If you find one that is reconditioned, then buy it. Rare, these things. These and heat press machines usually get used up and thrown out.
  • Exposure units. This is another good buy. The seal has been rebuilt. The risk is in the electronics and the vacuum motor. You may have to replace these sooner than you would like.
  • Automatic textile printers. Buying one of these has the same risk a buying a reconditioned dryer. You could have very high maintenance costs very quickly. Make sure you are ready to be your own repairman and that the parts for the machine are still available.
New machinery. OK, so you wince at the price. So did I when I bought my new car. But, it starts every day. I did not have maintenance costs for a number of years. I have been serviced very well by the company I purchased it from. If I were purchasing an item that directly drove the productivity of my business, then I would buy new. A printer makes money when he sells jobs at a good margin and delivers them quickly. If time is spent on maintenance or down-time then profit margins suffer. Remember, you are in this for the $.

Take a look at all your options. Balance your risks. Spend wisely, your profit margins are at stake.