Ceramic Industry Blog

Susan Sutton is Editor-in-Chief, Integrated Media of Ceramic Industry magazine. She can be reached at suttons@bnpmedia.com or (330) 336-4098.

Used Equipment Pros and Cons

July 22, 2008
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Long before the burst U.S. housing bubble led to this most recent economic downturn, manufacturers in the ceramic and related industries were forced to deal with challenging market conditions. Rising material, fuel and energy costs, along with increased overseas competition-particularly from China-have led manufacturers to take sometimes drastic measures to remain competitive.

Putting off capital expenditures is an option that some manufacturers choose to take to keep costs in line, but it can be difficult to compete when you’re working with under-performing equipment. Whether dealing with insufficient production levels or high levels of rejects and/or energy consumption, there comes a point when those additional costs are too much of a burden and upgraded equipment simply becomes a must.

Now, consider Joe Citizen. He doesn’t necessarily run out and buy a brand-new luxury car to meet his transportation needs. A solid, well-maintained used car might very well do the trick, and economically at that. Similarly, ceramic manufacturers needn’t automatically buy the biggest and “best” piece of new equipment on the market. While buying new might be the best solution for some, others could be much better served by considering used equipment options.

The most important guideline for equipment “shopping” is research, research, research. According to Arthur W. Mohr, president of Mohr Corp., “By researching manufacturers of new machinery, reading their literature and learning about accessory features and performance criteria, buyers will be better equipped to speak with second-hand machinery suppliers.”

Ralph Ruark, a registered professional engineer and senior technical editor of CI, suggests that manufacturers considering the purchase of a used kiln should take a number of different factors into account, including the kiln’s condition, instrumentation, risks/guarantees, compliance upgrades and expected fuel costs. “Make sure you analyze all of the costs when evaluating a used kiln purchase,” he advises. “And make sure the used kiln you’re considering can cost-effectively do what you need it to do.”

Developing and maintaining good relationships is also key. Writes Mohr, “A relationship that is based on mutual respect is going to bring about the best final transaction. Price is important, but it is secondary to acquiring the correct machine for the application. A seller can have more confidence when they see that they are doing business with professional people who are focused on the proper machine in the proper condition. Price can then be negotiated on the basis of mutual benefit and best value to the buyer.”

Purchasing used equipment can be faster and, at least initially, less expensive than buying new. Just make sure you do your homework and make the best decision for your application.
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