“I'm looking to acquire a piece of production equipment for my laundry, but am undecided about whether to buy it new or used. What information should I consider as far as total cost vs. benefits are concerned? I want to make sure I'm comparing apples to apples."
EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURING: Kim Shady is vice president of distributor sales for Alliance Laundry Systems’ UniMac brand and has more than 19 years of commercial laundry experience. He started and ran a successful restaurant business for a number of years before joining the laundry industry.
Buying used equipment is a lot like buying a used car, in that you are left with this question: Why did the previous owner get rid of it?
If you’re a glass-is-half-full person, the reason the unit is available is because the previous owner got out of the business and didn’t need the piece. The other view is they dumped the machine early because it had a history of problems. Moral of the story is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.
That’s not to say there aren’t good deals out there, but what is your security blanket? A used car is less of a risk for the mechanically inclined buyer. The same is true in the laundry.
If you have a savvy engineer who can support the equipment in the event of problems, used machines can be an excellent choice. But there are risks.
You likely won’t see the piece in operation before it’s installed. You’ll have (at best) a limited warranty. You don’t know how the machine was used. Perhaps the washer-extractor you’re considering was frequently underloaded, leaving possible bearing-and-seal issues with you as the new owner. And as fast as electronics change, you may have trouble finding replacement parts down the road.
The benefits of new equipment are obvious. There is a strong warranty supported by the distributor; consistent loading, training and programming for staff if all equipment is the same; and, of course, it’s new, so it shouldn’t offer any problems at startup.
It really boils down to why you’re buying equipment. We all can agree that we want the machines to do the job in the most efficient way possible. That means using reduced utilities and labor. When resources are maximized, we’ve made a good investment.
New equipment will almost always be the soundest investment, making an apples-to-apples comparison difficult.
TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Jim Mitchell, principal technical support specialist, is a 27-year Ecolab veteran. He’s currently the OPL lead in providing technical support to field associates. He edits Institutional Technical Digest, a monthly publication reaching 3,300 employees.
It’s a fairly common practice in large-production laundries to purchase used laundry equipment vs. new. It’s usually just the opposite in smaller, on-premise operations.
[NP][/NP]The immediate benefit of purchasing used is obvious – less money spent up front. It will also result in more net income to your bottom line, as long as frequent breakdowns of used equipment don’t interfere with production flow (and cost additional out-of-pocket repair expenses).
How important is this piece of equipment to your operation? Will it be used in a low-, moderate- or high-production area? If you intend to purchase a used piece of equipment for a high-production area, could you afford a possible breakdown (that would be far less of a possibility with new equipment)?
Purchasing a used piece of equipment is like purchasing a used car – you always take the chance of purchasing a maintenance headache (which you can’t afford in a high-production area).
If you purchase a used car from a dealer, they will usually provide you with a vehicle condition report. Depending on the thoroughness of the dealer, there is some degree of comfort that the car has been checked over for maintenance deficiencies, which you likely won’t get from a private seller. The same applies to laundry equipment.
Some dealers are “Authorized Service Centers” for manufacturers and sell “recertified” equipment that is almost as good as new. Sometimes, a short-term warranty accompanies this equipment. By the same token, private sellers can sell their used equipment at substantially lower costs due to low or no overhead.
Depending on the age of the equipment, repair parts may be difficult to obtain. Is there an authorized repair company in your area? Do they have sufficient repair parts available? If not, do you have a maintenance engineer on staff? Can you afford to keep an adequate stock of repair parts for aging equipment? Having an on-site engineer can be an important consideration on whether a used machine makes sense for you.
Does the previous owner have maintenance records? The likelihood of this decreases as the age of the equipment becomes greater. If no records are available, would the seller authorize a competent third party to inspect it for you, at their expense?
How was the equipment used, and in what environment? Did the equipment operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, or maybe only one shift per day? To what chemistry and types of classifications was it subjected? Did the previous owner run constant, heavy-soil formulas or mostly light-soil formulas?
All of these questions can give you a good idea about possible problem areas, or about the serviceable life remaining.
Quality used equipment can be a great investment. However, like purchasing a used car, do your homework before committing. Your diligence can save you a bundle of money (and headaches) in the long run.