“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."
CHEMICALS SUPPLY: Kevin McLaren directs the CLG (Commercial Laundry Group) Laboratories for the Dober Group, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals. He joined Dober in 1994 after serving 10 years as an applications chemist in the industrial and institutional housekeeping markets.
Deciding to expand the production portfolio in a laundry with either new or pre-owned equipment can begin by performing a risk/reward assessment.
If the equipment purchase is to continue growing a core business competency, there would be little apparent risk. Conversely, expanding the textile rental services into a new area or new product line could present an increased risk for short-term payback and long-term success. Thus, the first step in making the decision to purchase a piece of equipment may be linked to short- and long-term need.
The next step is to assess the general operational condition of the piece. Are the motors operational and well-maintained? Are the baskets clean, intact and free of burrs or other features that could result in tears or pilling of a textile item?
The long-term serviceability of the equipment should be considered. Is the equipment still under manufacturer warranty against defects? Further, how long will the manufacturer of the equipment support the piece with spare parts? Lastly, for pre-owned equipment, is there a foreseeable additional expense to refurbish the piece?
The third characteristic to consider is the equipment’s integration into the organization’s technology collection and physical plant systems.
Does the particular piece of equipment have the appropriate interfaces for your data-collection system? Is there sufficient memory in its processors to allow the variability and scope in required tasks? Will the equipment require a separate operational software system to program and store formulas?
Similarly, are the utility hook-ups consistent with those of the plant, or will a new electrical supply or steam/gas feed be required? What are the utility demands for the piece of equipment? Does older-style equipment produce a required production metric with utility costs similar to those of a newer piece of equipment, or is the pre-owned equipment less efficient as it relates to its power requirements?
A fourth consideration is the ease and similarity of use to your other production equipment.
Will the production staff be required to learn a completely different operational process for the one piece of equipment? Could such a process present barriers to the equipment’s use, or is the use of the equipment readily integrated into daily production?
Conversely, if the equipment to be purchased will have a champion who will take ownership of its use, it may be viewed as the “cool, new toy.” Does the purchase create enthusiasm within the production team, or is it a proverbial albatross?
Lastly, prior to purchasing a piece of new or pre-owned equipment, check for references by other users. Solicit the input of both the equipment owner and those persons who use the equipment. Then compare their collective feedback to your original driver for purchasing the equipment.
COMMERCIAL LAUNDERING: Richard Warren is the general manager of Linen King of Central Arkansas, a commercial laundry that provides COG, rental and linen distribution services for healthcare clients. His experience also includes OPL and industrial laundering, linen supply, and leather/fur cleaning.
There are as many parts to this puzzle as there are pieces of machinery. It’s easiest to purchase new. Everything is under warranty, and the manufacturer will assure you that the machine will work properly. You get owner’s manuals, schematics, templates and pretty brochures.
You will be able to get replacement parts and help with the installation. Arrangements will be made for transportation, factory representatives will train your staff, and the manufacturer will have close contact with your maintenance staff. The piece will fit your task, you’ll have the opportunity to add whatever bells and whistles you think are appropriate, and all of its useful life remains.
Previously owned machinery can work out quite well, too. There are dealers that specialize in that part of our industry, and they have maintenance departments that are helpful. You can also purchase directly from a laundry.
You’ll have many more things to watch out for if you choose the used equipment. Has the machine been altered from the factory specifications? If so, will it still perform the task you have in mind? Does it have the options you need?
Is it “too much machine?” I know of an on-premise laundry that had been using 200-pound dryers for years. It needed another dryer, and a 400-pound dryer was available at a good price. They discovered after making the purchase that they needed to add laundry carts to accommodate 400 pounds of linen. Needing two sets of carts left them awfully crowded.
Some perceived problems can be alleviated with the purchase of overhauled equipment. Overhauling usually has to do with bearings, door latches, seals, etc. Many times, it doesn’t include the wiring or many of the electrical components.
Technology changes so rapidly, a sophisticated machine may become outdated and present problems for enhancing your operation. If you have a novel application, or you’re going to offer a new service, you may be better served investing the smaller amount of capital until you’re convinced the new venture will be successful.
We all know successful operators who operate exclusively using previously owned equipment. I guarantee that each of those facilities has a sharp engineering staff. If you’re blessed in that way, you can feel comfortable in purchasing used and saving the money. If you have a borderline maintenance staff, it may be risky.