Do your homework before you buy a used tube filling machine

Pre-owned Machines: Worth the Investment?

The decision to buy a pre-owned machine can often feel like the right one for your business, particularly when it comes to financial considerations. But if you are considering purchasing a pre-owned machine there are a number of things to keep in mind before you sign on the dotted line – and keeping these things in mind can save you a lot of headaches down the road. 

Buying a used Norden-machine for tube filling
Image: top view of an Nordenmatic NM 702

The market for pre-owned machines is particularly strong in the US and the EU, with machines being sold both at auctions and by companies who specialize in this area. Those buying pre-owned machines tend to be smaller companies or co-packing companies, which often pay more attention to the initial investment and not the full picture, a stance that can bring big pain down the road. 
That’s not to say, though, that there aren’t any benefits to buying a pre-owned machine, because there are. In fact, there are two benefits that on the service look like win-win for everyone.

The Benefits of a Pre-owned Machine

Initial cost-saving is the biggest and most obvious benefit when buying a pre-owned machine. You’re likely to pay less than you would if buying a new machine, although there are documented cases of pre-owned machines actually selling for more than a new on at auction.  This means do your homework before buying anything. But it’s also important to remember that while the upfront investment may generally be less than when buying a new machine, there can be any number of unforeseen costs when buying a pre-owned one. 

First of all, it isn’t easy to judge the quality of a machine if you’re not a specialist. Technology moves fast, and is becoming increasingly sophisticated and advanced, and this can mean your machine is out-of-date, even before you get it up and running.  One key example is the control system: it’s the heart and soul of your machine but if the one on your pre-owned machine is obsolete, you’re going to face a hefty investment getting it up to speed, thereby negating any initial cost-savings.  

The other big benefit to buying a pre-owned machine is that you can put it to work right away.  A new machine normally has a delivery time of 6 months or more, depending on the specifications, while a pre-owned can be installed on your line almost immediately.  This, of course, can be a big benefit, because you can start filling orders right away. But if you need to upgrade the control system – or any other part of the machine – you’re going to face unexpected downtime, which does away with any time savings you might have had. 

So, in an ideal situation, buying a pre-owned machine can save you both time and money – but a pre-owned machine can also come with a host of challenges, with an out of date control system just the beginning. 

The Challenges

When you buy a new machine from a reputable machine manufacturer you enjoy warranties and guarantees, and your staff is trained on how to operate the machine. You can also have the machine built to meet your particular needs. The manufacturer will document and keep meticulous records throughout the lifespan of the machine, and authorized service and parts are at your fingertips.  This isn’t the case with a pre-owned machine.

When you’ve bought a pre-owned machine you ideally would contact the manufacturer in order to obtain documentation, which will reveal history of the machine, such as if any upgrades or additions were made – and if they were done using authorized parts. Additionally, you’re going to need to learn how to operate the machine, understand the specifications, train your staff on it, and service the machine. A quality manufacturer will have the machine’s documentation, so can help you – but unlike with a new machine, learning how to operate the machine, training your staff, and servicing the machine is going to cost you. 

Now, you may think you won’t need these extra services, but  consider this: if your pre-owned machine should be producing 60 units per minute but is in reality only producing 20 or 25, you’re going to need to find out why. Therefore, an audit needs to be performed – another cost – and once you do that upgrades and the downtime involved may mean more time and money than if you had invested in a new machine instead.  

What it comes down to is this: in the long run, lower efficiency combined with untrained staff and a machine that isn’t optimized is probably going to cost you both time and money – and suddenly that bargain you thought you got isn’t going to look so great anymore. 

What to Keep in Mind When Buying a Pre-owned Machine

There are a number of things to keep in mind when considering a pre-owned machine and number one is Do. Your. Homework. 

Norden Machinery recommends that before you do anything you contact them. Every machine Norden sells carries a unique ID number which allows them to track the machine and document its history, which in turn allows you to assess whether investing in a pre-owned machine is worth it in the long run. That control system that might be out of date? You’ll know about it long before you ever sign on the dotted line – and if you do go ahead and buy the pre-owned machine, you’ll have a plan and partner who will help you optimize the machine to meet your needs. 

A quality manufacturer like Norden will be able to set up service options, such as an audit of the machine, training for your staff, and even schedule needed upgrades that will allow you to lower the impact of downtime. At the same time, Norden will ensure you will have a machine that is optimized and giving you what you need, so instead of 20 units per minute you’ll be pushing out an optimal 60 – saving both time and money.  

One last thing to think about: in contacting the machine manufacturer you can compare the price of a new machine against that of a pre-owned. This is an important step, because sometimes pre-owned machines not only will have a dodgy history, they’ll also be sold at a higher price than a new one  – which is exactly what happened at an auction in California not long ago. 

So do your homework and make sure you’re working with a quality manufacturer. Whether you do buy pre-owned or opt to order a new machine, you’ll be in full possession of all the information and service you need. 

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