We have bought a lot of equipment in our time in factory management and some installations turned out very well….and some, well, not so much. Since we started OPF some four years ago we have bought a fair amount of equipment for our ceramic and proppant laboratory and we also represent equipment suppliers and sell equipment to end users.
In short, we have seen it and done it from just about every side.
In the early days of our careers, even small to mid-size companies had an engineering staff who could design a process and specify the machines to fit the job that needed to be done. While this is still true for many companies, the engineering staffs for smaller manufacturing companies have tended to fade away.
Companies that no longer have in-house engineering now rely on one or more of these methods to buy a new machine and fit it into their process:
1. Hire a qualified consultant to provide full-blown service from concept to installation and startup.
2. Rely on experienced production management and maintenance personnel to do the job.
3. Trust the vendor and rely on their expertise.
4. Take the plunge on a wing and a prayer and hope for the best.
5. Combine 2,3, and 4. We call this the committee approach.
And we haven’t even gotten to purchasing!
So how do you start to avoid the wing and prayer approach? It seems simple, but you have to start with the basic requirements of the process.
Start with questions:
How many widgets do I want to make? How many hours do I have to make them? How many hours a day will this machine actually run? How will I feed this machine and how will I take away the product?
Ask these questions well before you find out how much money you actually have to spend on it. We say this because there is nothing more expensive than a cheap machine that won’t run or doesn’t fit the process, even if someone gives you the machine.
Nevertheless, budget has to play a large role in figuring out how to proceed. Just don’t allow it to play the primary role or you will likely spend much time in regret.
Does this mean you have to buy a Mercedes when a Honda will do? Of course not. You may even decide that a 5 year old Chevy will be perfectly suitable. Equipment selection should not be made solely on price. Rather, it should be made on the basis of its suitability to your operation.
And remember……suitability needs to take into account reliability, energy consumption, warranty, price, and service and support…..especially service and support.
Next installment……How To Start