Used Is the New "New"

Used packaging equipment can be a cost-saving, time-saving alternative to new machines.
Nov 02, 2010
Volume 34, Issue 11

Hallie Forcinio
Companies that are sourcing packaging equipment shouldn't overlook used machines. These units typically cost 40–60% less than new devices and generally can be delivered more quickly, sometimes shipping the same day or the day after the order is placed.

Because of its lower cost and shorter lead time, used equipment is a particularly good choice when budgets are tight, quick turnaround is needed, and demand for the product is uncertain or seasonal. Used equipment also scores points for sustainability because it is reused instead of being scrapped.

However, if a project involves a unique product or package that requires highly customized equipment, it probably will require a new machine. Another situation in which a new machine might be the better choice is when advanced technology generates a lower total cost of ownership and rapid return on investment.

Interestingly enough, today's previously owned machines frequently are "used" in name only. The used equipment currently for sale often has never run in production because of changes in product demand or company focus. Sometimes it has never been installed.

Several companies specialize in selling used pharmaceutical packaging equipment and possess inventories of hundreds, if not thousands, of machines. Many of these dealers also sell processing equipment.

Used packaging machines also may be found online. Options include brokers such as EquipNet (Canton, MA) that act as the middleman between buyer and seller, and a packaging-equipment section on the eBay Stores website, hosted by eBay (San Jose, CA). In addition to examining the machines under consideration, it's important for personnel to research the history, background, service, and financing options of the used-equipment dealer.

The dealer should be reputable, established, and capable of offering various machines so that capabilities can be matched to applications without any bias toward a particular brand name or configuration. It's also helpful if the equipment is stored in a warehouse where it can be inspected and viewed in operation before it is shipped to its new home.

Howard Newman, president of Loeb Equipment (Chicago), a fifth-generation family-owned equipment dealer, recommends asking potential suppliers, "How long have you been at your current location? Do you own your warehouse? What is your return policy? What warranty do you offer?"

K.C. Christensen, founder of Kendell Equipment, now part of AEK Packaging Equipment, a subsidiary of Aaron Companies (Bensenville, IL), a used-equipment dealer, explains, "You want someone that can provide support if a problem arises. We have a global presence," he notes, "we can send a technician out or take the machine back."

Entire packaging lines sometimes are transplanted. This line from manufacturer IMA North America (Bristol, PA) was purchased by the original owner for an alcohol-based spray product that was never marketed. (IMAGE IS COURTESY OF LOEB EQUIPMENT)
In addition, purchasers should take a close look at the dealer's ability to retrofit and refurbish previously owned equipment. "A lot of people claim to do refurbishing, but don't necessarily have the resources to do it," says Dave Madden, vice-president of sales at The Frain Group (Franklin Park, IL), a 30-year-old used-equipment dealer that employs 30 technicians in its mechanical shop. "A [used equipment] company also should be able to provide documented evidence of successful projects," he adds.

Pharmaceutical packagers sourcing used equipment should match the machines to their applications and pay attention to many of the same elements they would consider when buying a new machine (e.g., run speed, efficiency, footprint, and electrical package). "Equipment should be evaluated on the basis of the desired outcome," advises Madden.

If the pharmaceutical packaging equipment under consideration actually ran in production, it's important to know what products and packaging materials were in contact with it. This information is crucial for primary packaging machines, but less crucial for secondary packaging machines.

Last, but not least, Newman recommends that companies double-check a machine's control system for compatibility with the other equipment on their lines. Because many pharmaceutical packaging lines are fully integrated today, some machines are configured to be controlled by other machines and therefore possess minimal on-board control capability.

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