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Upgrading your manufacturing equipment

Whenever you purchase computer software, manufacturing equipment, and other machines, you should expect to upgrade your equipment within a few years. Computer software is outdated the minute it leaves the programmers desk. In order to keep up with software, you need to check the web site each month and download new patches and updates. Manufacturing equipment is a little different. Instead of downloading an update, you need to either replace a portion of your existing machine or you need to upgrade all of your machines.

It is easy to determine when it is time to upgrade your equipment:

  • You notice a steady decline in sales

  • Your return rate is higher and your defect rate is increasing

  • Your machine is requiring constant maintenance and costly repairs

  • You are unable to obtain the parts needed to make your machines run effectively

If any of these pertain to your manufacturing equipment, it is time to upgrade. Before you just run out and buy the top-of-the-line equipment you need to consider a few things. First, can you afford to buy the new equipment or will it be cost effective to lease it? Second, do you have enough room to house the new equipment? Third, what are you planning to do with the old equipment? Fourth, can you make small changes to your existing equipment to make it more productive?

When you are upgrading your equipment, contact several suppliers and ask them about their machines. Do they offer upgrades to their machines? Can they come to your facility and teach you how to use the new machines?

You must also consider the initial costs you will undergo with new equipment. Because you will be unaware of how to use it, you will need to spend time learning how to use it and then turn around and train your employees. Before you buy the new equipment, factor in these labor costs. If the machines are standard, you probably don't need to worry about the additional labor costs.

Before you run out and buy or lease the new manufacturing equipment, always look for ways to re-use your existing machines. Are most of the parts still good on your existing machine? Can you replace some of the parts and get by for a few years or is it cheaper to invest in a new machine now?

How long will it take for the new equipment to be operational? How soon will the equipment be delivered and who will be assembling it? If you are in desperate need for new manufacturing equipment, you will need a shorter lead time. You may need to consider paying the company more money to come in and get the machine up and running before your employees return to work.
Forecast any problems that could arise with the new machines. Will the new machine increase productivity or will they just make the worker's job easier? Can you re-coup your investment in the new machine within a designated time frame? Does the machine have new technology integrated into it like software programs?

Hire a consulting firm to come in and take a look at your current manufacturing equipment. Far too often there is nothing wrong with the equipment, it is simply being underutilized. With a few simple changes, you can turn your old machine into a new machine that is just as productive as the top-of-the-line machines that are currently being released.

No matter what you decide to do, always make sure your employees are fully trained on how to use the machines. Good machines can seem faulty due to insufficient training.

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