Hydraulic Presses: Custom New vs. Used--Which is Best for Your Business?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Used or new?As manufacturers confront in-creased competition from the global marketplace, metalformers looking to increase hydraulic-press capacity often wrestle with the decision to purchase either a new custom press engineered to meet specific needs, or acquire a used press that can be adapted to fit immediate needs, and at a lower up-front investment. In other words:

Is it better to fit a new press into your operation, or fit your operation into an existing press? Metalformers should explore all options before making this critical decision, as the chosen solution can have a lasting effect on the bottom line.

In a perfect world free from timelines and capital-equipment budgets, each forming operation would feature fully customized equipment that includes manufacturer warranties, provides operational efficiencies and offers the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing the equipment was designed specifically to form your parts. Of course, the manufacturing world is far from perfect, and timeframes, budgets and competing priorities als loom over procurement decisions.

Several factors influence the decision to purchase a used hydraulic press or invest in a custom, new press. These include project timeline, up-front vs. long-term cost implications and the specific application requirements involved.

At the beginning of any hydraulic-press procurement venture, seek answers to these four questions:

1) What are the demands of your specific application?

Many metalforming processes are easily adaptable to wide-ranging hydraulic-press specifications. Press size, tonnage, speed and accuracy requirements can be loosened to a certain degree without negatively impacting the finished product. In these situations, the number of available used presses that have a chance of delivering on your requirements might warrant consideration of the used-press market. Finding a used press that comes close to matching your needs can have a positive impact on the up-front investment requirements.

components used on custom-built presses often are cataloged items from local distributors
Components used on custom-built presses often are cataloged items readily available from local distributors. Alternatively, some older used machines may require replacement parts no longer being manufactured. Metalformers should research the availability of replacement parts for any press being considered.
Alternatively, if application demands are specific, it is unlikely that a used press will match the specific job requirements at hand. If specific tonnage, speed, size, accuracy and control capabilities will significantly impact the operation, a used-market search might resemble the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” Ultimately, if too many equipment sacrifices are made and the metalformer forces its custom applications into a non-custom press, process efficiencies will surely be sacrificed. While not critical on an individual-cycle level, these tradeoffs can have accumulating repercussions.

Custom hydraulic presses can provide more freedom with regard to the relationship between bed size and tonnage. Metalformers whose applications require low tonnage with a large forming area will find themselves, as they peruse the used-press market, paying for a higher-tonnage press in order to acquire an expansive bed and ram size. And, vice-versa—if an application requires high forming tonnage over a small area, available used solutions often will require the purchase of a large press in order to acquire the needed tonnage.

When considering application requirements, ask the following questions:

• Will we be getting all of the needed functions, and do we need to make concessions?

• Will we be using more floorspace than necessary, and how will that affect operations?

• Will the press require a pit, platform or other environmental adjustment?

• Will we have to change our processes to suit the press, or vice versa?

• How will the press affect product quality—for better or worse?

• Will operating costs for the press remain the same, increase or decrease?

• Will operators run safely and efficiently on this press?

2) What is the budget?

Capital-expense budgets should account for up-front and long-term costs. In most cases, used hydraulic-press equipment will feature up-front pricing that’s significantly lower when compared to a custom press. Metalformers with limited capital-expense budgets, despite their preferences for made-to-order machinery, might be limited to what can be found on the used market. And, in some cases finding a quality used hydraulic press that matches the application requirements can offer the best overall solution.

However, metalformers must understand that while offering up-front cost advantages, used equipment can be associated with certain long-term costs that result in higher overall project costs. These hidden costs include increased maintenance and repair requirements, and a loss of efficiency due to the adoption of equipment initially designed for a different application.

When comparing a new custom hydraulic press to a used alternative, consider these line-item costs:

• Machine purchase price—Actual up-front cost of each solution

• Retrofit requirements—Controls, safety systems and other press modifications required to adapt to the application or company standards

• Facility change—Any changes needed to accommodate the incoming press (pits, other foundation work, etc.)

• Delivery and installation

• Setup—What, if anything, will need to be done to the press before it is operable?

• Annual maintenance costs, including spare parts

3) What is the timeline?

In most cases, by the time a metalformer’s acquisition team recognizes the need for capital equipment, conducts pertinent research and has a capital request approved, the available timeline for purchasing, installation and start-up has dwindled. On the surface, an expedited project timeline naturally lends itself to existing used equipment. However, in many situations the quick purchase of a used press, which has to then be retrofitted to fit the project or facility requirements, can result in a comparable, if not longer, lead time than a made-to-order press.

For both options, it’s important to consider carefully every conceivable pre-startup time requirement, to make the best procurement decision while minimizing project surprises.

When planning a project timeline, consider:

• When will the press be available?

• How long will it take to transport the press to the metalforming facility?

• How long will upgrades and retrofitting take?

• How long will testing take before the press is operable?

4) Are inhouse maintenance resources well-developed?

Any new custom press will feature modern components, OEM service-and-support resources and a warranty. This trifecta will, in most cases, act as a substantial buffer against unplanned downtime, lost production and angry customers. This especially is true for organizations without robust maintenance teams, and therefore lack the availability and knowledge required to maintain aging equipment. However, metalforming operations that do have solid inhouse maintenance personnel capable of keeping vital equipment running will be better able to gamble on used hydraulic presses.

Regardless of a manufacturer’s inhouse maintenance capabilities, those searching the used market should closely evaluate the age, condition and operation of any previously operated machinery. It’s important to know, prior to making any commitments, where the press was used and why it is for sale. Shoppers also should request any and all available service records, which will indicate how well the previous owners maintained the equipment. This information will either instill a sense of confidence in the used-purchase decision, or raise red flags that will help avoid disaster.

Service and Support

Whether you buy new or used, be sure to ask these questions regarding service and support:

• Who do we call if we need service or support? Even if it is not the same company you bought from, be sure to identify a contact person for support.

• What is the cost of service and support, and do we pay hourly, by a contract, per visit, etc.?

• What is the average turnaround time on a support call?

• What are the expected annual maintenance requirements for the press, in terms of time and expense?

• When was the last time this machine was serviced? Who performed that service?

• Is there anyone available that my internal maintenance team can contact with questions? MF

Article provided by Beckwood Press, St. Louis, MO: 636/343-4100;


See also: Beckwood Press Company

Related Enterprise Zones: Presses

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