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Selecting and Purchasing Used Food Processing Equipment

Used equipment can be a valuable time and cost saving alternative for food and agricultural product processing. Used equipment costs a fraction of the price of new equipment and is normally shipped immediately. Multiple pieces of equipment, or even an entire process line, can be obtained from a single source. This can reduce start-up and troubleshooting efforts, as well as shipping costs. While many pitfalls exist for the used process equipment buyer, the advantages can be worthwhile.

The first step in obtaining used equipment is to identify and assess the source or sources. Deal only with reputable suppliers and equipment owners. Ask for references and check them. Sources of used processing equipment generally fall into three categories:

  • Dealers (local and national)
  • Internet
  • Owners

 

Local used equipment dealers are best identified by searching the area telephone book, or business directory, and by word-of-mouth. Classified advertisements in trade journals are a good source to find used equipment dealers and auction announcements. A partial list of national, used-equipment dealers is provided in Table 1. The listing is not an endorsement of any particular dealer or organization. A new variety of Internet-based, used-equipment sources is becoming very popular. Internet sources generally provide a place for posting and viewing equipment information and serve as an interface between the equipment owner and the end customer. Some may feature on-line auctions. Most of these Web sites are searchable and have features that will alert potential customers with email when certain equipment is posted to the site. Table 2 provides a partial listing of Internet-based, used-equipment Web sites.

 

Table 1. Partial listing of national, used-equipment dealers.

Dealer Address Phone Fax Website
Aaron Equipment Company 735 E. Green St.
P.O. Box 80
Bensenville, IL 60106
630-350-2200 630-350-9047 www.aaronequip.com
Alard Equipment Corp. 6483 Lake Avenue
P.O. Box 57 Williamson, NY 14589
315-589-4511 315-589-3871 www.alard-equipment.com
Barliant & Co. 319 East Van Emmon Rd.
Yorkville, IL 60560
630-553-6992 630-553-6908 www.barliant.com
Campbell Soup Company Asset Recovery Campbell Place
Camden, NJ 08103
  856-968-2808 www.campbells-equipment.com
Frain Industries, Inc. 313 Rohlwing Road
Addison, IL 60101
630-629-9900 630-629-6576 www.fraingroup.com
Heritage Equipment Company (beverage) 9000 Heritage Drive
Plain City, OH 43064
614-873-3941 614-873-3549 www.heritage-equipment.com
Loeb Equipment & Appraisal Company 1210 Metro Park Blvd.
Lewisville, TX 75057
972-353-5353 972-353-5355 www.loebequipment.com
Machinery and Equipment Company, Inc. 3125 W. Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60612-1720
773-533-6600 773-533-5820 www.madisonequip.com
Production Packaging & Processing Equipment Company (kettles) 1450 East Van Buren St.
Pheonix, AZ 85006
602-254-7878 602-254-2630 www.kettles.com
Reeves Equipment Company 783 Laurel Ridge Rd.
Cleveland, GA 30528
706-219-3956 706-219-3984  
Schier Company, Inc. (dairy) 14459 S. 65th W. Ave. Sapulpa, OK 74066 918-321-3151 918-321-5777 www.schiercompany.com
Union Standard Equipment Company 4248 W. 47th St. 
Chicago, IL 60632
773-376-5400 773-376-0634 www.unionmachinery.com
Universal Process Equipment, Inc. 1180 Rt. 130 South Robinsville, NJ 08691 609-443-4545 609-259-0644  
Wohl Associates, Inc. 50 Floyd's Run
Bohemia, NY 11716
631-244-7979 631-244-6987 www.wohlassociates.com

Table 2. Partial listing on internet-based, used-equipment websites.

Dealer Website Phone Fax
DoveBid, Inc. www.dovebid.com 650-571-7400 650-572-8607
Equipment Outlet www.equipmentoutlet.com 208-955-1132 208-887-4874
EquipNet Direct, Inc. www.equipnetdirect.com 888-371-6555 781-849-7668
Ethical Internet Sales, LLC www.ethicalsales.com   908-222-0288
Free Market Asset Exchange   800-939-3261 512-684-2500
I-Com Industry, Inc. www.foodprocessingindustry.com 703-479-4266 703-479-0704

Often the equipment owner liquidates machinery directly through an auction or other type of advertised sale. This can be an ideal avenue to acquire a complete processing line or pieces of equipment with a known history. It can also represent a cost savings since a purchase from the owner eliminates any re-seller’s profit. Unfortunately, there is no known reliable method of identifying owner liquidation sales for a particular type or model of equipment on a timely basis. The advent of the Internet auction may make this avenue of equipment acquisition more accessible in the future.

Quotations for used process equipment can be solicited by telephone, fax or in person. The purchaser should consider drafting a request for a quotation before any efforts are made to obtain quotations. Drafting a request for a quotation will help the purchaser solidify his needs on paper and facilitate subsequent discussions with vendors. Faxing requests for quotations to appropriate equipment dealers has proven to be an inexpensive and effective means of identifying used processing equipment. Visiting a used equipment dealer has enormous value. Often, a first-hand inspection of equipment stockpiles will identify appealing alternatives that would have otherwise been missed. When multiple pieces of equipment can be identified at a single source, a quantity discount may be negotiated.  For additional information on the selection and purchasing process, please see OSU Fact Sheet FAPC-102Selecting and Purchasing Food Processing Equipment.

Evaluation of equipment alternatives can be complicated, especially when several people are involved and opinions differ. The process can be streamlined by using a qualitative method of evaluation. Key features of the equipment to be evaluated (such as price, capacity and delivery) can be listed and assigned a weight, or importance, relative to other features when considering the needs of the specific project. The numerical weights are assigned according to a convenient, arbitrary scale such as 0 to 10. After the bids are received, the selected features are rated and given individual scores for each bid. Again, these scores are based on an arbitrary numerical scale. If the equipment is to be selected by a committee, the scores can be voted on or averaged. The total score for each quotation is obtained by multiplying the feature weight by its score and summing the results. The bid with the highest score is selected for purchase.

Maintenance and operation are two features of used equipment that merit extra examination. Will it be possible to effectively maintain and operate the selected equipment?   Spare parts must be readily available. The original equipment manufacturer may no longer support obsolete models or components. For example, maintenance technicians experienced with pneumatic controls are scarce. Can the machine be retrofitted with digital controls, or can parts and service be obtained from other sources?

Inspection is a crucial step in the used-equipment selection process. A seller will rarely list the undesirable features of an item for sale, so the buyer must learn to investigate. Assistance from an experienced mechanic or engineer can be helpful in this area. Ask for an operator’s manual and/or a maintenance logbook for the equipment. The existence of a maintenance log is a good indication that the machine was well taken care of. Obtain the serial number of the equipment and telephone the manufacturer to inquire about the first owner and intended use of the equipment. Table 3 lists some important inspection areas and examination tips for equipment inspection.

 

Table 3. Inspection areas and examination tips for used equipment.

Inspection Area Components Examination
Appearance All Is the machine generally well cared for or does it have the appearance of makeshift maintenance? Are the components (if separate) marked and carefully packaged?
Log book   The existence of a logbook is a good indication of a maintenance program.
Drive-train Chains, sprockets, belts, sheaves, gearbox Examine for stretched chains, worn drive belts and sheaves, stripped sprockets and gearboxes. Some problems can be identified when turning shafts by hand (if possible). Listening with the use of a probe (operating machinery) may also help.
Rotating shafts Joints, alignment, key Look for burrs, warped or bent shafts and cracks. Shafts should not wife when pulled by hand.
Bearings Roller, sleeve Examine quantity and condition of grease, oil, seals and mounting. Hint: remove grease zerts to inspect.
Lubrication Oil, grease, filters, fittings Examine for contaminants. Water will turn some oils milky white. Grittiness can sometimes be felt. Samples can be obtained and checked by a laboratory. Check filters.
Coatings Paint, epoxy, tin, Teflon, chrome, rust and scale Look for chips, flakes and scratches. Beware of fresh coatings that hide defects. Rust can sometimes be removed to reveal very little damage.
Welds All Smooth and crack-free, no slag or weld splatter present.
Operation (capacity)   Operate machine and test for rated capacity. Usually this operation must be arranged in advance with the equipment owner and requires processing materials and complete hookup of the equipment
Operation (noise)   Use a listening aid if necessary. Listen for thumps, grinding or unusual sounds.
Mating surfaces Gasket Surfaces should be smooth. Gaskets will be intact and flexible.
Controls Panel, switches, pushbuttons, displays, timers, alarms, outputs, interface, charts Examine condition and operation of all components. Wiring in electrical box should be labeled and correspond to a posted or available diagram. Displays should be clear, not fogged or waterlogged
Utility connections Electric, steam, water, air, gas, hydraulics, chilled water, sewage and other Determine capacities, such as voltage, frequency and flow rate. Examine connections for integrity.
Fasteners Bolts, clamps, pins, screws and snap rings Examine for missing or damaged components such as threads or head.
Safety features Shrouds, insulation, kill switch, stickers, doors, vents and valves Look for missing, damaged or disabled components. Stored energy contained in elements such as springs and air cylinders must be properly relieved.

Safety features are an issue (listed in Table 3) that may require additional attention when purchasing used equipment. Older equipment may have met safety standards when first introduced to the market, but may fall short of current standards. Safety features on used equipment may be disabled or missing. Issues pertaining to safety must be resolved before the machine is put into operation for legal and moral reasons. The cost to upgrade equipment to meet current standards may be prohibitive.

Purchasing and installing used equipment may be the best alternative for a cost effective process installation. It can also be an exciting and potentially dangerous adventure. Research and investigation before purchasing will help improve the chances of success.

 

Tim Bowser
FAPC Food Processing Engineer

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