Look before you take the leap16 September 2008
Mike Steele, chairman of the British Used Printing Machinery Suppliers Association, reviews reconditioned machinery options
When converters are looking to buy used equipment it is far more than the actual machine that needs to be considered. Not only do they have to satisfy themselves that it is going to be fit for purpose - they need to be confident that what they have seen on inspection is what they then get, up and running, in their own factory.
The skills and expertise of the used machinery dealer start with an understanding of its market, and what that market is looking to buy. Dealers will tell you that the most demanding part of their job is to source good machinery, of the right specification and, of course, at the right price. At the end of the day, the machinery dealer, in common with all other businesses, is out there to make a profit. What it is doing is buying at the right price, adding value to that purchase and selling it with a margin of profit.
It is tempting, therefore, for an end user to surf the net for online bargains or turn up at an auction, bidding against the experienced dealers and secure an apparently unbeatable deal. But buying the machine is just the start of it.
Machinery has to be dismantled, removed and re-commissioned on the new site and there’s “many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip”, as they say, or in this case, between site ‘A’ and site ‘B’ which will be separated by at least some road miles, if not a continent. That means a dock or two, some international borders and pretty heavyweight paperwork: all in a day’s work for the experienced dealer - fraught with problems for the unwary.
A simple thing like buying a guillotine from a German factory and shipping it to a UK site presents enough problems, not the least being the amount of work, and cost, involved in bringing the machine up to UK HS&E specifications. It is difficult enough to check that the seller of a machine has title to it in the UK, but going through the same exercise in an unfamiliar country is an even bigger minefield.
The horror stories are legion – of large multi-colour presses being dismantled by inexperienced removers who cut all of the wiring to split the units for shipping, without labelling anything. It can take an experienced electrician literally weeks to re-wire a machine, with the resultant unplanned downtime and cost. Then there are the careless handlers along the way. When a machine has slipped and smashed during offloading is not the time to discover that everyone thought someone else was responsible for the insurance.
But it can all be avoided; it just requires a bit of care when choosing who to deal with when buying a used machine. There are some pretty obvious checks.
If you don’t know the seller, talk to someone who does. The dealer should be happy to provide a list of previous customers; they are the best judge of whether the dealer fulfils its promises. When buying from a member of the BUPMSA you know that the dealer has signed up to a code of ethics, the machine will be accurately described and there will be a written contract.
Establish that the seller has title to the machine that you are buying. It is essential to check whether a bank or finance company has an interest in the machine.
Understand exactly what you are buying, and what the purchase price includes. If it is being imported, who is responsible for any duty payable, for example? Does the machine comply with UK Health & Safety legislation?
Be sure to get everything in writing, and understand the terms and conditions, especially regarding guarantees. Not only do you need to establish whether both parts and labour are warranted, but is there a guaranteed response time to breakdowns, for example?
The ideal way to buy a used machine is to see it in production at the present owner’s site. Next best is on site but not running. In any event, it is vital that the machine is running and producing satisfactory work before full final payment is made.
A good opportunity to see and compare dealers, their services and specialities, is a trade exhibition. Probably the biggest event for international used machinery dealers is drupa where this year, for the first time, dealers were allowed to exhibit within one of the main halls, adjacent to the new converting machinery exhibitors. Although they were still not allowed to display machinery, the show does provide an opportunity for the buyer to talk face to face with a whole range of dealers, comparing their prices and services offered.
They can also match the equipment they have to sell with the most relevant dealers, so it is quite possible to unload unwanted plant with one, whilst buying from another.
Finally – beware that “too good to be true” bargain, chances are that it is just that. Currently there are a whole band of supposed UK dealers who are anything but. They operate from abroad using personal transferable system telephone numbers, Hotmail/Yahoo email addresses and false UK street addresses.
Initially, they targeted used printing machinery dealers, usually offering a multi-colour sheet-fed offset press. Now they are expanding their operations with converting, finishing and packaging equipment being offered, increasingly also to end users.
A number have fallen for it and, needless to say, none have seen a machine, or even their deposit back.
Details of what to do if you suspect you are being offered a non-existent machine can be found on the BUPMSA website.
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