By: Page Long, Marketing Operations Director at PDF Electric & Supply
Manufacturing is a diverse business, but one thing all manufacturers have in common is that they all need some kind of equipment to make their product. Whether this equipment is small, like a sewing needle, or large, like a milling machine, all equipment needs to be replaced periodically. It’s trivial to replace equipment that is simple and easily accessible, but when that equipment involves machinery, specialized parts, or similar things, replacing them can become much more complicated. There are many things to consider when deciding if equipment needs to be upgraded. These general steps are a good way to ensure that everything necessary is being done:
First, why does a legacy piece of equipment need to be replaced? If the equipment is broken or worn, it might be an easier task to repair the problem. This is common with complex machinery, because there are so many distinct parts. For example, if a knob broke inside a machine, it would be more reasonable to reattach the knob than to replace the entire machine. Even if a machine isn’t broken, however, companies are sometimes tempted to always upgrade to the “latest and greatest” model. If the new model doesn’t do things differently than the old, replacing the old equipment might not be necessary. One caveat is that as machines get older, parts may become more difficult to find, which could make repairing difficult.
Second, how much would a replacement cost? This is what goes through most people’s minds when thinking about legacy equipment. Many companies keep outdated machines for a long time, because new machines cost progressively more as time goes on, and setup can be an additional expense. It seems obvious at first that companies should hold on to their current equipment for as long as possible, but there is actually another dimension of cost to consider. All machines require upkeep, which could include electrical costs, cooling system costs, or other runtime expenses. New equipment might have drastically reduced upkeep costs compared to older models, which could offset how expensive they might be otherwise.
Third, how long would the upgrade take to complete? Moving large machines would likely take longer than transporting smaller ones, and upgrading equipment for a small company would go faster than an international company with many facilities in multiple countries. Since all companies need to upgrade equipment at some point, there is rarely an impossible timeline. It may be necessary to split the upgrade into pieces, do multiple things at once, or plan extensively to make sure that an upgrade happens within the amount of time a company prefers. Since unexpected complications are a fact of life, leaving extra room for them is important in making any time estimate.
Fourth, is upgrading to new equipment logistically possible? Moving large pieces of equipment requires a lot of organization and preparation. Making a mistake at a key point could put the entire equipment upgrade in jeopardy. If a company relies on machines of a certain size but wants to upgrade to a larger model with significantly better performance, planners would have to take into account the increased size. All the time and resources spent on new machines would be wasted if they couldn’t fit into the spaces that the old machines left behind. This seems like an almost impossible thing to miss, but it’s easy to miss small logistical concerns when also coordinating personnel, timing, cost, and everything else.
Finally, how should the old equipment be disposed of? Old equipment can sometimes be repurposed within a company. If there is no more use for it, old equipment can be sold at machine auctions or for scrap. It is important to dispose of machines properly, even if there is significant cost involved, because environmental, health, or legal consequences could result. Improper disposal of machines or their waste has caused some significant sickness in people, and long-lasting environmental pollution. This is perhaps the most important consideration for legacy equipment long-term. The consequences from improper equipment disposal could bankrupt a company, unlike the previous considerations.
The order of these guidelines is a suggestion, and different companies might prioritize different concerns. Companies should consider all of these steps in order to make the transition between old and new equipment as easy and efficiently as possible.
About the Author:
Page Long is the Marketing Operations Director at PDF Electric & Supply, which is based out of Cary, NC. PDF Electric & Supply is an automation supplier specializing in Legacy GE PLCs.
PDF Electric & Supply Company, Inc. (Corporate Office)
1640 Old Apex Road
Cary, North Carolina 27513 USA