Packagers face the dilemma of selecting new or used machinery. The pros and cons of each can make it a tough decision. Here’s a look at some of them.

First of all, the term “used machinery” covers a lot of ground. At one end is brand new, never installed machinery. At the other is machinery that is little more than scrap iron. Then there is everything in between.

The condition of a used machine can be an unknown. How much hidden wear does it have? Are all the electricals up to par? For the knowledgeable buyer these questions can be largely resolved by careful inspection or observing the machine in operation.

Some builders sell “remanufactured” machines. The meaning can vary from company to company but is generally taken to be a step beyond refurbishment with replacement of all wear parts such as shafts and bearings and upgrades to new machine standards.

A number of companies sell used machinery. Some simply buy and resell. Others will refurbish to varying degrees and provide ongoing support after the sale. Establish a relationship.

So, when should you buy used instead of new? There are a couple key factors to consider:

Cost-Used machinery will have a lower price tag than new. This lower initial price may be offset by higher costs of preparation and installation as well as higher maintenance and operation costs. The total cost of the used and new options must be evaluated to get a true picture.

Availability-Most packaging machinery is built to order. Three-month delivery on pretty much anything is fast. Some machines may take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to deliver. A used machine can usually be delivered in about the time it takes to truck it to the plant. The ability to get online quickly with a new product or with additional capacity is often worth a lot.

There are some drawbacks of used machinery as well:

Technology-Packaging machine technology is improving daily. New machines use individual servo drives and computer controls for greater flexibility and reliability.

Documentation-Operation and maintenance manuals along with schematics and parts lists are a must for any machine. These may not be available for older or especially obsolete or orphaned machinery. Some dealers maintain extensive libraries and can supply this. Others do not.

Contamination-It may be hard to guarantee that a used machine has not been used with a material incompatible with your product. No matter how well it has been cleaned or refurbished, there is always a risk of residual contamination. This may not be important for a cartoner used on a detergent line. It is absolutely critical on a filler to be used with a food product.

Buying used machinery will entail more risk than buying new. But the careful buyer who can evaluate and deal with the risks might find some substantial benefits. F&BP