Purchasing a good piece of used machinery can be a sound fiscal decision, according to Mark Tomlin, an Amherst, Va., consultant who works with companies that purchase and relocate used equipment. But careful planning and execution are always important.

Tomlin recently coordinated a successful used machinery install for Sterling Custom Cabinetry in Lancaster, Pa., and provided an overview of the four-day process:


"Upon arriving at the site of the machinery seller, Earnst Cabinetry in Hamburg, Pa., I found the CNC machine still connected. I powered it up and tested it. This check-up had no impact on the sale it only enabled me to detect potential problems as early as possible. I was impressed with the overall condition of the machine. It was clean, well maintained, and as I would find out later, as accurate as in new condition.

"While on site, I discovered Earnst Cabinetry was selling the machine because it was switching to nested-based manufacturing. This was a best-case scenario for the purchaser.

"It took about two hours to unhook power from the machine, remove all sensitive components (PC, monitor, etc.) for shipment to Sterling. All safety devices were removed and strapped securely to the bed. The vacuum pump was unhooked, and the head of the machine as well as all peripheral devices were secured for stability.

Loading and reinstalling

The riggers arrived late morning, and while they were experienced, a small snag appeared. Earnst Cabinetry's building was such that fork trucks could not be used initially, so pallet jacks were used to get the machine where it could be lifted with fork trucks. Three hours later, the machine was secured and tarped on the flatbed. Slightly over an hour after that the riggers were backing the flatbed into Sterling Custom's building, which greatly decreased the amount of time to rig the machine off the truck.

The machine was placed in about 45 minutes. The remainder of the day was spent reinstalling the machine and preparing it to be placed under power the morning of day two, so that more in-depth testing could begin.

Powering up and testing

The majority of day two was for powering up the machine and testing. Sterling had supplied the requested power, air and dust extraction. Three-quarters of the day consisted of hooking up the power, air and dust extraction as well as in-depth testing and calibration of the machine origins, router spindle, vertical and horizontal drill banks, vacuum pump and leveling the machine.

The smooth set-up allowed for training to begin, so I had one of the individuals to be trained on the machine spend an hour or so familiarizing himself with the equipment in a less formal atmosphere than actually training to program the machine.


On day three, training began. Sterling had made another very good decision in its choice of the two individuals training on the machine. They both had prior experience with automated equipment, which made for a much easier learning transition than from "scratch." After two days of training, not only were both holding their own, collectively we had created three or four parametric programs, which I was told would do 80 to 90 percent of their standard work.

A successful move

This used machinery installation went as well as any new machine installation I have been involved with. This was the direct result of a company which sought the right knowledge, from the right people, at the right time.

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