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Checklist for Determining Whether a New or Used Vertical Lift Storage Unit is Best

Whether you choose a vertical lift module (VLM) or a horizontal or vertical carousel, you will receive the benefits of saved space, reduced labor costs, better picking accuracy, and improved inventory control. If you are looking to add an automated storage and retrieval system to your operations, you have probably evaluated which system, or perhaps a combination of systems, will meet your handling and picking needs. 

Now, you are faced with another challenge of sorts: determining if new or used equipment makes the most sense for your company. On the one hand, buying used can save you plenty of money upfront, and used machines are usually readily available. On the other, you fear you might be buying the previous owner’s headaches.

To help you make the appropriate decision for your business, here is a checklist of a few things to consider if you are leaning toward a used VLM or carousel:

1. How Often Will You be Using the Equipment?

If you are using the system intermittently during a single shift, you might be okay choosing used. Although the machine’s parts may have been through lots of wear and tear, you won’t be adding to it substantially. However, if you are operating nearly continuously or over two to three productive shifts on most days of the week, you will want a new VLM or carousel with all new components that are less likely to fail.

2. Where Will You Get Service and Support for Your Used Equipment?

Unlike new equipment that typically comes with a maintenance and service package, used equipment usually does not. New machines also include installation, warranty protection, and technical support after the sale. A used equipment dealer might offer you a service package or recommend a third party for setup, technical support, programming, training, and maintenance, none of which are included in the sale price.

Another critical question: Are spare parts available? Check on all of these details before committing to a used machine. Otherwise, you could lose all the financial advantages of buying a used VLM or carousel.

3. Request Original Documentation

Documentation

When you buy a new carousel or VLM, the equipment has been manufactured to meet your specific needs regarding both loads and frequency of use. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with a used machine.

Request copies of all the original documentation associated with the machine, or ask the seller to put you in contact with the previous owner. Also, ask for the serial number to communicate with the manufacturer and determine the original dates of manufacture and installation and maybe a service history report.

4. Inspect the Used Machine’s Condition

This step is particularly critical with used equipment since you will probably be purchasing without the security of a new machine’s warranty. For example, equipment previously used at maximum load capacity or operated at or above the rated duty cycle of its motors will almost certainly have more worn components than a lightly used machine. 

Also, keep in mind that if you are considering two different used machines, don’t take for granted that the one with the more recent date of manufacture is in better condition. Ask the seller how the machine was used, the type of operating environment, and the former owner’s maintenance practices.

Since operating in extreme conditions contributes to faster wear of components, you need to know where and how the equipment was used. Also, ask for a copy of its service records to ensure that it was maintained according to a regular service schedule.

5. Pay for an Independent Inspection

Getting a used VLM or carousel inspected by a professional could be worth the fee. While it might look shiny and new on the outside (probably from a recent paint job), its actual condition can only be determined by looking inside. The inspection, along with the original documentation, will help you know if the machine will perform as it should.

6. Check the Used Machine’s Current Configuration

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The primary advantage of a new machine is that it will be set up and built exactly as you need it.  The trays or carriers will be sized and spaced precisely to match your type of product. A used machine comes with the previous owner’s sizing, spacing, sub-dividing, and load capacity limitations.

Although most dividers and bins can be re-arranged, some systems have fixed components or are missing some that will be expensive to replace or reconfigure. If it turns out that you have to replace every bin within the system to store your inventory, that cost alone could offset the savings of buying a used machine.

Double-check the measurements of the machine and its electrical specifications. Some machines might be too large to fit through your dock opening or into your intended area of use. Others may require a different voltage than your building can support.

7. Verify the Used Machine’s Safety Features

New machines have all the latest safety features to keep an operator safe. Older models might not meet the latest OSHA and ANSI standards for proper ergonomics. They may not have the safety protections found in new equipment. Check that the used machine has all of its original safety devices and still works properly. Similarly, warning labels and usage placards should still be in place or have been replaced.

8. Make Sure that the Used VLM or Carousel is Compatible With Your Other Systems

New carousels and VLMs include the most up-to-date software and hardware systems, including system controls and connectivity interfaces. A used machine might not integrate with the existing technologies in your facility.  It could require considerable technical expertise to make it work.

However, if your current operation is mostly manual with little to no automation, a used machine might work. Have a systems integrator determine how compatible a used machine is with your existing operation’s technical requirements.

9. Determine Your Target Delivery Date

One advantage of buying used is quicker delivery. “New” often means built-to-order, so it can take several weeks to design, build, and deliver a new machine. However, another “new” option is called the Quick-Ship Program. If you need the VLM or carousel in a hurry, check with the new machine supplier, as many now offer selected machines on the Quick-Ship Program. If this doesn’t work, consider a used one. But if you can afford to wait for a perfectly customized unit, then new is the way to go!

Tags: Automation, Blog, New Machine, Used Machines

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