If I’d Only Known Then …
Fabricators Talk About Best
Practices for Buying Machinery and Equipment
by Ellen Rogers and Megan Headley
With the industry’s biggest glass equipment and machinery
show, glasstec, only months away (see page
32) some fabricators are starting to think about whether now might
be a good time to invest in new equipment. And when it comes to purchasing
and installing new glass processing machinery and equipment, careful consideration
and examination are key—after all, you want the equipment to meet your
specific needs. In recent years a number of glass fabricators have taken
the plunge into such new purchases, and say they have been quite successful
in doing so. They say careful planning and considerations, cautious steps
and simply working with those they trust were instrumental.
Eugene Negrin, president of Galaxy Glass & Stone in Fairfield, N.J.,
purchased a large-format water jet late last year. For him, he says, the
purchasing process was perfect and he would do it all again the exact
“It’s exceeded my expectations,” he says of the water jet, which he adds
is in operation about eight hours a day. “I’ve been buying equipment since
1984, when I purchased a 13-spindle edger, so I’ve been doing this for
some time. I research the equipment, look at the market, hone in on the
manufacturers and then have discussions with them.”
Negrin adds that researching the manufacturer is critical, particularly
during a time when so many companies are going out of business. “Trust,
but verify,” he says.
“You need to investigate the manufacturer and its abilities because today
you don’t know [whose going to stay in business],” says Negrin. “Plus,
I always tell the manufacturer I want to see two or three similar pieces
in operation; I make the investment in time [to see the equipment in advance].”
Mike Kelley, who handles special projects for Tulsa-based TriStar Glass
Inc., says his only regret about the equipment purchase they made last
year, a HOAF modular laminating system, was that they should have bought
“We’re still buying equipment and see that now prices are starting to
go back up,” says Kelley, who adds that they learned the importance of
being prepared to take advantage of these opportunities as they are available.
“We should have made the purchases sooner and done so more aggressively,”
Kelley explains. “But we were being conservative about it at the time
and now we are playing catch up.”
And what about advice he’d give to others also considering such purchases?
“It’s still the people business and it’s best to deal with those you trust.
Follow your instincts; if you don’t like the people you’re buying from
you’re probably not going to be happy with the purchase in the end,” says
Wolverine Glass Products in Grandville, Mich., also added new equipment
last year, a cup wheel flat edger, but instead of buying a new one, Mark
McGann, president and owner, decided to go with a factory re-build.
“I’ve had great results with it,” says McGann of the edger, which was
re-built by Salem Distributing.
According to McGann, he made the decision to go with re-built equipment
because, given the economy, he was trying to be conservative.
We’re still buying equipment
and see that now prices are starting to go back up.
—Mike Kelley, TriStar Glass Inc.
“Re-built equipment can be about half the cost of buying
new equipment,” he says.
Making this type of purchase is also a bit different compared to buying
“When you’re buying new equipment you can go to the machinery shows and
see the equipment and how it’s going to work.
With this, though, you have to trust that it’s going to do what you want
it to do.”
All in all, he said he had no surprises with this purchase, but the electrical
requirements are one area of which to be aware.
“With new equipment you can have the electrical requirements spec’d to
your specific needs, but when buying a re-build it’s not as cost-effective
to change the power supply,” McGann adds.
And for others who may be considering a similar purchase, McGann recommends
a factory re-build versus doing so in-house “unless [the company] has
the personnel to do the work.”
Pete Chojnacki, president of FabTech LLC in Peninsula, Ohio, purchased
a new CNC machine two years ago for curtainwall, storefront and door fabrication.
In hindsight, Chojnacki says that despite being happy with the transaction
he might have done things differently if he’d known what lay ahead.
“We would have potentially purchased probably more capability,” he says.
“Ours is capable, but we might have purchased multiple, more specific
pieces of equipment overall to do everything. While it’s a valuable piece
of equipment in our business, the throughput can be challenging trying
to do multiple departments putting it through the same equipment.” He
adds, “Right now we’re challenged, like many people, to keep the quantities
up to justify it.”
The company opted to lease the latest purchase on their own, rather than
through the machinery company. “That’s advice I’d give someone who is
buying equipment,” Chojnacki says. “Look at purchasing and look at leasing,
but look at leasing through whatever lease programs might be offered as
well as look at the relationship you have with your own local bank. Sometimes
you can get a better deal with your bank than the vendor. Other times,
the vendor has special incentives; instead of putting a discount on the
equipment, they put a discount on the interest. Make sure people go in
with eyes wide open with multiple scenarios and see which one fits them
the best,” Chojnacki says.
Having worked in the past with a machinery manufacturer, Chojnacki has
some extra insight into the questions fabricators should ask prior to
“I think one very important question is the expected maintenance costs
per year, preventive maintenance, and the initial investment in spare
parts that they would recommend,” he says.
“The other thing that they need to pay attention to is to make sure they
understand the utilities. Do they have the right power in their building,
right air and water? If it’s a machine where that’s an issue, make sure
that that investment is part of the payback.” With his most recent purchase,
he noted, “We had to do some electrical work because of where we’re putting
it in the building, and we built that cost into the machine.”
Finally, Chojnacki adds, “You’ve got to start with what it’s going to
do for your customers. Is it going to increase your speed, your quality,
your repeatability? If you’re answering yes to all of those, then you
go back to how to justify it—but you’ve got to start with the customer
impact of the system. Whether it’s software, machinery, you’ve got to
look through the customers’ eyes first.
“I think sometimes, people see the shiny detail and fall in love with
capabilities but don’t understand they might be capabilities their customers
don’t care about,” Chojnacki adds.
“I’d recommend justifying it on a conservative view of on your business
as it exists and how the machine can help improve your service to your
clients and your economics.”
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