How can you reduce risk when buying used automation parts?

Warren Buffett once said “Price is what you pay; value is what you get”. In the world of used automation prices, quality and value are often very difficult to judge. Buying anything in used condition can save you a lot of money but it also carries risk. In the manufacturing process where downtime can cost thousands it is important for buyers minimise risk. These are our top tips for reducing risk when purchasing used automation parts.

DOES IT COME WITH A WARRANTY?

Sounds obvious but many suppliers do not offer a warranty and if they do it can be as little as 15 days. A warranty covers you if the part doesn’t work or fails after a short amount of time. Most reputable companies provide a warranty on their used parts, this can range from three months to up to 12 months. At Northern Industrial we provide a full 12 month warranty on every used part we sell or repair.

HAS THE ITEM BEEN REFURBISHED?

Used is not the same as refurbished and it is is important to understand the difference. A part that hasn’t been refurbished can be a gamble. A used part will still have old components fitted inside and therefore could have been in use for 10 years or more. Some components, such as capacitors, can have a lifespan of 7 years and will develop faults after this time. This can lead to used parts developing intermittent faults or failing shortly after the warranty period has expired sending you back to square one.

Although slightly more expensive, a reconditioned part should ensure the part lasts a lot longer than the warranty period and reduces the chance of the part being dead on arrival. All the parts we sell from stock receive a full preventative maintenance service. This means we replace serviceable components such as fans, capacitors and relays to ensure the maximum lifespan of our parts.

CHECK THE ITEM HAS BEEN REFURBISHED BY PROFESSIONALS

We would recommend always buying used parts from a company that has its own repair department and has an established history. Professional automation suppliers should refurbish used equipment to a high standard and only use genuine high quality components. A company who doesn’t employ engineers is very unlikely to be able to refurbish used parts.

ALWAYS RESEARCH THE SELLER

Today it is easy to hide behind a nice website and bold claims until something goes wrong. If you’re experiencing downtime and are putting your trust in a new seller you haven’t used before, a quick Google search could save you a lot of hassle down the line. Check where they are based. Does it look like an industrial unit full of stock and engineers? Are they an established company? Do they have their own technical department? Are they able to support you if things go wrong? Do they have their own stock? You can even look on LinkedIn to see if they actually employ engineers.

NO IN-HOUSE SUPPORT

When you buy a part from Northern Industrial you get a team of engineers who are able to offer expert pre and post sales advice. Many automation suppliers do not have their own engineers and therefore refer you back to the OEM or play Chinese whispers with whoever supplied them. As you probably already know waiting for answers during a machinery breakdown can be costly and frustrating.

We also find customers can misdiagnose which part is faulty on their machines and order the wrong part by mistake. Depending on the part this can be a very expensive mistake. It is therefore helpful to speak to a qualified engineer before ordering as we can help you determine which part is at fault.

BE WARY OF BUYING PARTS “SOLD AS SEEN”

They might seem attractive when comparing prices, but often these items are non-returnable and not guaranteed to work. Look at how much downtime is costing you. Is it really worth the risk?

CAN YOU RETURN THE ITEM?

This shouldn’t be a problem when buying from a professional company like Northern Industrial who have a fair returns policy in place, but it could bite you on the backside if buying from an individual or smaller dealers on sites like eBay.

DON’T BE BLINDED BY A LOW PRICE

It’s easy to get carried away when you see a price much, much lower than expected but sometimes this can be so much lower for a reason. Trust your instinct and read the terms of the sale to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

We price our parts fairly at Northern Industrial and included in the price you get a 12 month warranty, free UK/Europe shipping and ongoing support.

BEWARE OF HIDDEN EXTRAS

A cheap part can quickly become expensive when you add super high shipping costs, handling costs and rush fees. I know one American company who is notorious for this and even charge rush fees for removing a new part from the shelf. We offer a flat rate of shipping, no handling costs or rush fees and these are clearly displayed on the website.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR EXTRA INFORMATION!

A good seller or reputable business will be more than happy to answer any questions in order for you to make the right decision. Whether you require datasheets, manuals or even just something as simple as a picture of the used part.

IS THE SUPPLIER ISO 9001 REGISTERED?

In a breakdown situation this might not be the first question you ask but an ISO 9001 badge indicates a Quality Management System has been put in place by the supplier. The supplier is therefore focused on ensuring the business delivers a consistent level of quality to its customers by having well defined and regularly reviewed processes and procedures.

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