To Keep or Not To Keep: When to replace or upgrade old equipment

I just sold my grandmother’s vintage 1970s Singer Stylist sewing machine. It was a tough decision to make. The machine still worked beautifully, although it was in need of some maintenance. In the near future, it will probably require some replacement parts. If I was a more serious seamstress, there’s no doubt in my mind I would have held onto the machine and kept up with any necessary repairs for as long as the machine would sew.

Equipment Emotions

There is definitely an emotional connection to some material possessions.

Believe it or not, the same can be true even for equipment used in business. Maybe not the degree of emotions surrounding precious family memories, but there are emotions nonetheless. It could be pride – the pride of being able to maintain a piece of equipment long past its “due date”, or the pride of owning an “original” machine that is no longer in production (like a genuine “collector” of history). Or it could be sentimental – fond memories of the start of your business and the machine that made it all happen. After all, without that machine, you wouldn’t be where you are today!

Quality Counts

Quality is something else to consider. For some people, an older machine is of such great quality and has been such a faithful “work horse” that they feel it is worth repairing until it is literally “dead”, without hope of producing again. While some older machines may be worth fixing, it can become more and more difficult to find the necessary replacement parts, or the cost of replacement parts can increase significantly due to the lack of demand. Keep in mind that many modern pieces of equipment are utilizing advanced technologies which actually add value due to increased production rates, greater efficiency and other factors.

Deciding Factors

At what point is it clearly time to replace an old machine rather than to keep pouring into the maintenance and repairs? At what point is the machine’s value (emotional or otherwise) overshadowed by the practical advantages of taking the plunge and buying a new replacement?

The answers to those questions are different for everyone and depend greatly on many factors. But there are a few universal points to consider:

  • Eventually, all components of a machine will need replacement. When even one part requires replacement, the machine must rest from producing, meaning a stop to production, even if only temporarily. The more frequent the repair needs become, the greater the profit losses become.
  • New equipment is generally more reliable and more productive due to modern technological advancement. Greater production means greater profits for your business.
  • Bottom line: a working machine makes money for your business; an idle machine costs your business money.
  • If you do plan on retiring a machine at some point and attempting to sell it for someone else’s use, keep in mind that the older it gets, the greater the repair and maintenance costs will become. This means that selling it at a reasonable price will become more challenging the longer you wait.

Ultimately, determining whether to keep or not to keep your old equipment is up to you and will depend on many factors. However, if you find it’s time to consider upgrading to a newer model, consider the benefits of equipment lease financing.