Both pharmaceutical companies and contract manufacturers (CDMOs) have discovered that the second-hand equipment market provides readily available machinery to fulfill a range of needs. Used equipment is immediately available, cutting lead time for specification, delivery, and install. This allows for faster product launches, process upgrades, capacity expansions, and critical equipment replacements that can reduce downtime or backorders.
Various situations can cause pharmaceutical companies to opt for purchasing used equipment rather than new machinery. These include:
Quality & Supply Chain
A pharmaceutical company or CDMO that decides to purchase new equipment should be aware of certain critical elements that require extra caution compared to securing used machinery. For example:
However, even the best-laid plans can go awry as requirements and product markets change. Changes made after specifications have been agreed upon can drastically increase costs and increase lead time. This is often referred to as “scope creep,” whereby even the smallest adjustments can affect the length of a project. Not only will scope creep impact purchase price and delivery time, unchecked scope creep can result in a one-of-a-kind machine that is difficult to operate, maintain, and service.
Canceled projects happen as well. Equipment may be purchased for a new product, but the product fails to meet desired clinical results, the formulation is never right, or the market never materializes. The new equipment, then, becomes surplus equipment. Sometimes, this happens before the equipment is ever delivered to the original buyer.
Delivery is not the end of the purchase process with new equipment. Remember to keep in mind that new equipment is not always defect-free. Equipment can fail to reach target parameters for the process, can be built incorrectly—where the final machines do not meet the agreed-upon specifications—or the specifications were not correct in the first place. This results in the equipment not making a saleable product. As an alternative, good quality used equipment can potentially reduce purchase lead time from months to weeks (or less). Time spent selecting suppliers and then discussing requirements, specifications, and options is decreased as the equipment is already built.
There are many reasons pharmaceutical manufacturers turn to used equipment. These reasons include market opportunities, everyday production and scheduling issues, and solving significant production problems all with limited time and budget. Used equipment can be a time-saving, money-saving, and contract-saving choice. The key to capturing used equipment is to find a reputable dealer, who maintains a broad range of equipment in inventory from world-leading pharmaceutical manufacturers that is made by world-leading equipment manufacturers. All equipment, new or used, goes through the same installation and start-up process. Even though any issues may be different, both still need to happen. When buying new, remember to not lose sight of the project at hand with ambitious customizations. This can lead to spending additional time and money, and can even lower the overall effectiveness of the equipment.
Matt Hicks, Chief Operating Officer at Federal Equipment Company, is a pharmaceutical industry veteran with more than 15 years of experience helping companies get the most value and utility out of their manufacturing and process equipment assets.