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Purchasing a machine?

Posted by mynormas on February 15, 2012

If you are thinking of buying a new machine for your football field, stadium or golf course – be it a mower, a topdresser, a tractor or whatever – a few things should be considered.

  1. Acceptability in performing a specific function

When you consider to buy a certain machine, you know what you want to use it for. Can the machine perform the function well in your field? If you buy the machine as a compromise (cheapest pricing, friendship, package etc) and it cannot perform well in your field, it may mean the machine will be underutilized or partially effective.

To know whether the machine is suitable or not, actual on-site testing is best way. Ask for a demo. Each field will have different conditions (very wet, soft, hard grass, bumpy, hilly, operators etc). It is important that the machine can do the job in the field as you wanted. And remember, demo the machine the way you are going to operate it normally (don’t demo in one area and then use it on another area. Or ask another operator to demo when the real operator is another person etc).

       2. Availability of after sales  parts and service

Filepic. Does the supplier support after sales training? Looonnnnng after the sales were done? Or is it difficult to contact them if they think you have no budget? Oh, please disregard the “Honda” t-shirt, it was casual day that day.

Is the machine one of its kind in your area, meaning the supplier do not stock all spare parts? Is the supplier in one part of the country, and you are in another part, so they cannot service you properly? Remember, most people cannot accept long downtime. Not many facilities can afford to have spare machines.

Suppliers must have adequate spare parts and repair facilities. Check out the suppliers track record and reliability from their other customers in your area.
Sometimes there may be little choice but to purchase more expensive units from another supplier who has a better track record of servicing. Or you may have to downgrade and buy a simpler machine, for example a tractor pulled mower. Tractors’ are used extensively in farms and plantations so there are many places to buy spare parts and find mechanics.

         3.  Quality

Some aspects of quality can be seen on the machine, some need to be seen while the machine is operating on the field.

Ask around at other fields that are already using the machine. Ask their mechanic how easy is it to service and repair. Ask their workers how easy is the machine to operate.

         4.  Cost

There is a need to balance performance, quality and serviceability. It is not just about purchase price. Must also include length of operational life and repair costs. What is the point of buying a machine cheaper by 20% but can be used only 50% as long as a more expensive machine? A cheaper machine may last for 3 years before being expensive to maintain while a more expensive machine may last for 7 years. Ask around.

       5.  Staff familiarity

Is the machine similar to what is already in use at your field or is the machine easy to train with? Can the mechanics handle the machine if it breaks down? Some machines uses the same engine or the same gear box as a previous model or another model from a different company. Some machines are very simple and intuitive to operate; especially those with hydrostatic drive. Tractors, are not easy to operate. The big ones are intimidating.

Buying a machine that is too complicated for the staff to operate or the mechanics to repair is just inviting trouble.

        6.  Similar Machinery / Package deals

There are pros and cons to buying machinery from many suppliers or buying a fleet of machine from one supplier. However you decide, all the above factors we talked about should be taken into consideration whether for one machine or for a fleet of machine. Remember some machines may be a compromise so you may have to live with having a sub-standard machine because it is part of a package/fleet.

The good thing about buying in fleet: A supplier may be more motivated to service you if you have been a loyal customer and also, they may not want you to bad-mouth them. The bad: its about putting all your eggs in one basket.

There is also an advantage of buying similiar that can do the same function in another area, for example, buying the same triplex greensmower and tee-mower. Or a machine that has the flexibility of cutting height that can cut both rough and fairway. I’m not saying you should buy less machinery so that you can use one machine for two purpose; I am saying that you can buy two of the same machine to simplify your operator training, spare part inventory and etc. The disadvantage? One of the purpose of the machine may have to be compromised. A machine that can cut fairways very well may not be able to cut roughs in rugged areas.

     7. The company

Should you buy from a big established company that has customers all over the country or do you dare to trust the smaller company that prepared to give you huge discounts? Difficult to say, big companies may have more clout behind them but are you really big enough a customer? Remember to view it from the other side of the fence. What is big money to you may be chicken feed to them.

On the other hand, the small guy may be more desperate to please you (go ahead, tell him to do the chicken dance on the table). Of course, the small company may not last long or have the stamina or even have the focus to be with you for longer than the next customer’s order.

So how should you decide? Try getting a second opinion…

There may be other things that I did remember or I have not experienced before. Please feel free to jot down your thoughts and share your experiences with others or point out other issues.


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