New Process Lines & Used Equipment: Putting It All Together

By David J. Atkins, PE, President | NuTec Design Associates, Inc.

NuTec has worked with many clients looking to expand their process operations, often through the addition of a new line; however, schedule and cost are always overriding issues. One approach to reducing expenses is to conduct research into the used or refurbished equipment market in order to meet the cost restrictions while also meeting schedule restrictions – mainly, needing to be operational “yesterday” and not having the luxury of waiting for new equipment to be fabricated.

This initial time savings and cost reduction obtained through the purchase of used or refurbished equipment can be attractive, provided that you understand exactly what you want – and what you are getting! Here are some key steps in the process:

1. Prepare Preliminary Layout.

A layout of the proposed process must first be created; this will help drive space requirements. An understanding of the required product flow is critical, as are any space constraints that may be present. At this stage you must also determine all the major equipment that will be needed for the process.

2. Determine Equipment Cost / Availability.

Next, you’ll want to research the availability of major equipment on the used/refurbished equipment market. Often it makes sense to bring a consultant on board to assist with this research, as there are many different outlets – online and offline – where this equipment may be obtained. Once you’ve narrowed in on your options, site visits will be necessary to view the equipment and confirm the condition. In addition to the purchase cost, also consider the cost to refurbish motors and other components, delivery costs (and don’t forget about lead times), warranties, etc.

  • You may find that used or refurbished equipment is not an option, forcing you to revisit your plans.

3. Prepare Specifications.

Once you have determined that used/refurbished equipment is available (or new is required), and fits within your cost and schedule limitations, it is critical to gain a thorough understanding of that equipment. What are the dimensions? Which utilities will be required? Where will the access points be located? How will you address replacement parts and establish maintenance requirements? This information should be conveyed to the project team, which comprises engineers, designers, maintenance staff, and operations personnel, among others.

4. Finalize Layout.

This process was initiated with a preliminary layout, and now a final layout must be developed in concert with the engineering team. Any missing pieces or equipment must be identified, and transitions needed for the process must be incorporated into the final design.

  • We’ve found that Building Information Management (BIM) software can be an invaluable tool for laying out processes, allowing our team to identify clearances, access points, maintenance platforms, motor lifting points, operations flow, and space utilization. BIM software (we typically utilize Revit) allows the process to be modeled in three dimensions, creating an effective visualization tool for the entire project team.

5. Fabrication.

Once the design is finalized, the engineering team must help the contractor fabricate necessary transition pieces, so quality data and enhanced visualization tools are important for project success.

Will It Fit?

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“Will it fit?” is a question commonly asked by our clients, who are typically looking to minimize cost and schedule by incorporating a new process into an existing building. For instance, we were approached by one of the world’s largest producers of refractory products about installing a new process line. The product was not present at any facility in North America, and they had 9,000 sq. ft. of space available within an existing manufacturing facility.

The space was not originally designed for production, so it was critical to follow the steps outlined above, including coordination with the owner’s selected used/refurbished equipment consultant. Once we reached the final layout stage, we utilized the power of Revit to model the product line as well as a portion of the existing building, incorporating the equipment and process requirements developed during the previous project stage. Building Information Modeling allowed us to “virtually” construct the process line, and with their staff and our engineering team members, we evaluated the virtual construction and made improvements to the design. This visualization became a powerful tool to enhance project success – and allowed the client to understand what they were getting.

Working within the constraints of an existing building and used or refurbished equipment – much less the sometimes extreme cost and schedule limitations – can create a number of barriers to a successful project. However, when you work with an experienced team that has faced these challenges many times before, you’ll realize the benefits of proper planning, design, specification, visualization, and fabrication.

Looking to expand your process and wondering if used/refurbished equipment will work – or if the line will “fit” into your existing building? Contact me at datkins@nutecgroup.com or 717-434-1505 to discuss your project.