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How Long Is Too Long?

Mon, 03/14/2011 - 6:39am
ANNA WELLS, Executive Editor, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation (IMPO)

By ANNA WELLS, Executive Editor, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation (IMPO)

Anna WellsOne of the first columns I ever wrote for IMPO magazine — three long years ago when I took over as editor — was about my car.

At the time, I was dealing with a maintenance issue, struggling over the decision of whether to investigate the dashboard light that seemed to indiscriminately flash on and off, or to save the cash since nothing appeared to be wrong.

I made a few dozen friends, as IMPO readers are always so gracious and forthcoming with their advice. A flood of emails after the column was printed, I was in the shop. It turned out to be minor, but the peace of mind was crucial.

Fast-forward to 2011, and I am proud to say my 7 year-old VW is still running. It’s little four-cylinder engine has, in fact, racked up 110,000 miles. I blame the Milwaukee Brewers for this number, mostly. Couldn’t they just as easily be the Madison Brewers? It would save me some road time.

Anyway, the creeping odometer wouldn’t worry me so much if it weren’t for a certain milestone coming up in March: That’s right … my final payment on the car is just sitting in my checking account, waiting to be automatically withdrawn and digested by a lender who is finally satiated.

Let me back up: I wasn’t worried, until my mom uttered an off-the-cuff joke the other day: “Shh … Now be sure you don’t tell your car it’s paid off.”

The implication here is that as soon as you put your asset in neutral and let it coast into the back of your mind, something goes horribly wrong.

While I realize this has absolutely no basis whatsoever in logic, I’ve lately found myself leery of the six figures on the dash. My mind goes to the inevitable day when I sit in my garage turning a dead engine until the first car I’ve ever owned gets fish-hooked and hauled to some salvage yard. Is it time to pull the plug? Am I just delaying the inevitable here? How do we best “hedge our bets” relating to large capital investments?

I guess I’ve once again come back to the IMPO readers for your advice: How do you determine your equipment’s long-term efficacy? Which items to do you decide to keep and maintain longer? Which ones do you replace on a regular cycle, and why? What piece of equipment is on your “wish list” this year?

I assume there must be a sweet spot where your existing assets can be sold as used goods to other manufacturers, but how and when do you determine this? I’ve spoken with manufacturers who cycle out machines every two years, whether they need to or not. This is a lot of investment, although the payback, they say, comes in the fact that they can still re-sell the equipment at a relatively high price.

 I obviously want to use my vehicle to its best possible capacity, but at this point I am sure it’s worth more to me than to anyone else. It costs me less to continue driving it, and the stakes for this kind of downtime aren’t typically quite as high. There are always family members, tow trucks, and taxis if the VW were to die a quick painless death on a street corner. Manufacturing equipment, however, tends to cause a whole lot more of a headache when the fan is hit by the you-know-what.

As I await your answers my odometer ticks up, mile by mile … Time to program AAA into the speed dial.

Send me your thoughts at anna.wells@advantagemedia.com.

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