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Erhard_HofmannInterview: Pre-owned systems are in-line with the market trend

29 November 2011 – Erhard Hofmann is general manager and founder of AdoptSMT GmbH in Grödig near Salzburg (Austria). Throughout the last 20 years the company has shaped into a renowned supplier of spare parts, consumables and pre-owned equipment for the electronics manufacturing industry. Today AdoptSMT employs 75 people and owns subsidiaries in Germany, UK, Poland and Romania. Sales offices operate in France, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey.

AaT: AdoptSMT doesn’t only offer placement systems, but also testers. Which ones?

We focus on the board assembly industry and consider ourselves a one-stop shop for complete production lines, including testers and handling systems. These test systems are often used inline. Regarding testers, we are not limited to certain brands or manufacturers. We can offer the full range of production test systems such as in-circuit-testers, automated optical inspection systems (AOI), and automated X-ray inspection systems (AXI).

AaT: What services do you offer to this business sector?

On customer requests, we organize for special systems, e.g. a customer is already running a certain system and wants to increase production capacity using identical machines. In case of investment consulting, we are in the position to give an even more independent and serious advice than many system manufacturers, as we are not restricted to any supplier. At first, it was thought, that trading pre-owned systems took place in some “grey zone”. The opposite is true. There’s a growing trend towards purchasing pre-owned equipment. Manufacturers do not always need to buy the very latest technology. Often, the specifications of a three year old machine are completely sufficient. However, you can’t use the first machine that comes along, to serve any range of application. When it comes to production line extension, often a certain system is required which is no longer manufactured – so pre-owned equipment is sought-after. Sometimes also investment costs play a key role.

AaT: What about the safeguard of a customer who purchases a pre-owned system? Will he be buying a pig in a poke?

Prior to selling we check and overhaul the machines mechanically and upload the latest software. Our highly skilled service team is quite familiar with many brands and can maintain and install the machines. This holds especially for products which are no longer manufactured, e.g. AXI systems from Agilent, Teradyne or Genrad. We can cover most of the machines. For the more common systems we maintain a well equipped spare parts depot and through our extensive network of contacts we are able to source additional spares. End users often face problems when the manufacturer doesn’t exist any more – purchase of spare parts sometimes turns into a nightmare. In most cases, our experience and network contacts can help out. Further more, we offer repair exchange. Partly because we carry out repairs in-house.

AaT: When will a repair be worth the effort?

There’s no generalised answer to this question. AOI systems quickly go out of date, as there is still a lot of change going on concerning software.  In-circuit-testers, however, show a fully developed technology for many years.  Partly it depends on the manufacturer. In-circuit-testers can live up to 20 years and more. Especially the military sector has a very long-term demand. Aged systems often serve as a spare parts donor. AdoptSMT has global contacts and purchase such systems to be used as “spare parts stock”.

AaT: How big is the market for pre-owned systems?

The trade of pre-owned systems has evolved into a recognised market with a considerable share. Throughout the first years of our business we only purchased machines from large companies and sold them to smaller businesses. But the picture has changed. For several years, big players have purchased pre-owned systems. They have recognised that this approach can save them a considerable amount of money and can help to unify their production system platform. In our opinion, a 20 percent share of the total market for electronics production machines goes to pre-owned systems – irrespective of the industry sector.

The interview was held by Herbert Hoenle in Mid 2011.

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