So youíre going to need a wet bench for that exciting new development project. Or maybe itís needed to bring in a new device, copy another FABís process, or to simply increase capacity. Regardless of the reason, it makes sense to consider a used system.
Purchasing a used wet bench offers the potential for great capital savings. Another nice benefit is the fact that used equipment is usually available for immediate delivery. So, no long lead time to delay your project. These two compelling benefits merit investigating what might be available with respect to pre-owned.
In purchasing a used bench, there are many factors to consider. How well does the tool match your requirement? Will it fit? What configuration changes are needed? Is the system functional? What items need repair? How much time and money for those repairs? Are the electronics obsolete? Are there any OEM software licensing fees? Are the materials compatible with my chemistries? Will prior chemical residual cause a yield bust? Are the materials of construction approved by my FABís insurance provider? Is the bench up to date regarding safety and ergo? Will this bench be reliable?
You get the idea. Pursuing a used wet bench is actually a lot of fun, but it can be daunting as well.
The ĎAs Isí gamble:
Many used tools are sold ĎAs Isí. ĎAs isí tools offer the best cost savings but they also carry the greatest burden of risk. Here is a scenario that, when experienced once, is once too many.
A potential buyer dedicates a workday, pays for travel, visits a warehouse, and attempts to view the target tool. The system of interest is inevitably obscured by other equipment or hidden within a partially opened crate. The visitor takes a quick glance, asks a few questions, and rolls the dice on a purchase. The buying company funds the tool and all the logistics of shipping, crating, insurance, facilitization, rigging, installation, and startup, only to find Ö well, Iíll let you finish this thought.
Okay, so things didnít go as planned. Fortunately, you negotiated a 30 day right to return. You did, right? Okay, time to get busy. Take the next couple of days to defacilitize, rig, crate, insure, ship, and return the 'train wreck' to the broker. The broker is of course a good egg and will, without question, refund your money, theoretically.
Valuable time and money is lost on a false start. Hey, Iím not saying itís never a good idea to buy Ďas isí. Iím just implying itís a better idea to request (and secure) the funding needed to have certain assurances in place.
How not to request funding.
On the topic of funding, hereís a story to ponder. Joe Engineer is tool owner of a dilapidated wet bench. He needs a new tool and management is in agreement. Joe is an excellent saver and believes he should spend the companyís money as he would his own. His heart is in the right place and he wants to do his company a favor and save them a boat load of money. He finds a nice looking Ďas isí used tool on the Internet and presents it to management. ďWe can buy this tool and make a go if it for a fraction of the cost of a refurbished or new tool.Ē ďAre you sure?Ē asks a VP. ďAbsolutelyĒ Accountants are convinced, management is delighted, and all are high fiving on the way to lunch. The used tool arrives and for whatever reason, it doesnít play out as planned. Joe finds himself posting a resume on LinkedIn and starting a blog entitled 'Memoirs of an Idiot'.
How to properly request funding.
Letís rewind and try again, this time, a slightly different way. Joe Engineer first presents to his management a brand new wet bench followed by a refurbished but fully warranted system. Management says ďHell No, we donít have that kind of moneyĒ. Joe then presents the Ďas isí tool he found on the Internet. He makes the disclaimer that itís a big risk and he recommends against it. But he vows to move Heaven and Earth to make it work, if the Ďas isí tool is forced upon him.
See the difference?
We live in some seriously lean times right now. In my experience, by the time engineering, management, accounting, and corporate are all in agreement to fund a new or used wet bench, the situation is dire. The FAB is usually hemorrhaging for capacity or already late developing a product promised to the customer. Do you have time for the false start described above?
The Ďas isí scenario sometimes plays out nicely. It really does. But the Ďas isí scenario is best left for those looking for parts tools, or for those not in a hurry, like brokers. When your FAB needs a fully functioning system that must be up and running quickly to meet business commitments, Ďas isí is a risk not worth taking. There is simply too much to lose if the tool does not function.
Most can agree it is desirable to minimize risk. The good news is that the added security we seek is sometimes available in the Ďas isí selling category. Try to find a supplier that will absorb some risk. Many will agree to a 30 day right to return. As we discussed earlier, even with a right to return, youíll have invested company time and money on logistics. But itís better to take a $2,000 beating than a $20,000 beating, or worse.
More Risk Mitigation
Letís further minimize risk and avoid a financial beating all together. Before scheduling a used tool inspection, request that the tool be uncrated and staged. Have them send you some photos prior to scheduling a visit. If the supplier is unable to stage the system, see if theyíll agree to ship the used tool to a mutual 3rd party that's willing to stage and test. If the used tool seller refuses, you have no choice but to assume the worse. Such a tool must be treated as a parts tool and should be priced accordingly. You may get lucky, but I wouldnít count on it.
If the supplier agrees to play ball, request that the tool be relocated to an expertís facility. Thatís going to cost some money. Who will be paying? Probably you will, although itís a point worth negotiating. The tool is worth more to you fully functional than unknown. Perhaps the seller will take on the burden of guaranteeing full functionality in exchange for a higher sale price. There are many possible angles here.
It really makes sense to give priority to suppliers that have in-house wet bench expertise. They are more likely to agree to stage their used tools, power them up, test them, and even make the repairs needed. Such a tool is then considered ĎAs Is - Proven Functionalí, a much less risky purchase.
With an ĎAs Is - Proven Functionalí tool, youíre in reasonably good shape. However, there is the matter of system electronics and controls. In some cases the used tool OEM owns the firmware and software and can charge the new owner a licensing fee. In some cases the electronics are functional, but obsolete. If you have any concerns along these lines, why not request a bid for a brand new modern day control system. A handful of suppliers have this capability and they should be easy enough to find.
Here are some other items that are worth discussing. Request a complete set of maintenance and operations manuals. Have the supplier provide product training during your inspection trip. Inquire about spare parts and get bids prior to purchasing. Request that the supplier throw in a free preventive maintenance visit next time theyíre in your area. Ask about upgrades and anything else that you think may be needed later on down the road.
Itís fair game to use these items, or the lack of these items, as negotiation points for setting a price. Itís never easy to get everything you need within the allotted budget. But it certainly doesnít hurt to ask for some help. The supplier holds all the cards and has every right to simply say no. And, sometimes they must if they are to enjoy the profit required to stay in business. You too can walk away. Ideally, a deal will be struck that makes everyone a winner.
Selling a Used Wet Bench:
You are accustomed to buying tools for your factory but now itís time to put the shoe on the other foot. You may have some used tools in your FAB or warehouse that youíd like to convert to cash. Whatís the sales plan? How do you plan on spreading the word? How vast is your network of potential buyers? Awareness is half the battle. Better get busy advertising.
Regarding the used wet bench for sale, what are the configuration details? At a minimum, it makes sense to have some presentable one page summaries describing your systems. The summaries will likely include descriptions, footprints, photos, and the like. Remember to also include any value added intangibles. For example, if the tool is still in the FAB and can be demonstrated, thatís a value added intangible. If the tool is bagged and crated in a warehouse behind three implanters, it might be necessary for you to lower your expectation regarding price.
Do you have a full time job that is something other than selling used wet benches? If so, maybe itís justifiable to bring in some help. If you have the time and inclination to do so, go it alone and see how it plays out. If youíre ready to find some help, look for someone Internet savvy and with lots of industry contacts. The contacts will ideally be FAB contacts, brokers, people that actually need and buy wet benches. Also, look for some history and track record, ideally someone with prior wet bench sales and marketing experience.
When selling your benches, try to put yourself in the buyerís position. Your buyers will want all the assurances mentioned earlier, as would you. Perhaps you are a device manufacturer and not a wet bench sales agency. Okay, I get it, you simply cannot tolerate a great deal of disruption in your FAB to accommodate every buyerís whims. That is certainly understandable. But know youíre going to have to price your tools differently than those sellers that are babying the customers.
Pricing a Used Wet Bench:
When pricing use wet benches, check the Internet for comparables. Keep in mind that much of the value is tied to the risk mitigating intangibles we discussed. Price is also very much tied to a toolís extendibility. If the tool is 150mm now, but 200mm capable, that opens up a wider buying demographic.
Timing is everything:
Above all, know that timing is everything. I sold my first house to a lady driving by at the very moment I was hammering down the ĎFor Sale by Ownerí sign in my front lawn. To this day, I like to believe it was excellent salesmanship on my part that sold the house!
Conversely, about 10 years later, I again hammered a sign in the yard. I then looked around with a big smile and great expectations only to find nobody; just some crickets chirping. It took me every minute of two years to sell that house. And moreover, this house was, what I believed to be a much better house at a great price. Thereís no science that can be explained here. Itís purely timing.
As a seller, you should know it can and often does take years to sell used wet benches to those hard to find end users that pay reasonable dollars. If youíre in a hurry, youíll eventually have no choice but to price your tools low enough to attract investors. Investors are always looking and rarely in a hurry. They have all the time in the world to wait for good deals and to flip tools for profit. Thatís their business model. It may not be yours.