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Automation News

No machine left behind: A philosophy of eternal equipment life

What could a dog food manufacturer and a liquid soap producer have in common?

It turns out, they could share the same end-of-line equipment. A palletizer that once stacked 50 lb. bags of kibble now handles 5-gallon buckets of commercial hand soap. All it took was a little tinkering, and the equipment had new life.

On the manufacturing floor at Pasco, we have a mantra: No machine left behind. We’ve bought back equipment when our customers have upgraded. We’ve retooled equipment that had changed hands. We’ve altered equipment to prepare it for life in a new facility.

This article breaks down our “No machine left behind” philosophy and some of the practices it inspires. It references a number of different palletizers we’ve built and maintained, including:

  • One having its mid-life crisis at 28

  • One that’s on its fourth tour of duty

  • One getting a heavy design edit to work in an entirely new footprint

The foundations of resilient equipment

Not every component of every piece of equipment can last forever. But the critical components like the engine and chassis must be built to last. Like an ’02 Silverado with hundreds of thousands of miles on it, still running great, getting a part replacement or two every year.

Delivering this level of resilience starts with material selection. Sure, some components will need replacement over time. But the structural framework needs to last. So we work with the purest, most durable metals, AND take care to specify them for their conditions of use. If your equipment needs to be washable, that means stainless steel. If it needs to last in a humid or even wet environment, then that means galvanized steel or aluminum.

In short, dedication to using the best materials takes you far. Experience to know the material best suited for every application goes a step further.

A palletizer nicknamed "The Hog Wallow" sit in a warehouse. Dust and grime coats its robust yellow and blue frame, but it's still running strong.

“The Hog Wallow” approaches its thirties

In 1996, we installed a palletizing system at a factory that produces and packages high-temperature grout for a building materials company. In 2024, they called us back out to talk about refurbishing the system.

Nick McKenna, applications engineer and director of sales at Pasco, described his call to arms to address the system’s mid-life crisis. “I went in and they said, ‘Well, we’d be interested in a new robot or rebuilding this entire machine.’ Which really would be new rollers, new bearings, other components, but the frame of it would remain.”

In the 28 years between, the equipment had been affectionately named “The Hog Wallow” by its operators and banged around daily by forklifts. It’s been in a high-temperature, dusty environment, just doing its job. And it has palletized unfathomable amounts of grout.

Refurbishments like our proposal for The Hog Wallow aren’t uncommon, either. They’re an important part of what we do.

Extending equipment life through refurbishment

One thing that happens when you build equipment to last forever is that it outlives its original purpose. One system, installed 15 years ago, is on its fourth tour of duty. We installed it in East St. Louis, and moved it to a new facility in Oklahoma after a few years of work, then another move in Oklahoma, and now it’s in Kansas City, MO.

At every move, we came in, performed a maintenance tune-up, and re-tooled the machine into a perfect fit for its new facility. Some of the bells and whistles changed, but it was still the same machine. It made for an affordable production upgrade at every facility it moved to.

In plenty of cases, we’re called in to refurbish equipment purchased at auction. We’ve seen it all.

Tough challenges for refurbishment to overcome

But scoring right fit equipment for a bargain isn’t as simple as grabbing any used PASCO® and calling us up. And not every system can perform in any application. Here’s a short list of some of the toughest barriers to overcome with a refurbishment:

  • Re-application from a non-corrosive environment to a corrosive one

  • A radical change in desired footprint

  • Large-scale equipment damage (like in a fire or building collapse)

Committing to a refurbishment that doesn’t make sense could end up costing you as much as a new system designed just for you would.

Sometimes, though, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. And one of our customers was closing down a facility in Georgia. They wanted to re-utilize their palletizer in their Minnesota facility. So they hauled it up north and gave us a call.

Problem was, their Minnesota facility produced an entirely different product in a much tighter footprint. Both plants produced product by the bag, but the Minnesota plant’s bags were much larger. And the original system in Georgia was 104 feet long.

The space available in the Minnesota plant was narrower than the original machine and less than half the length.

The project was much less of a tune-up than a full redesign. In this case, we’re re-utilizing the robotics, with new end-of-arm tooling to accommodate the larger bags, and were installing new conveying equipment to properly fit within the space constraints.

In a perfect world there’d be no plant closures, and enough money to go around for everyone to get a new system. In an imperfect world, there’s always Pasco retrofit.

Thinking about our used equipment? Talk to us first.

If you’re headed to an auction to try and score some of our equipment at a value, we’re not going to try to stop you. Your head’s in the right place, and you’re considering some damn good equipment.

Contact us, and we’ll help you identify whether it’s the right equipment for you. Refurbishing a wrong-fit system might be as expensive as buying a new one. We can help you avoid that scenario and make your equipment decisions with confidence.

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