Sleuthing used equipment

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Phillip Patrona, Universal Press & Machinery Inc., scans database records in search of the right used press.

Fabricator fast-tracks production, gains competitive edge with used press

January 2014 - Finding the right used press can be a little like looking for a needle in a haystack, says Phillip Patrona, salesman for Universal Press & Machinery Inc., Clinton Township, Mich. To track down these elusive machines, Patrona routinely sifts through multiple databases using his experience and the dogged persistence of a private investigator to sort facts and collect information in pursuit of the best matches for his client.

 “When you enter the used market, it’s not like you can say, ‘Build me a press that has these features and capabilities,’” he says. Yet despite the challenges, fabricators choose secondhand equipment for a number of reasons. “If delivery of a new press is 12 months out and a fabricator needs a machine in six months, a used press offers an advantage,” Patrona says. “If the project in question is small, the cost of a new press may not be justified based on the job’s payoff. Some manufacturers feel the cost savings of a pre-owned press is significant enough to offset any potential issues that may arise with that machine.” 


Tracking leads

UPM offers full service sales and asset management to the metal stamping and fabricating industry. The company also maintains an inventory that includes used hydraulic, mechanical, compression molding, die cutting, open back inclinable and punch presses as well as used press brakes, tool room machinery and other fabricating equipment. When hired to locate a used press, Patrona says his first step is to talk with his customer about the types of parts to be fabricated, determine machine specifications and budget. “Before expanding my search I rule out any potential candidates in our own inventory,” he says. “If we don’t have what the client needs, I search our customer database to see if any manufacturers have a machine for sale that fits our profile. If that doesn’t turn up anything, I check our dealer network, but most of my research activities are conducted through our in-house database.”

For Shane Klyn, vice president of Ultimate Hydroforming Inc., Sterling Heights, Mich., Patrona’s ability to quickly grasp his requirements and perform the necessary legwork, keeps the fabricator coming back for repeat business. “Phillip has a clear understanding of my needs,” he says. “I don’t have to say ‘No, that won’t work, or no, those numbers won’t work.’ He takes the guesswork out of the process for me. I know the options he comes up with will meet my criteria before I see them.”

A 1,500-ton hydraulic press with 162 in. by 120 in. bed size was the object of UPM’s most recent machine hunt for Ultimate Hydroforming, one of 12 projects Klyn and Patrona have collaborated on. “To build a press like this from the ground up you could be looking at delivery as far out as 24 months,” Patrona says. “The alternative would be to find a fabricator with downtime on a similar press that you could rent. For most manufacturers this isn’t an option due to the proprietary nature of dies and parts.”

Ultimate Hydroforming forms and assembles complex, high precision parts for aerospace, automotive, alternate energy, military, medical and commercial applications. A market shift and the need to ramp up production quickly put Klyn in the market for the used hydraulic 1,500-ton heavyweight. “We were missing out on the opportunity to produce automotive parts such as body sides and hoods from thicker, higher-strength materials because we didn’t have the press capacity,” Klyn says. The company has built its reputation on producing turnkey high-quality parts while meeting tight turnarounds for quick delivery. To support these performance goals Ultimate Hydroforming often runs its operation 24 hours a day, six to seven days a week.


Patrona’s search for the 1,500-ton hydraulic soon turned up a match for Klyn at another manufacturer’s facility. After determining rigging and transportation costs, Patrona, Klyn and Klyn’s rigger visited the plant to inspect the press and see it run. UPM offers turnkey services for rigging, packaging, importing, exporting and installation but also has the flexibility to work with a customer’s service providers. “We took a support role for this project since Shane already had his own contractors in place,” says Patrona. “We talked with the rigger about their requirements and supplied the necessary information.” 

Cracking open new market opportunities

Information also is a valuable commodity for Ultimate Hydroforming. “Sometimes when you purchase a used press you find that the previous owner made alterations to the machine,” Klyn says. “If I don’t know about those things upfront, it makes ramping up production a longer process on my end. This is another area where Phillip really helps me. He’s able to get that intelligence for us.”

In the case of the 1,500-ton hydraulic, the previous owner had extended the tie-rods and altered the control panel. “We had to obtain the modified prints and talk with the engineer that made the alterations to make sure the changes were done properly, inspected and certified,” says Patrona. “We also checked the alterations with the press manufacturer to ensure structural integrity.”

Press alterations proved to be a plus for Klyn who needed a larger window opening to accommodate bigger automotive parts and deeper draws. “Phillip made sure the integrity of the press wasn’t violated when it was modified because he knows we can’t afford any downtime,” Klyn says. 

It took just 45 days to locate, disassemble, relocate, assemble and install the 1,500-ton press at Ultimate Hydroforming in 2012. To get the press up and running took approximately another month. The press required a 15-ft.-deep concrete pit that was 20 ft. by 30 ft. and reinforced with rebar. “If we could have found a way to make cement dry faster we could have shortened the timeframe even further,” says Patrona.

“Since the second we got the greenlight for production on the press, it’s been running almost continuously,” Klyn says. “We’re still scratching our heads saying, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’” Ultimate Hydroforming is primarily producing automotive and aerospace parts on the press from materials that range from mild steel and aluminum to dual phase and Inconel steel in thicknesses of 0.10 in. to 1⁄4  in. “In addition to taking on new work, we’re able to produce parts more efficiently and approach die design differently,” Klyn says. “We can combine dies and make a part with one press stroke instead of two hits.”

Ultimate Hydroforming is a prototype to short run production shop, so it deals in volumes of one part to a few thousand. The addition of the 1,500-ton press allows the company to take on any type of material in any gauge. Offering that versatility is due in part to Patrona’s talent for following investigative threads to machines that offer performance and value.


“I’ve dealt with other companies,” Klyn says. “I don’t want 10,000 equipment listings. Phillip’s research upfront makes the decision-making process pretty painless. He’ll typically give me four options that will all work. It’s just a matter of deciding which one is the best fit. It comes down to value. He can find me a machine that meets my ideal specifications but he will also offer me a machine that may be slightly less of a fit but carries a huge value add in terms of cost. If I can make the press work and it will handle 98 percent of what I need it to do, then why not save the money?”

Searching out used equipment is work Klyn is happy to hand over to Patrona. “At the end of the day that’s not my job,” he says. “All I want to do is get that press up and running for the least amount of money in the shortest amount of time. If employees are standing around waiting for a machine to start production, you are missing out on opportunities. With UPM we don’t have to worry about that.” FFJ




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