86 questions to ask before purchasing a potting machine
Author: Aaron Chen Date Posted:30 June 2019
Every nursery owner or manager has to deal with plants being potted or potted-up on a regular basis. It is obvious that manual potting methods, takes a toll on nursery staff and generally inconsistent output potting production efficiency for your nursery may result. Purchasing a potting machine is one of the solutions that can make your nursery operate optimally.
In order to help choose the most suitable potting machine with the best quality for value and worth the investment, we gathered a list of 86 questions to guide you through the decision making process. Below is the table of content (Scroll down to see the whole guide or click on the links below)
- Why buy a potting machine?
- My status
- My demand
- Options Available
- Where to locate the potting machine
- What is the environment requirement?
- Which machine do I decide to buy in the market?
- Other general questions
- How many people do you need to operate the machine efficiently?
- How safe is it to operate the potting machine?
- Final Questions for potting machine vendor:
- Makes a laborious job much easier?
- Saves labour time/cost?
- Increases production (rate)?
- What volume of plants potted per day is required in peak season, now and in the future?
- How many pot sizes or trays or bags need filling and what sizes?
- How much is my current labour cost?
- Have I allowed enough for the potting machine in my budget?
- Do I want to get into more efficient volume sales or make the potting operation less tedious and easier?
- How often/ how many days per year will my nursery use the machine?
- How much labour cost will be saved?
- How much will my production increase?
- Will my sales/income increase?
- What will be my ROI (Return On Investment)?
- Which type of potting machine to choose? (fully automatic or semi-automatic?)
- What level of complexity of machine do I require?
- Do I want or need state of the art equipment?
- Is the potting speed determined by the machine or the operator?
- Is the machine suitable for potting up large plants?
- Is the machine suitable for bare root planting?
- How mechanized do I want my new machine or do I want it simple to use and maintain?
For example, will I require a:
- Pot dispenser
- Hole drilling in media
- Dibbling of fertiliser or fertiliser dispenser
- Conveyor transfer stations
- Watering tunnel
- Accumulation table
- Unloader from conveyor to trailers or rolling benches
- Forklift tynes to transport pots
- What utilities does the potting machine require? Power, lighting, water, compressed air?
- How close is the potting media bunker?
- Is there any shade or facilities for workers?
- Is there suitable access for loading media into machine:
- How much room should be left for drive in and out access for loading trailers with potted product?
- Does machine need moving or relocating on a regular basis?
- Can the potting machine be left outside in the weather?
- Where can I locate the machine? Can it stay closed to water, damp soil, fertilizer or open to the weather? This type of environment is going to promote rust and electrical issues.
- Is the environment too dusty for staff and machine?
- What materials are the machines made from e.g. mild steel, zinc plated steel, stainless steel, plastics?
- What is the quality of surface finish and painting: is it powder coated, 2 pack paint, etch primed or enamel painted? how many coats? Are welded joints cold galvanized or best of all is all steel hot dipped galvanized after welding?
Automatic Pottinig Machine:
- Da Ros Potting Machine
- Demtec Potting Machine
- Mayer Potting Machine
- Javo Potting Machine
- Stolze Potting Machine
- Willburg Potting Machine
- Heto Potting Machine
Semi-aumoatic Potting Machine:
- How many plants can be potted up per hour?
- How many staff are required to operate the machine?
- Can pots, trays and bags be filled on the one machine?
- What size pots, trays and bags can be filled?
- How quick and easy is it to setup and adjust for the various containers and sizes?
- Is there too many adjustments?
- Is the hopper large enough or do I need a feeder hopper?
- Is there spilt soil everywhere? – look at some YouTube clips, talk to others that have a machine.
- Light mixes with coco peat cause bridging problems, can this be overcome easily?
- How easy is it to move the machine around?
- Does the machine look robust enough or light and flimsy?
- How many moving parts on the potting machine? (Obviously the more parts, more wear, more maintenance and more technical ability required).
- Are there many electronic sensors on the machine? Same issue especially as the machine ages.
- What daily, monthly and yearly maintenance tasks are recommended by the manufacturer?
- Do I need a good maintenance person with specialized training?
- Do I need to get the machine serviced by a OEM technician?
- Does the machine stop and start regularly as part of its operation?(causing unnecessary wear)
- Stones can cause damage – jam between sprockets and chains and other moving parts.
1.How easy is it to repair the machine?
2.How often do you have to change spare parts?
3.How soon can you get spare parts?
4.Availability of spares or replacements (in case of an unfortunate accident)
5.Do the spare parts have to come from overseas?
6.Is access and removal easy for maintenance staff?
- How much dust is generated by machine?
- How much is the soil agitated and beaten?
- How easy and how much time does it take to clean up machine when potting completed?
- How popular is this machine?
- Is the machine reputable with longevity in the industry?
- Can you talk to other owners of this machine for reference?
Depending on complexity of machine:
- Technical person to setup and adjust the machine
- Pot planters
- Fertiliser dibbling person
- Roustabout for supplying and removing fill and empty tubes/trays/cuttings/plant stock, keeping pots available, keeping area tidy
- Front end loader driver for potting media
- Trailer drivers, staff for loading trailers and field staff for unloading and spacing potted plants.
- Guarding of moving parts – can you get your arm or fingers trapped?
- Is there safety lines to cut off machine?
- Noise – how noisy is the machine? What is the DB rating at 1 metre? (Noise pollution should be considered for staff and neighbours)
- Are ergonomic working heights adjustable for different people and wheel chairs?
- Are there a lot of repetitious movements and twisting movements when operating?
- Do you need to rotate workers due to high repetition/volumes?
- What will be the time frame for delivery of a new machine?
- Is the product in stock?
- Does the supplier respond quickly to enquiries and support?
Asking the right questions is very crucial when it comes to buying a expensive equipment. For a capital item specifically a potting machine, it is worthwhile doing in-depth research, not purchasing because of emotions or would like to have as you don’t want to waste your nursery’s hard earned profits on a machine that has low return on investment (ROI). If you answer the above 86 questions seriously, it will enable you to narrow your research and choose the right potting machine.
If you are not sure about the answer on the questions above, don’t hesitate to do some more research by searching the internet, refer to trade magazines, talk to potting machine owners and most importantly, pick up the phone and talk to different potting machine vendors, get some feeling of their services and ask as many questions as you want.