Point and click for used equipment

Mark A. DeSorbo

FOSTER CITY, CA—If you thought second-hand equipment used in the semiconductor, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, disk drive and food processing industries would be the last thing you'd find featured in an online auction or marketplace, guess again.

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These days, you can find just about anything up for grabs on the cyber-chopping block, from swabs and wipers to benches and hoods to etchers and chillers. In fact, www.dovebid.com, a virtual Sotheby's, and www.imark.com, the Wal-Mart for industrial equipment, are two Web sites that provide such marketplaces.

Kirk Dove, president of DoveBid Inc.'s auction services, says there is a significant market for used equipment, especially in the printed circuit board, personal computer, electronic test and measurement and semiconductor fabrication arenas. “We have been brokering semiconductor fabrication equipment for 10 years. These facilities continually retool, but that doesn't mean the older equipment isn't useable,” Dove says. “It still makes four-inch or six-inch wafers, and it may be obsolete for Intel, but not for another company across the world.”

Sandeep Nanda, director of marketing for iMark.com Inc., agrees saying chemical, pharmaceutical and food processing equipment have generated the most interest among their buyers and sellers. “There is a high demand for equipment in these areas,” Nanda says, adding that the semiconductor fabrication sector is also quite strong.

While both sites aim at providing outlets for used industrial equipment, operations are quite different. Yet, both can offer huge savings from 10 to 50 percent.

DoveBid Inc.'s online auction site is a spin-off of Dove Brothers, LLC, a Foster City, CA-based auctioneer and capital asset sale advisor. The 60-plus-year-old company also has a separately operated subsidiary, DoveBid Valuations, which provides diversified asset valuation services.

Log onto dovebid.com, launched last November, and a surfer will find a list of 20 asset categories, a number of live auctions, and links to inspection, appraisal and financing services. Click on, say, the “Semiconductor Fabrication” category, and you get the first of more than 30 pages of items, ranging from a shoe-cleaning machine that opened at $100 to an etcher offered initially at $14,500. Items are listed under the headings: asset number, asset class (auction item), manufacturer, model, image, location, quantity and price.

By clicking the asset number, bidders can access item descriptions, bidding information, seller information, sale-terms as well as place bids. The Web site stipulates that all buyers and sellers must register to get a password that enables one to buy and sell items.

There is a non-refundable $10 listing fee for each lot listed, and sellers are charged a 5 percent commission on the item sale price. Auction duration can be seven, 14 and 30 days. There are no buyer charges, but they are required to pay shipping, insurance, rigging, as well as escrow fees if an escrow service is chosen.

Unlike Dovebid's auctions, imark.com transactions do not require exclusivity from the seller. “There's no time limit and sellers are free to accept or decline any offer they choose. Buyers are able to set a time limit for their offers,” Nanda says. “It's more like a real estate transaction than anything else. The only time we make money is a 5 percent commission from the seller if we find them a buyer.”

Since September, visitors have been able to find 11 equipment categories on imark.com as well as search engines for finding and selling equipment. While anyone can browse, buyers and sellers must register by picking a user name and password.

Tap into the “Packaging” category, and a slew of sub-categories emblazons the screen, including “cleaning, cooling and drying equipment,” “fillers,” and “inspection equipment.” A drag and a click on “fillers,” and the category is broken down further to eight types of fillers. Choosing the “volumetric” category once again splashes the screen with sub-categories. At press time, there were 189 volumetric fillers at various prices from a modest $5,500 to $50,000. The choices can seem overwhelming, but if the route isn't quick enough, a buyer or seller can opt for a search using specific keywords. Items are listed under the headings: lot title; manufacturer, sale end date, seller and asking price list items. Buyers and sellers can also find transportation, rigging, engineering, and design services.

Competing Web sites, Nanda says, are congested with choices, making it hard for the seller to find a buyer or visa versa. “We're building search engines in each category for buyers and sellers to quickly find what they are looking for,” he says, declining to identify the consultants and engineering firm that are assisting imark.com to do so. “We're not selling equipment over the Internet. All we are trying to do is bring buyers and sellers together fast.”

And whether it's an auction on dovebid.com or a real estate-like transaction on imark.com, one thing is certain; buyers and sellers are saving money and finding new uses for replaced industrial equipment.

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While dovebid.com is a virtual Sotheby's (see p. 1), Austin, TX based imark.com is the Wal-Mart for used industrial equipment.

“What we offer is free until we help a seller find a buyer,” Nanda says. “If you're a buyer, you can fill out an online form, and we'll broadcast to a network of sellers.”

Dove adds, “What do you do when you need or have a piece of equipment to sell? Put an ad in the paper? You won't find the end-user you're looking for. The Web is just another tool industries can use to sell or find the equipment they need.”


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