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Tracking Equipment Purchased on the Secondary Market: How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls

warrantyHow do you track equipment that you buy surplus?

Once you open up the box and put it on the shelf, how do you know whom you bought it from?

How many of you either purchased some refurbished or new open box equipment from a vendor 6 months ago and cannot remember whom you bought it from?  Sound familiar?  What about if you’re the technician that is out in the field and all you care about is getting a working unit so you can continue with your day?  Do you have a system in place that tracks each individual part from start to finish?  How do you differentiate one vendor’s equipment from another?

These questions are among the most common asked of LEC’s, CLEC’s, and ISP’s about their procurement of equipment outside the OEM.  Just about every company these days sources from outside the OEM to some extent.  Pricing, availability, and quality are the biggest concerns.  One thing, however, that I’ve found in my 10 years of reselling gear is that not all companies have a sound process for tracking their equipment once purchased.

It’s unfair to put the blame on one company over another.  Staffing, budget constraints, inventory systems all play a role in the tracking of equipment or lack thereof.  Besides, aren’t you buying equipment that is supposed to work the entirety of its lifespan anyway?

Now, I have no doubt that all who read this work with a company that tracks every single piece of equipment, and that most wouldn’t have to concern themselves with where the surplus equipment may have come from in the first place.  Perhaps an elaborate Excel spreadsheet recording all of your purchases with serial numbers does the trick.  Surely that doesn’t suck up time!

Maybe another way to go about this is to find a vendor or two that have systems in place that do the hard work for you; vendors that can seamlessly transition their process into yours.

Here are some ways we go about doing this here at PICS:

My customers receive an email when equipment has been received and signed for by their warehouse.  Most vendors forget about the sale at this point.  To me that’s when the real job begins.  Every piece of equipment I sell carries a unique serial number that has its own corresponding warranty.  Therefore, at times I may have as many as 20 different parts that I will warranty within a particular router or chassis and components.   I have a system that individually tracks each item with what’s called a PT Sticker.  This barcoded scan able PT sticker represents to the customer:

  • ·         The purchase order # on the customer’s side
  • ·         Serial number of the board
  • ·         The sales order # on my side
  • ·         The shipping address and who signed for it with date and time

All of this information is logged for each individual customer, so at a moment’s notice I can provide them with any details they may require. There should be no time wasted on their end!

I know a lot of vendors will track a card and its warranty by the serial number alone.  This is effective for tracking the card, but it allows for the fidelity of the warranty to be compromised.  It enables vendors to skirt the responsibility of the warranty if the equipment is in unconcerned hands.  If a technician in the field comes across a failed card, how do they check if it’s still under warranty?  Was it purchased from the OEM or a secondary vendor?  The problems that arise with tracking warranties between OEM’s and vendors can be brutal, and can lead to embarrassing moments.  Have you or a colleague ever called an OEM to request a replacement on a part you thought was under warranty only to find out that the particular part in question was bought from a secondary market vendor?  This happens every day, and it is completely avoidable if equipment is tracked with precision and uniformity.

It is essential in our industry today to have easily accessed warranty information and transparent inventory records. Knowing when, where and from whom a piece of equipment was purchased is vital to keeping a network up and running. This is exactly why we apply our PT stickers to every part we sell. It makes everyone’s job easier.

Hopefully this gives you a different perspective on how to tack equipment that you purchase regardless of the vendor.

PT Sticker

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