Published March 21, 2019 | Updated May 19, 2022

This is going to sound familiar to a lot of businesspeople.

You’ve got some equipment and technology you suspect is running on borrowed time. It gives you a little trouble once in a while. Or maybe it doesn’t, but it has kept chugging along well past its expected expiration date. At some point – possibly at the worst possible time – it’s going to give out.

What do you do to ensure failures don’t disrupt your operations, especially in today’s competitive environment? Research says 8 of 10 of your fellow businesspeople wait until the equipment or technology fails before thinking about a replacement.

While this is certainly understandable, there are some problems with this approach. First, there’s downtime until you get a replacement. And with today’s supply chain disruptions, you will likely need to factor in additional time for delivery. You’ll also need to add in some training time if it has new features, and it probably does. Then there’s what you could call an emergency cost. Because you need a replacement fast, you won’t have much time for deal hunting. And instead of getting the model you really want, you may have to settle for the model your supplier has available at the time.

Then there’s the way older equipment and technology make you less competitive. Sure, it works, but it may not work to the capacity or with the efficiency it used to. Plus, remember those new features you have to spend time training on? Your competitors may already be using those to get ahead of you.

Still, 80% of companies wait until it breaks to think about a replacement. Why? Cash flow is a big reason. But the very act of trying to preserve cash flow by putting off replacements is a major cause of cash flow problems. Which then makes it even harder to replace equipment and technology on a schedule. Which then causes more cash flow problems.

It’s definitely a cycle you don’t want to get into. And it’s one you want to break out of if you have gotten caught in it. Fortunately, there’s AFMD.

What Is AFMD and How Does It Help?
First, let’s talk about Acquire. In this stage, you’ll figure out what equipment or technology you need. Well, that’s just the newer/faster/flashier version of what you already have, right? Maybe, but it doesn’t exist in a bubble. It’s part of an ecosystem that includes all your equipment and technology, the people who use it, the training those people need, your cash flow situation, your one-year plan, your five-year plan, the opportunities you can see in front of you, the opportunities those opportunities could lead to, and on and on. It’s all different for every business, but the point is that it’s not enough to think about immediate needs, which is how a business gets trapped in the break/replace cycle in the first place. It’s necessary to step back and look at the bigger picture. To do it right, you may spend considerable time on this stage. But time – to think and act strategically, instead of just reacting to short-term pressures – is what AFMD planning is really all about.

Next, there’s the Finance stage. Often, the work you do in the Acquire stage reveals needs that are different – and possibly bigger – than you initially thought. But even if they’re not, how will you pay for your equipment and technology? Cash, credit lines, financing? Cash can be a good choice if you’ve got it on hand, but there’s an opportunity cost to using it: if you tie it up in equipment and technology, you can’t use it for other needs. Credit lines? Those are best used for short-term purposes, not longer-term assets like equipment and technology. Financing, on the other hand, gives you a lot more flexibility than either cash or credit lines. Financing increases your buying power, and it can be customized to match the productivity curve of your equipment and technology, make add-ons easier and more affordable, simplify the upgrade path for ever-changing technology, and so on – all of which helps you plan and act more strategically, which is the ultimate goal of AFMD.

On to the Manage stage, which is really less of a discrete stage and more of an ongoing process of monitoring the state of your equipment and technology in relation to the state of your business. Here’s your opportunity to evaluate the following: Are productivity goals being met? Are you able to respond in an agile way to market challenges and opportunities? Are there any equipment or technology-related bottlenecks in your business? The specific questions you need to ask may be different, but whatever they are, it’s important to ask them periodically in order to learn whether it’s time for the next stage: Dispose.

In the Dispose stage, the equipment or technology lifecycle comes full circle. The goal here is to retire it gracefully, in a controlled, planned way that helps you manage cash flow, avoid downtime, and make strategically smart choices as you move back to the Acquire stage. Sure, equipment or technology will still break unexpectedly, requiring you to adjust your plan. But simply having a plan will put you in a better position to handle unplanned events.

If you’re looking for a way to break out of the costly break/replace cycle, give AFMD a try. At LEAF, we’re here to help with customized financing that fits right into your equipment and technology lifecycle planning.