Distinguishing Between OEM, Aftermarket, Used, and Refurbished Parts

March 13, 2022 | Buyers' Guide

When faced with the need to perform repairs and parts replacement, the recurring question typically asked by suppliers is: “What type of part do you want for your equipment – OEM, Aftermarket, Used or Refurbished?”

With thousands of dollars invested in your laboratory equipment, assuming to know the definition of these manufacturing terms is inadvisable. In order to get the best value for your money, you need to make an informed decision which will only happen when you’ve gained sufficient understanding of the choices offered. Additionally, it is important to learn about the different factors to consider for you to settle on an optimal tradeoff between cost and quality.

To help you determine the different kinds of equipment parts and how they could benefit you, we have put together this comprehensive guide to help you save time spent on deciding which type of replacement or spare part would be most suited for your equipment. This guide will distinguish the differences and similarities between OEM, aftermarket, used and refurbished parts and educate you on the best option to go for, depending on your resources, application requirements, compatibility and overall quality.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

Parts are classified as OEM when they are produced by the original manufacturer of your equipment. Thus, OEM parts are expected to function as well as the components they will be replacing since they are essentially the same. Moreover, you can be assured that compatibility between your equipment and the replacement part would not be an issue. Another thing to keep in mind is that an OEM part does not necessarily have to come from the supplier or distributor who marketed the equipment. The premise here is that you will also be acquiring your replacement part from the manufacturer of your equipment. In most cases, OEM parts are built in-house and in the same manufacturing facility as your equipment. However, some manufacturers subcontract other companies with capabilities to produce equipment parts. In this instance, the parts assembled by the subcontractors are still considered as OEM.

What are the advantages of Choosing OEM Parts?

Easy to Find. Since OEM parts are assembled by the same manufacturer who engineered your equipment, accessibility would not be an issue. To avail the same parts as the one found in your equipment, you can contact the manufacturer or the supplier you purchased from. Most companies that produce equipment and parts also have teams dedicated to after-sales service.

Quality Assurance. OEM parts work as well as the original parts found in your equipment. You can be guaranteed of its quality since these are the same kind of parts that goes into an equipment like yours and are built according to your equipment’s specifications. Additionally, you can be assured of seamless compatibility with your equipment.

Comes Complete With Warranty. Most OEM parts are offered along with a warranty from the manufacturer. OEMs are typically established companies with a reputation to take care of. Warranties can give customers additional peace of mind and are useful in case your equipment functions differently from how it is supposed to.

Wide Selection of Parts. Deciding on a replacement or spare part is much easier when there’s a wide range to choose from. Naturally, manufacturers will have a variety of similar parts with different features. You can even upgrade the part you will be replacing. With in-house OEM experts assisting you, you can rest assured that whichever part you will be choosing, it will be compatible to your instrument.

What are the Downsides to Purchasing OEM Parts?

One of the main reasons that keep people from buying OEM parts is its price tag. OEM parts are generally higher in cost compared to aftermarket, used, and refurbished parts. For some, the price of the part can have a big influence in decision-making.

Another downside to purchasing OEM parts is that it could take longer for you to receive. Often times, ordering OEM parts require getting in touch with a supplier or distributor who will coordinate with the OEM and process the transaction for you. Unless on hand, ordering OEM parts will be more time-consuming compared to purchasing parts carried by other vendors. It is also possible to directly purchase from an OEM but these companies are not as easily accessible as suppliers/distributors. Furthermore, you cannot be sure that they would be willing to sell in retail.

When Should You Buy OEM Parts

OEM parts are a great option for you if you need assurance that the parts will function reliably and fit your equipment perfectly. It is advisable to use OEM parts on crucial components of your equipment such as engine and electrical parts, as well as on functional components like valves, pressure gauges, inverters, and many more.

Aftermarket Equipment Parts

Aftermarket parts are replacement or spare parts that are produced by a different company from your instrument’s original manufacturer. In some cases, these can be ‘generic’ components that are designed to be used universally by different equipment brands. Aftermarket parts can function similarly to OEM parts but are not produced by the manufacturer of your device. There are also instances when aftermarket parts work better than OEM parts but if you’re not sure about their reliability, then using an OEM part would be safer.

Copies of OEM parts produced by a different manufacturer are also classified as aftermarket parts. Using these kinds of parts are usually suited for people who have experience and sufficient knowledge on alternative parts that can be used in place of original ones. Additionally, choosing aftermarket parts could require fine-tuning, calibration, and some tinkering to make sure that the parts function as it should.

What benefits can you get from using aftermarket parts?

Purchasing aftermarket parts are usually due to a few reasons. First, they are relatively cheaper and can serve as good replacements to original parts and at better value. Another reason is that there are aftermarket parts that are designed to be more high-performing, cutting-edge, and even sleeker. You can replace your equipment’s original parts in order for you to upgrade your equipment. This is typically done when a replacement part with the same features and aesthetic isn’t offered by your supplier or equipment manufacturer.

Another reason to purchase an aftermarket part instead of an OEM is the need for urgency. People tend to go for aftermarket parts when availability and delivery time is a concern. This is because many aftermarket parts are offered by different companies so you would not need to wait for a specific part (unlike in OEM) to be delivered unless you are set on purchasing a particular model of an aftermarket component.

What disadvantages could I be facing if I choose to purchase aftermarket parts?

When purchasing an aftermarket part, the most notable concern would be its potential to have poorer quality compared to its original counterpart. Many aftermarket products are offered in lower prices. This raises the possibility that quality may suffer. However, you should also keep in mind that this is not always the case. There are aftermarket parts that have great quality despite the lower price tag.

Logically, the compatibility of an aftermarket part with your equipment may also be an issue since these parts are not specifically made for your equipment. However, with numerous aftermarket parts available, it’s likely that you will eventually find a suitable aftermarket part as long as you have the patience and enough knowledge on how a particular part would perform together with your equipment.

When is It Ideal to use aftermarket parts?

If you have a background in dealing with these parts or have the time to research, you can opt to go for aftermarket parts as replacements. You may read up on comments and find reviews discussing the aftermarket parts potentially suitable to your device. 

If you’re not exactly knowledgeable on the various aftermarket parts available, you can seek out recommendations from technical experts in the lab industry or colleagues who have experience using the part you intend to purchase. Another thing to consider is that you should be prepared to calibrate and tune your instrument to suit your new replacement part. 

This is an international standard which certifies that a company is recognized for its Quality Management System (QMS). This demonstrates a company’s capability to consistently deliver products and services which meet customer demands and mandatory regulations.

Used Equipment Parts

Used components are pre-owned and previously used by someone else. These equipment are sold and passed down directly from the owner to the buyer. Typically, used equipment parts are sold as-is, without modifications for improving performance or operating life. The window for labeling a component as used is also pretty wide. An equipment that is barely new and utilized for a short period of time would still be classified as such.

Used parts are also the cheapest when compared to OEM, refurbished, and aftermarket components. Some people might also purchase used original parts, thinking that it is better than purchasing brand new aftermarket components, parts from competitor brands or generic types.

What to Expect When Buying Used Parts

Sometimes buying used components in good condition can function almost as well as new parts. There are also instances when purchasing used parts is the logical thing to do. For instance, when you intend to replace the parts of an equipment which is no longer being manufactured, purchasing new parts is not an option. Another case is when you want to be able to confirm a part’s quality. When you are on a budget but want to be sure of the quality of a component, you can choose to buy used OEM parts. Used parts are the cheapest and is always an option to consider when budget is limited.

What You Need to Know About Used Equipment Parts

While there certainly are upsides to going for used parts, you should also exercise caution before purchasing one.

Period Employed. A used part that is not working properly or too worn out would not function well or last you a long time. It is important to consider how long the equipment part has been used as these period will be deducted from its expected operating life.

Is it Returnable? When purchasing a used part, you can’t be entirely sure if it will work seamlessly with your equipment unless you’ve already assembled and calibrated the equipment along with your used part. When you learn that you ended up buying the wrong part, the best thing to do is to return it. However, this is not always an option when buying used equipment or parts. There are some sellers who allow this so you should find out if this is possible before finalizing a purchase.

Know the Details. When buying used parts, you need to know not only the specifications of the parts but also how it was utilized, how long it has been in operations, what environment was it in and how intensive were the procedures, and other important details. It is the responsibility of the buyer to find out these information so make sure to ask questions about relevant factors that might affect your component’s performance.

Refurbished Equipment Parts

People might confuse used and refurbished parts for the same thing. However, there is a major difference that creates a divide between the two aforementioned equipment parts. While refurbished parts is also previously owned, these are professionally restored and repaired to meet the standards of the original manufacturer. 

Refurbished parts are reconditioned to function as well as a brand new equipment part. These parts are brought into state-of-the-art facilities by manufacturers and equipment service providers. The used parts undergo a series of quality inspections. Any component that are worn out or damaged and could not be fixed are replaced with new, fully-functioning parts. Refurbished parts are also re-calibrated in order to function like new, thoroughly cleaned and tested to ensure efficiency and precision in performance. Refurbished parts are also cosmetically enhanced. New sticker labels may be placed. They can also be repainted, sanded, and polished depending on demand. Overall, refurbished parts are guaranteed to be in good operating and aesthetic conditions before being offered in the market.

How to Shop Refurbished Parts Effectively

Given its more affordable price and a promising performance similar to a new component, you might think that there are no risks in purchasing refurbished equipment parts. However, the uncertainty here largely lies in being able to choose a reliable refurbished part vendor. To help you determine the competence of a vendor to restore and refurbish equipment parts, here are some factors you should consider before committing to a purchase:

Warranty. Reputable manufacturers and established equipment service providers who offer refurbished parts typically provide warranties in case your purchased part did not perform as well as it should. A fair warranty will last at least be 90 days or longer, ranging up to multiple years depending on the type of equipment part. Warranties are crucial in ensuring that the quality of your refurbished part is not compromised.

Certifications. One way to determine a company’s ability to deliver high quality and consistent products is by referring to the certifications they hold. ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized standard that ensures that a specific organization has complied with all the requirements within the guidelines of the Quality Management System. This cover all areas of the business including: facilities, employees, training, services, and equipment.

Ratings & Reviews. It’s always good to look for reviews of the product you intend on buying as well as the seller you are buying from. Trusted and established refurbished equipment part vendors shouldn’t be too hard to find online. Especially for e-commerce vendors, reviews and ratings are usually posted on product pages of their site.

If you require different kinds of equipment parts for various devices, seek out reputable distributors which carries a large inventory of replacement parts for different instruments and multiple manufacturer brands. To ensure that your equipment performs in peak condition, you can also bring it in for repair or refurbishing instead of simply buying a replacement part or accessory.

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