Low-cost manufacturing of hydraulic systems has become far more common since China entered the marketplace. In fact, the nation has taken the top spot when it comes to their factories in this field. The reason for this is the fact that these machines are usually big ticket items, so making a good cost saving up front will also be appealing. However, most people will be aware that although you’ll gain on the saving initially, will you still gain over the lifespan of the machine when it comes to maintenance, reliability and at what risk? Making a saving on the initial cost isn’t always the most important part of the purchase. The cost of it over the span of its life will be what counts in the end. This means that consideration beyond now is necessary. To come to a conclusion, take the capital cost of it and add on the cost of maintaining your hydraulic system’s good health over the length of its life. Although it’s easy to get the figure for the capital cost, the operating cost of it over its lifetime is not as easy to calculate. Here at Hydraproducts we often promote the concept of proactive maintenance, as we know what a difference it makes to not only the reliability of a hydraulic system, but also the cost of owning it. Of course there is time and expenditure involved in maintenance, and this of course has its own related costs. As China continues to make inroads into the hydraulic systems sales market of the West, their sales strategy is based around price and that initial expenditure will always appeal to a large number of owners. Most of us can think of somebody we know who has opted for this route vs a more traditional European manufactured hydraulic system. Something to take note of is that the Chinese usually imitate. They are not always good at doing this either. Of course, the quality of the components that they use will make a difference with regards to how reliable their machines are. When they build their systems, it will also depend on whether the components come from a well-respected manufacturing outfit or a run of the mill ‘me too’ factory set up quickly. Meanwhile, over in the Western world, there’s usually a balance in play between cost and reliability with all hydraulic system manufacturing. This isn’t the case in China. Those who opt to buy from the Chinese are often forced along a painful learning curve which involves witnessing the questionable quality of components and design, in addition to sometimes witnessing an early demise. We’ve all seen products coming out of China that aren’t sophisticated. How can these go wrong when they are reliant on the simplest of designs and components? But as soon as things get complicated and there are more things that could break, things get sticky. Potential hydraulic system owners may make their buying decision on the fact that the cost of a Chinese built hydraulic system may be less than half than the price of a Western one. It may last over half as long. In which case the economics don’t seem so bad. But if it costs half of the price but it only lasts for a quarter of the time, then that’s not going to work out too good in the books. So how do you work out how long it will last? That’s the problem – you can’t. There are too many variables involved. If you pay 50% of the price, or even 25% of the price, you surely cannot expect it to deliver the same level of performance or to have the same lifespan as the machine that you paid Western prices for. Although there could be some good deals out there with some happy endings, it’s critical that the buyer knows what he’s doing. There are also safety matters to consider in addition to the economic benefits when it comes to maintaining your hydraulic system over time.