It's been a while since I bought anything except by seat-of-the-pants intuition. Can someone bring me up to speed on Net Present Value calculations for machinery?
It would seem to me that what you paid for it, less what you have depreciated it on your taxes, would equal what its net present value is. That's presuming you don't still owe on it. Am I close?
If I remember correctly, the calculation requires that you set a reasonable desired return on investment, market value of the equipment after x years, increase in productivity, increase or decrease in labour inputs, and so on. The idea of using the NPV evaluation is that it takes into consideration that money now is worth more than money later. (More sophisticated tool than other evaluation models.)
NPV is the value of a project, expressed in today's dollars. Value is defined as increased earnings (or decreased cost) net of expenses incurred to implement the project - including the interest to finance the project's acquisition and the tax break that writing off the project affords.
Unfortunately, sometimes there's no way to simplify an idea without losing important information.
Now here is the hard part. When you buy a machine, it does not pay back everything tomorrow, but it will pay you (or generate profit) over a long period of time - say three years. So, if it will generate $3000 for me in three years, what is such money worth today? Well, it depends on the interest rate. (One suggested change from the previous postings: Use an interest rate for a small business that is the rate at which you can borrow money. Maybe 12% interest rate today. Sometimes this is called the discount rate.) So, $3000 three years from now needs to be reduced (discounted) by 12% for every year to get a true value of that money in today's dollars. So, for year three, we calculate that the value is $360 less, or $2640. For year two, we again reduce the new value of $2640 by 12%, or $317. So, for year two it is worth $2327. And finally for year one, we reduce the value by 12% again, giving us $2048.
Stated another way, if you had $2048 that you put in a CD bearing 12% annually in interest and left the interest to accumulate and earn additional interest, you would have $3000 in three years. So, the *present value* in my example is $2048. Now, if I had to invest $2000 in order to get a machine that would pay me the $3000 in three years, then I subtract the machine cost from the present value ($2048 - $2000), giving me the *net present value* of $48. Another way to look at this is that the investment of $2000 in a machine that will give me $3000 in three years will be returning a little more than 12% on my investment - $48 more.
Some people like to figure out what interest rate (discount rate) will give a 0 NPV. In my example, this is about 12.6%. (If you got a loan for the $2000 and the interest was over 12.6%, you would lose money!) The value of 12.6% is called the Internal Rate of Return (IRR). (As mentioned, you may wish to make several subtractions and additions to your numbers.)
I get the impression that NPV analysis is more relevant as you move towards commodity production and less relevant as you move toward specialized products where strategic purchases and company image are more important to price premiums. Or is it just that these things are harder to quantify for the arithmetic?
A former employer of mine (video equipment rentals) recently had to decide if he was going to buy 25 digital VTRs worth over $1,000,000 when he was assured of only one rental on them (World's Track & Field). He did, and had trouble sleeping until they were booked for the SLC games. If he didn't buy them, though, a competitor may have done so and he could have lost a regular customer.
I can also imagine that changing technology like CNC could not only change the throughput, but also demand for product and market price if others invested in it too. Some tools are so versatile that you know darn well that in a year's time you'll be making something you could never have forecast.
Still, I think I'm going to make use of NPV for my next programme. I think using it will force me to evaluate all the ins and outs of doing something.
For everyone else, it's usually obvious if there is enough potential profit to justify the purchase. The real danger is in underestimating the total cost of everything needed to get the job done and then your calculations are for naught. One of the deliberate abuses of the method (in the large companies) is to not include everything that will eventually be necessary and then after you start, you create justification for the rest of the project.
The large corporations usually have a very formal system for capital expenditures and they have a set amount of retained earnings that is set aside for that purpose. All the projects compete for those funds through the rate of return method and yes, the returns are very high - typically 20% minimum and a good benchmark would be $1 back every year for every $2 you spend. If there is not enough money to fund the best projects, they are either not approved, delayed, or they release more stock, sell bonds, or borrow money for the best projects. These companies even have people to watch the cash balance on an hourly basis and borrow or loan money for days at a time to maximize return on cash balances.
The big hazard in this system, other than spending the money for daily operations, is underfunding projects. This is usually caused by:
1. Trying to beat the rate of return system for a favorite project. After you start the project, you create justification for the additional capital needed.
2. Underestimating all the equipment, tooling, space, etc. needed to fully complete the project. It's never ignorance, just being overly optimistic.
3. Unforseen problems. There is usually contingency money for the small problems, but it never is enough for big problems. There is sometimes a "risk factor" added to the rate of return system to account for this and new technology projects naturally carry the highest risk.