Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

End of Life

I’ve been thinking about the end of life lately. Not my end of life, mind you, but our equipment’s end of life. Over the last few years, I’ve been working on replacing all the outdated, worn out and incorrect equipment at Coast Hills (which is just about everything). I figure this process will take another 3-5 years at least. However, every piece of equipment has a fixed lifespan; stuff just doesn’t last forever. That means that even the nice, shiny new equipment I’m putting in today will need to be replaced. And I’m not sure anyone ever considers that.

See, I think most churches look at A/V/L equipment as a one-time capital expense. They buy all the stuff they need once, and forget about it for a long, long time. At least until it breaks. At which point there is a sense of panic and urgency to get it fixed or replaced. 

As part of my master plan for A/V/L equipment, I’ve decided to run some end of life projections. The rationale is simple; while I know we have a lot of outdated gear to replace right now, we have a bunch of other stuff that will be needing replacement starting in about, oh, 3-4 years. And when you start looking at the numbers, it’s not chump change. Take a look:

As you can see, we’re talking some serious dollars. Now, I’m just considering major systems; that is systems that have a price tag over $10,000. I figure the smaller stuff will just get rolled into the normal yearly operating budget. We will always have mics, DIs, single light fixtures and maybe even a video monitor or two to replace. But when it comes to the big stuff, we need to think that out in advance. And here’s why:

Over the next 10 years or so, we’ll need to spend almost $300,000 to keep pace with our equipment’s end of life. Think we should start planning for that? Uh, yeah.

And this is where it gets tricky. We can’t clearly define “end of life.” Not all equipment will just drop dead at 10 years old. However, we do know that all electro-mechanical devices will begin failing at some point. I’m taking some educated guesses as to when our systems will need replacing.

I’m guessing at roughly how much it will cost (in today’s dollars, anyway), based on equipment I know that is roughly comparable today. Obviously, there are a ton of variables in this plan, but it’s a best guess, Mr. Sulu. 

It’s important to keep in mind that these are not budgets, they’re not completely spec’d out systems and I won’t be held to these numbers. Rather, it’s an estimate for planning purposes. Certainly we may be able to stretch some of the equipment life to even out the graph.

We’re really heavily loaded in the next 2-3 years, then it tapers off until the early 2020’s. As I get into this more, I will probably make some adjustments to see if we can level that out some. But there’s no getting around it, we need to start setting aside some significant cash right now to be prepared for this. 

Either that, or we make some significant decisions regarding our use of technology. For example, we’re looking at some changes to our main auditorium that may negate the need for IMAG. If that’s the case, we can save about $75,000. Not bad. On the other hand, if leadership decided we not only need to do IMAG, but add a few cameras to the mix, the numbers go up. 

So as you can see, this is but a starting point. But without a starting point, we have nothing to talk about. With this, we can start thinking ahead and plan wisely. 

How are you planning for your systems end of life?

This post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

18 Comments

  1. zach.t.may@gmail.com

    I enjoy your articles, even if we're a very small church on a very limited budget. Just wanted to throw out there that if you're getting rid of any end of life equipment, we'll gladly take them off your hands and probably use them for the next 10 years after that πŸ™‚

  2. zach.t.may@gmail.com

    I enjoy your articles, even if we're a very small church on a very limited budget. Just wanted to throw out there that if you're getting rid of any end of life equipment, we'll gladly take them off your hands and probably use them for the next 10 years after that πŸ™‚

  3. david.stagl@goingto11.com

    I think your replacement costs might be a bit low as they look close to the purchase price. It's probably a good idea to factor in inflation and price increases. I'd think 1-2% a year would be a good start.

  4. david.stagl@goingto11.com

    I think your replacement costs might be a bit low as they look close to the purchase price. It's probably a good idea to factor in inflation and price increases. I'd think 1-2% a year would be a good start.

  5. chadgreen100@gmail.com

    Mike,
    I understand that your projections are educated guesses. Can you explain the education a little more? We have an old Crown1000CE that should have died decades ago but is still working hard for us. I've heard that they had a high failure rate but we have been lucky. Does the increase in technological complexity decrease the potential lifespan? Thanks.

  6. chadgreen100@gmail.com

    Mike,
    I understand that your projections are educated guesses. Can you explain the education a little more? We have an old Crown1000CE that should have died decades ago but is still working hard for us. I've heard that they had a high failure rate but we have been lucky. Does the increase in technological complexity decrease the potential lifespan? Thanks.

  7. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Dave,
    In some cases I would agree; inflation will cause the costs to go up. In other cases, however, costs are dropping. For example, we paid over $70K for our Christie 16K projector 5-6 years ago. However, a current 15K Christie is now around $50K, and I'm seeing other projectors from Sanyo that would fit the bill just fine for the low $20's.

    Again, it's important to note that these are not budges, but ballparks. Based on some of the economic conditions we're facing, it wouldn't be inconceivable to see inflation go to double digits over the next few years. In which case all this goes out the window.

    This is a rough, educated guess to get the conversation going. It's also impossible to predict what the needs of the church will be in 10 years, or what technology will be available. That's why I stuck pretty close to current pricing, and figure Moore's law will keep pricing pretty close.
    mike

  8. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Dave,
    In some cases I would agree; inflation will cause the costs to go up. In other cases, however, costs are dropping. For example, we paid over $70K for our Christie 16K projector 5-6 years ago. However, a current 15K Christie is now around $50K, and I'm seeing other projectors from Sanyo that would fit the bill just fine for the low $20's.

    Again, it's important to note that these are not budges, but ballparks. Based on some of the economic conditions we're facing, it wouldn't be inconceivable to see inflation go to double digits over the next few years. In which case all this goes out the window.

    This is a rough, educated guess to get the conversation going. It's also impossible to predict what the needs of the church will be in 10 years, or what technology will be available. That's why I stuck pretty close to current pricing, and figure Moore's law will keep pricing pretty close.
    mike

  9. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Chad,
    The education is having been using and working with professional A/V/L equipment for 25 years, and talking to a lot of other guys who have as well.

    Yes, the more moving parts involved, the higher the failure rate is going to be. And sure, some gear, like amps, can run for a long, long time before anything bad happens.

    But it does have a finite lifespan and at some point, you'll need to replace it. What I'm trying to do is start to set in place a system whereby we're not replacing stuff after it fails, but before. Certainly there will be additional life left in the gear, and we'll sell it off on the used market to someone else who wants to wring every last bit of life out of it.

    And that's OK, by the way. I just don't like having mission-critical equipment running near end of life, never knowing if it will power up this weekend or not.

    Alternately, we can repurpose some of the equipment to less critical roles where a last minute failure won't have as potentially negative consequences.

    mike

  10. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Chad,
    The education is having been using and working with professional A/V/L equipment for 25 years, and talking to a lot of other guys who have as well.

    Yes, the more moving parts involved, the higher the failure rate is going to be. And sure, some gear, like amps, can run for a long, long time before anything bad happens.

    But it does have a finite lifespan and at some point, you'll need to replace it. What I'm trying to do is start to set in place a system whereby we're not replacing stuff after it fails, but before. Certainly there will be additional life left in the gear, and we'll sell it off on the used market to someone else who wants to wring every last bit of life out of it.

    And that's OK, by the way. I just don't like having mission-critical equipment running near end of life, never knowing if it will power up this weekend or not.

    Alternately, we can repurpose some of the equipment to less critical roles where a last minute failure won't have as potentially negative consequences.

    mike

  11. louist@broadwayunited.org

    Mike,

    Thanks for this post. We are in the process of putting an end of life list together for our Finance Team. My question is, is there a database or clearing house of information on end of life projections for different types and models of gear?

    Thanks for all you do for the guys like us in the small to medium size churches.

    Louis

  12. louist@broadwayunited.org

    Mike,

    Thanks for this post. We are in the process of putting an end of life list together for our Finance Team. My question is, is there a database or clearing house of information on end of life projections for different types and models of gear?

    Thanks for all you do for the guys like us in the small to medium size churches.

    Louis

  13. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Louis,
    I'm not aware of one. My projections are based on 25 years of experience using AVL gear. I may be high or low on some of them, but generally I think it's pretty close. I think you can ballpark most electronics at 5-10 years, dimmers should last longer, some things will last less time.

    Other things will be replaced by newer technology, so it's a bit of an educated guess. I wouldn't stress over the exact numbers too much; just getting some ideas on paper is a very worthwhile start. And the reality is, most churches won't set aside money for this stuff anyway. But at least we can say we warned them…

    mike

  14. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Louis,
    I'm not aware of one. My projections are based on 25 years of experience using AVL gear. I may be high or low on some of them, but generally I think it's pretty close. I think you can ballpark most electronics at 5-10 years, dimmers should last longer, some things will last less time.

    Other things will be replaced by newer technology, so it's a bit of an educated guess. I wouldn't stress over the exact numbers too much; just getting some ideas on paper is a very worthwhile start. And the reality is, most churches won't set aside money for this stuff anyway. But at least we can say we warned them…

    mike

  15. nathantobin@mychristchurch.com

    I'm way late to the party here, but thanks to this post and the corresponding episode of Church Tech Weekly, you have given me real direction on how to begin planning for end of life with our finance team. We discussed it at our annual budget meeting tonight and we are on the way to developing a tangible financial plan. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing, you have probably saved me more future headaches than I care to imagine…!

    Nathan

  16. nathantobin@mychristchurch.com

    I'm way late to the party here, but thanks to this post and the corresponding episode of Church Tech Weekly, you have given me real direction on how to begin planning for end of life with our finance team. We discussed it at our annual budget meeting tonight and we are on the way to developing a tangible financial plan. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing, you have probably saved me more future headaches than I care to imagine…!

    Nathan

  17. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Nathan,
    Glad to help!
    mike

  18. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Nathan,
    Glad to help!
    mike

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