Picture this: a 200-acre auction site surrounded by freeways, palm trees and orange groves, filled with 8,200 heavy equipment items and trucks—US$172 million worth—lined up in perfectly straight rows. In five days it will all be sold. In a couple of weeks it will all be gone: loaded onto trucks and transported, quite literally, all over the world.
That’s what took place at the Ritchie Bros. auction site in Orlando, FL from Feb 15 – 19, 2011.
Ritchie Bros. is the world’s largest auctioneer of heavy equipment and trucks. It has 43 auction sites worldwide and conducts 330+ unreserved public auctions in a year. Every Ritchie Bros. auction is big; they’re all fun, but the February auction in Orlando is definitely something special.
More than 7,700 people from over 75 countries registered to bid in Orlando this year: a new company record. More than 4,400 of them came to the site to test and inspect the equipment, meet their friends, colleagues and peers, and of course bid.
A Ritchie Bros. auction is about business, millions of dollars of equipment changing hands, but it’s also a social networking event for the construction, transportation and other industries. It’s also an international event; you hear dozens of different languages and accents. Bidders from outside the U.S. purchased US$79 million of equipment sold in the auction (46%).
US$172 million of equipment looks impressive at ground level, when you’re wandering through the yard or watching the machines drive across the auction ramp as they’re sold. But it looks even more impressive from the air; that’s when you realize how much equipment there really is—and how neatly it’s arranged.
Transporters start bringing equipment to the site months before the auction. To make inspections easy, Ritchie Bros. arranges everything in the yard by equipment type (excavators with excavators, trucks with trucks, cranes with cranes). Setting up the yard takes patience, skill and lots of string (really).
In the two weeks after the auction, all of the equipment moves out again. Every item is sold to the highest bidder on auction day, with no minimum bids or reserve prices. If you’re the highest bidder, all you have to do is arrange transportation—now much easier thanks to a partnership with uShip—and get ready to put your new purchase to work.
And if you weren’t the highest bidder: it’s not long until the next auction.