3 Ways You’ll Save Money on Your Next Design-Build Food Project by Working with a Fully Integrated Firm

Food and beverage companies are faced with a decision when they decide to construct a new facility: contract a design-build firm or go with the traditional design-bid-build project delivery method. Nowadays, design-build is an increasingly popular option because it allows a project to be completed under one contract and in one unified workflow from initial concept through completion.

Not all design-builders are created equal, however. In the food and beverage industry, working with a fully integrated firm can save money, improve safety and increase speed to market on a project.

I call it the “three-legged stool” methodology: A fully integrated firm provides design, construction and process engineering services — the three major components to build a food plant — all under one roof.

Contracting a fully integrated firm can save you money both in the short term and long term by:

  1. Leveraging speed to market to gain a competitive edge
  2. Reducing energy costs
  3. Offering creative process engineering solutions


Combine these efficiencies with the fact that design-build projects cost 6.1 percent less and have lower cost growth overall compared to the design-bid-build approach, and it’s clear why design-build with an integrated firm makes so much sense. But how exactly can a “three-legged stool” approach help manage your budget? Let’s break it down.

1. Leveraging speed to market to gain a competitive edge

The nature of the design-build model means your project gets completed quickly and more efficiently because designers and contractors collaborate, streamlining project delivery. With an integrated approach, designers can get feedback in real time from construction professionals in order to make better, faster decisions in the design development process.

Food and beverage is a speed-to-market industry. When food companies decide to launch a new product or package, they’re banking on having first-to-market presence ahead of their competition. That speed can equate to a big margin potential over competitors.

In the consumer-driven food industry, demand can be here today and gone tomorrow. A sudden change in consumer preferences can change the nature and scope of a project — it can spoil any head start you have and, at worst, can derail a project. However, working with an integrated firm gives you the ability to pivot throughout your design-build project, despite any curveballs that may come your way.

For example, we once worked with a client to build a new facility based on certain estimates and a predetermined scope of the product the plant would produce. However, mid-way through construction, we got a call from the client saying we needed to change the entire production line to accommodate new product based on a shift in consumer preference.

Change happens fast and can be an opportunity for growth, but if you can’t adapt quickly enough, unexpected change can spell disaster for your project.

2. Reducing energy costs

Minimizing energy consumption isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for your budget. The key to managing utility costs is building efficiency into your facility’s design and construction, before you ever cut a big ribbon and flip on the lights.

Traditionally, an owner may handle the processing design internally or with a separate firm, meaning those elements are compartmentalized — there isn’t open communication between the processing folks and the designer and builder.

On the other hand, a fully integrated firm takes a holistic approach to each project, giving you better control over what goes into your plant today that will affect your energy and operational efficiency in the long term. By handling the design, construction and process engineering under one roof, an integrated team constantly analyzes and considers how those three factors impact process optimization and energy consumption — and thus, your bottom line.

3. Offering creative process engineering solutions

Many fully integrated firms work across a variety of different industries. That means they have experience with a broader range of technologies and solutions compared to an in-house team or a firm that only focuses on a certain category of the food industry. Ultimately, that creativity may save you money.

Consider a company that manufactures baked goods. That company has likely only dealt with other bakers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that provide solutions for the bakery industry. However, there may be other sectors or markets within the food category that are approaching a similar problem with a different solution that could benefit that baked goods company.

A fully integrated team can bring those new ideas to the table and may help you think outside of the box. Working across the spectrum of the food industry means a “three-legged stool” firm is exposed to new ideas that can be leveraged into cost-savings on your next project.

A fully integrated approach to process engineering

“That’s how we’ve always done it” is never a great reason to justify something, and it certainly isn’t the wisest way to approach a new design-build project. Many times, a food processor will go to an OEM directly for help with assembling a budget and laying out a processing line. The danger here is that an OEM knows what he knows best: his equipment and his machinery. Nevertheless, food processors sometimes push OEMs for answers that are beyond their expertise, because it seems like a quick and easy option.

For example, we worked with a client who was midway through installing a spiral freezer in a facility. At the plant level, the client had communicated directly with the freezer OEM who assembled a budget that factored in installation costs but ignored other steps of the process. Once Stellar stepped in and started asking the right questions, it became apparent that a lot of things had been missed, such as the cost of removing the old spiral freezer and other details that didn’t match up with the line configuration.

When it comes to process engineering, an integrated approach takes all factors into account: installation, coordination with line speeds and controls and all the things necessary to serve an optimized line. The holistic approach of a fully integrated design-build firm can help you capitalize on opportunities you may not know are possible otherwise — and save you money for years to come.

Have questions about the “three-legged stool” methodology? Wondering if a fully integrated approach is the right fit for your next design-build project? Send me an email at foodforthought@stellar.net.


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