A new year means a new start for some food and beverage companies: Some will be building new plants, others will be renovating existing ones. But no one wants to kick off the new year with a bloated budget. An integrated approach to designing and constructing your next big project can help your bottom line in 2018. Let’s look at how.
1. Make smarter acquisitions and smoother transitions
The prevalence of mergers and acquisitions was a major trend in 2017, and it’s expected to continue as consumer preferences evolve. If you’re acquiring or merging, a fully integrated firm can assess target facilities and make sure a new investment isn’t a money pit.
You may be inheriting an existing facility or investing in a new one to accommodate your expansion. Either way, having an integrated team of experts from across all disciplines (design, construction, processing, packaging, refrigeration) can save you in the long run.
Assessing existing facilities
A recent trend is for companies to consider a spec building (“empty shell” building) or another facility that previously had another purpose. This situation can raise many questions, including:
- Can the building be bought or acquired for an attractive price?
- What will it take to get a particular process up and running quickly in that space?
- Are there existing issues that need to be addressed before beginning operations?
Often times, companies send their internal team to assess a new building, but even though a building may look great on the surface, it may have unseen issues. For example, a brand new spec building may require significant structure reinforcement to support refrigeration loads. (This is one reason spec buildings often aren’t ideal for food operations.)
If you don’t consider these factors initially, they could end up costing you a lot more than anticipated.
Get breadth of expertise with an integrated firm
Partnering with an integrated firm that has refrigeration, processing and packaging knowledge can help assess these existing facilities thoroughly and determine how to invest wisely. They typically sign confidentiality agreements and enter facilities to assess the equipment that you may be acquiring.
Often, there are rooms and layouts that need to be examined holistically in order to understand the flow. You may need to update the building’s drainage system or analyze it’s utility infrastructure to ensure it can handle your processing and maintain food safety standards.
An integrated firm can suggest layouts that can be utilized in a spec building and make the building revisions needed to obtain your vision.
2. Streamline your processing
Optimizing your processing is always a priority, and we’re continuing to see a focus on automated systems and greater visibility to throughputs and yields in particular. At Stellar, we’re hearing from a lot of companies who want to update their control systems so they can identify opportunities to reduce waste or downtime.
An integrated firm can evaluate your lines and see where bottlenecks are happening. The firm’s processing and packaging teams can find inefficiencies and recommend another line configuration or the addition of robotics.
The beauty of an integrated design-build firm is that these processing and packaging teams can work seamlessly with their in-house colleagues in the design and construction departments. In other words, they can go a step further and answer questions like:
- How will these changes affect the layout of the building?
- What is the cost of renovations to accommodate new equipment?
An integrated firm can answer those questions quickly and with a high degree of accuracy, compared to asking an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the cost of another piece of equipment. An OEM can price equipment out, but they may overlook the impacts to surrounding pieces of equipment or to your building as a whole.
3. Integrated firms offer objective equipment recommendations
Many OEMs are focusing on vertical integration (i.e., selling a whole line instead of just one piece of equipment). Many of these OEMs are buying out smaller companies down the processing line in order to expand their offering to clients. The idea is one OEM can sell you all the equipment needed on your processing line, serving as a one-stop-shop. This can sound appealing to owners from a convenience standpoint, but it’s worth thinking twice here.
When proposing a design solution, that OEM may integrate or recommend particular equipment brands because it owns those brands. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best-suited equipment for each stage of your processing — you may get some weak links mixed in with the strong.
On the other hand, a fully integrated design-build firm can provide an objective design solution. At Stellar, we don’t have brand allegiances or predispositions, nor do we benefit from offering one OEM’s equipment over another. Our approach is to advise which systems are the best overall and which equipment will maximize a client’s manufacturing goals.
Bottom line: Reducing risk
At the end of the day, everyone is trying to reduce their risk, whether in terms of project execution cost, food safety and beyond. The two biggest risks for increased project costs are scope creep and unrealistic expectations at startup. That’s why Stellar has invested heavily in new technology such as project reporting and design tools that make project development more transparent and efficient.
Structured data, 3D imaging, virtual reality and other technology is making integrated project delivery smarter, and more robust. This allows for much more accuracy surrounding scheduling, the costs of an entire project and the phasing of the buildout.
There are a lot of options when it comes to partnering with a firm for your next project. Are they a fully integrated firm? Are they using the cutting-edge technology tools? Do they have a breadth of experience and expertise in your space? Consider these factors when selecting a design-build firm in 2018.