Building a Food Plant on a Short Schedule: 4 Ways to Fast-track Your Construction Project

In today’s increasingly fast-paced food and beverage industry, everyone wants their next facility built as soon as possible so it can start shipping product quickly. While hiring an experienced firm to design and build (or renovate) your plant is critical, there are things owners can do to ensure a project moves as efficiently as possible.

Success story: US Cold Storage

Stellar recently designed and built a food distribution facility for US Cold Storage in Laredo, Texas. The project had an aggressive schedule, and as the senior project manager, my job was to ensure we met those deadlines.

Despite a month of unexpected weather delays, we worked creatively and brought in additional crews that worked ten-hour days and six- to seven-day weeks. This allowed us to complete the project in only eight months, just in time to harvest Mexican strawberries.

A big part of that success was due to planning, flexibility and open communication from the US Cold Storage team. If you want to execute your next food plant construction project on a tight schedule, apply these best practices:

  • Define goals and requirements early on
  • Establish a point of contact and communicate often
  • Give your builder flexibility in sourcing subcontractors
  • Get the ball rolling with local government officials

Let’s look at how these practices accelerated the US Cold Storage project and how they can fast-track your next project.

Building a Food Plant on a Short Schedule: 4 Ways to Fast-track Your Construction Project

1. Define goals and requirements early on

Do some preparation before meeting with your contractor for the first time. The more you can bring to the table, the sooner you can hit the ground running.

Come prepared with:

  • A well-vetted floor plan for the building with your must-haves
  • A site plan showing your preferred building footprint, orientation, paving, etc.
  • A boundary/topographical survey of the property
  • A geotechnical report for the property
  • A good outline specification identifying major components of the project (dock equipment, type of roof system, finishes, storage rack requirements, insurance requirements, fire sprinkler requirements, refrigeration system/temperature requirements, lighting requirements, etc.)
  • An idea of your future plans and goals for growth

By doing some leg work, you’ll save your contracting firm time when building out specifics for your facility.

2. Establish a point of contact and communicate often

US Cold Storage designated a point person who served as a liaison between the company and the Stellar team. This representative wasn’t just a “traffic controller,” however — they had decision-making authority, which was crucial to keeping the project moving. There will be some occasions when approval is needed from a higher level, but selecting a point person who can make on-the-spot calls will help keep your project on track.

Of course, a liaison isn’t much help if they don’t communicate. Establish expectations for communication and make sure your point person is available to provide and receive updates. We often hold regularly scheduled conference calls between our team and the client’s representative to keep everyone on the same page — and timeline.

3. Give your builder flexibility in sourcing subcontractors

The more traditional approach to hiring subcontractors can be time consuming: The contractors spend weeks completing drawings, then those are sent to various subcontractors, the subs reply with quotes, a decision is made, the sub is hired…and then work begins.

If you’re trying to get your next facility up and running quickly, you’ll need to partner with a firm with a more efficient processand trust them to contract subs without unnecessary back-and-forth approvals.

For the US Cold Storage project, we worked with the owner to develop drawings, brought in our pre-vetted subcontractors to draw up a quick budget and then got the owner’s approval to move forward. Many disciplines such as steel and electrical have long lead times for materials. Involving these subs early in the project — especially at the design stage — accelerates the process and gets supplies to the job site much faster.

4. Get the ball rolling with local government officials

The leadership at US Cold Storage had already done some leg work with the city of Laredo before the project even began. They had been in touch with the mayor’s office and city leaders, which served two purposes:

  • They showed government officials how the facility would benefit the local economy, which established buy-in and a good working relationship
  • They gave them a heads up that this project was moving quickly, so that local officials could prepare

This made the permitting process much easier and helped the project get off the ground faster than it otherwise would have. Just because you haven’t selected a firm to build your facility yet, doesn’t mean you can’t start laying a foundation with the community where it will be.

In a hurry to get your next facility built? Your company could be our next success story. Call us at 904-260-2900 (toll free: 800-488-2900).


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