The Stage-Gate Approach and Why it’s at the Root of Successful Project Development Strategy

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Process-related project development can be a lengthy, expensive and unnecessarily complicated process without a solid plan to guide the project from start to finish.

Imagine investing in a large, complex piece of equipment or component for your facility without first confirming the question of how it will be integrated into your existing controls/automation system. If it doesn’t easily “connect” (plug-and-play), then you may need to reengineer the system(s), buy additional hardware/software, and/or delay the project timeline to resolve an issue that should have been identified prior to the purchase. The same holds true for other questions, such as when this equipment should be installed. If it does not align with your overall business objectives and strategy, then there could be negative consequences.

The AIA stage-gate process (also referred to as the phase-gate process) is a project management technique that breaks down complex projects into structured phases to mitigate risk and ultimately minimize (ideally eliminate) the consequences of poor planning.

In this article, we will address the stage gate approach and how it pertains to the process equipment integration portion of a project.

 

Inside the World’s Largest Sous Vide Processing Facility [PHOTOS]

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Inside the World’s Largest Sous Vide Processing Facility [PHOTOS]

“Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum” and has been around for decades in France. Since 1971, Cuisine Solutions — along with subsidiary CREA and Chief Scientist Dr. Bruno Goussault — has been perfecting the sous vide technology utilizing cooking time and temperature as the foundations of its development.

As the need for food safety and consistency has dramatically increased in recent decades, the company continued investing in more production capacity, new adjacent technologies and greater innovations — including a new plant in San Antonio, Texas.

 

4 Sustainability Features from Our Latest Award-winning Food Plant

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4 Sustainability Features from Our Latest Award-winning Food Plant

Stellar’s recent design-build project for Cuisine Solutions was named Food Engineering magazine’s 2021 Sustainable Plant of the Year. The LEED-registered facility in San Antonio, Texas, is the largest sous vide processing plant in the world with nearly $200 million in investment and measuring 315,000 square feet.

The state-of-the-art facility boasts innovative eco-friendly technologies both inside and out. In addition to saving millions of gallons of water annually via reuse in storage silos, Cuisine Solutions embraced many other sustainable measures. Let’s look at four of its notable sustainability features that could be relevant for other projects, regardless of product or processing.

 

Will COVID-19 Change the Future of Food Plant Design?

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Will COVID-19 Change the Future of Food Plant Design?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a number of immediate and temporary changes to daily life: reduced occupancy limits, partitions, social distancing, one-way stairwells and more.

While these short-term adaptations were necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, will the pandemic change the way facilities are built in the long term? The likely answer is, not dramatically.

However, it is shaping the way we think about designing these spaces. Let’s look at some examples of trends we may see in the post-COVID era.

 

4 Ways Site Location Can Affect Construction Costs

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Building anything right now can be daunting and expensive, much less a large industrial facility. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of construction materials has skyrocketed, labor is scarce and demand is surging. But that doesn’t mean the food supply chain can stop.

Food manufacturers and distributors still have customers to serve — and, for some, that still means investing in a new facility. At a time when construction costs are high, a company might make up for it in savings by reconsidering where the facility is built.

 

4 Tips to Get Your New Process Facility ‘Off the Ground’

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4 Tips to Get Your New Process Facility 'Off the Ground'

Facilities that support process operations produce some of the most expensive and complex buildings in the world. And they run the gamut: “Process operations” can range from baking desserts such as cakes to processing raw meat for grocery operations, to manufacturing parts and components for U.S. Navy submarines. 

So what do facilities across such diverse markets have in common besides being founded on their process? For one, the costly and painful struggle of getting the project started. Many times, important early stages are executed out-of-order or even too late. Let’s look at four recommendations that may seem obvious, but if executed properly, will take some of the pain out of beginning your next process facility.

 

5 Ways Hoses and Flow Panels Can Be a Risk to Your Brewery or Distillery

How to organize your “snake pit” with consolidation and valve banks

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How to organize your “snake pit” with consolidation and valve banks

5 Ways Hoses and Flow Panels Can Be a Risk to Your Brewery or Distillery

Breweries and distilleries can be infamous for their “snake pits,” the areas of the facility where transfer hoses can become a tangled mess.

Flow panels and hoses are widely used to route product and cleaning solutions through brewery and distillery piping systems, and they are a cost-effective initial investment. However, as a facility grows, so do the number of connections — and that can quickly get out of control.

These snake pits can pose serious problems for your facility’s efficiency and the safety of your workers. Let’s examine five major risks associated with snake pits, and what you can do about them.

 

Industrial Dust Collection Systems: Which Is Best for Your Food Processing Facility?

The dangers of dust in food manufacturing

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The dangers of dust in food manufacturing

Industrial Dust Collection Systems: Which Is Best for Your Food Processing Facility?

Controlling dust is a major concern in food manufacturing, whether you’re roasting coffee beans, mixing spices or using flour as a release agent for your baked goods. Whenever there is potential dust in your processing environment, you want to capture it at the source.

Managing dust is critical for a variety of reasons:

 

What Can IIoT Sensors Measure and Monitor in a Food Processing Facility?

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What Can IIoT Sensors Measure and Monitor in a Food Processing Facility?

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is revolutionizing how food manufacturing facilities operate, from processing to building maintenance and everything in between. Food and beverage companies have access to more data than ever before, and that’s helping them make more informed decisions.

Internet-connected sensors are the “eyes and ears” in a food plant, collecting all the data that makes those insights possible. These devices can measure a variety of inputs from electrical currents to vibrations to air temperature.

Stellar installs sensors in many of the modern facilities we design and construct today, but many owners have the same question: What exactly can I measure?

Let’s look at a few ways sensors can be used in your food plant:

 

Designing Food Plant Welfare Spaces to Attract and Retain Employees

7 features of a modern, personnel-focused facility

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7 features of a modern, personnel-focused facility

Designing Food Plant Welfare Spaces to Attract and Retain Employees

Source: Bell & Evans (Robert Pepple)

 

Food and beverage manufacturing facilities in the U.S. today are experiencing a labor shortage, mostly due to a healthy economy and low unemployment rate. Turnover rates at these facilities are already high to begin with, so more food plant owners are looking to attract employees and increase retention rates.

Many of Stellar’s clients — whether they are building new facilities or renovating existing ones — are asking us to design employee welfare spaces to be more unique and attractive to prospective employees.

While processing areas are still the heart of a food plant, these spaces are increasingly being viewed from a personnel-focused perspective. Plus, break rooms and employee amenities are becoming more important for business than ever before.