Lean Maintenance

How to overcome potential food plant design construction problems

Companies that are able to communicate clearly and be flexible with their clients during a food plant design construction will have the most success in overcoming potential challenges.

By Justin Landowski, Matt McGrogan, Stellar September 27, 2016

No matter how well-planned a food plant project is, it can still present challenges. Two simple solutions can overcome most of these hurdles: frequent communication and flexibility. A recent design-build of a meat manufacturing plant put both of those practices into play. Learn how they led to success in the project and how they can help other companies in their endeavors, too.

1. Communicate often

There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen on food plant projects, including:

  • Plant owner
  • Design-build firm
  • Equipment vendors
  • Subcontractors.

A simple lack of communication can result in huge inefficiencies throughout the project-especially during construction.

With a new food plant project, construction teams, subcontractors, and equipment vendors will all be working together. Ensure the construction team has all the information about the equipment that will be installed in the space so they can factor in details that could impact design and their processes.

For example, an enormous smokehouse served as the heartbeat of our meat processing client’s new facility. Our team had to plan and design the entire building around this piece of equipment.

Though the smokehouse (supplied by a third-party vendor) wouldn’t be delivered until the later stages of the project, the equipment still needed to be installed seamlessly when it did arrive. We collaborated with the third-party vendor for the duration of this project to obtain pertinent details, such as the smokehouse’s dimensions and weight. If we hadn’t communicated frequently with the supplier, the smokehouse’s arrival could have caused unexpected delays and expensive alterations.

In the end, the smokehouse structure was designed and installed successfully thanks to the frequent communication between the equipment vendor and the design-build firm.

2. Be flexible

Many of our clients own and operate multiple food or beverage manufacturing facilities. When they embark on a new plant project, they often want to apply processes from their old facilities into the new facility design. Sometimes this works, but most of the time it is not the best fit. Food and beverage plant owners must be flexible to ensure their facility works best for its necessary function.

Be willing to alter original plans

For example, our meat manufacturing client decided to replicate an existing plant’s process layout from receiving through packaging in their new greenfield project. However, we soon realized that the existing facility’s packaging layout could be revised for the greenfield project, creating a more efficient layout with the available space. The new layout reduced the amount of conveyors and eliminated conveyors crossing over each other with product. This design modification also created additional space for a future automation packaging line.

Because the client was flexible and willing to alter their original plan, a packaging space that better suited their needs was designed. This helped streamline the packaging conveyors and facilitating space for equipment expansion.

For any food plant project, engage a design-build firm that is willing to be flexible, too. After learning the details of the smokehouse, we altered our original plan for the interstitial space. Early communication allowed our team to install catwalks and stairs in the interstitial space—or, the space between floors—instead of ladders, providing employees with easier access to the smokehouse.

No matter the industry, all new facilities can present difficulties in the construction phase. The best way to overcome those challenges are through communication and flexibility.

– Justin Landowski is a civil engineer and project manager at Stellar; Matt McGrogan is a project manager at Stellar. This article originally appeared on Stellar Food for ThoughtStellar is a CFE Media content partner.