Planning: Food Processing Facilities

Planning: Food Processing Facilities

The changing demand for your food products creates questions.

When planning to boost or re-align your food production capacity, you face a multitude of questions. How can you determine the optimal and most affordable solutions to grow your meat, bakery, or dairy plant?  When considering an upgrade, realignment, or expansion of a food facility, address the following:

  • Can I squeak more out of my facility before it’s time to expand?
  • Will an expansion improve efficiency, or will it be hindered?
  • Does it make sense to expand, or is it time to relocate?
  • Can expansion take place while maintaining daily operations?

Undertaking feasibility studies and master planning efforts will help sort out the answers to these and many other questions. Planning begins with the collection of data on any current or proposed food processing operation. This information is used to create plans that will help determine the feasibility of various options for expanding, renovating, or constructing a new facility.

AExpansion: If adequate land and space surround an existing food facility, an older building may be successfully expanded by blending the new with the old. In utilizing portions of an existing facility, still functional food production and processing equipment may be utilized without having to relocate or replace it. This may save upfront costs of expanding the operation.

BRenovation: When portions of a food manufacturing plant are underutilized or improperly configured, a possible solution may be to renovate all or portions of the facility to increase food processing efficiency and improve food safety. If done thoughtfully, the operation may be able to maintain food production during the renovation.

CNew Location: When a new site is considered, various alternatives are possible. Finding vacant land for a new building may be the first option, but when vacant land is scarce, or a new building is cost prohibitive, an existing building for renovation may be feasible. In addition to capital cost factors such the price of land and building, many other factors related to location need to be addressed such as the availability of labor, utilities, and economic incentives.

The Planning Process:

Data Collection

The information collected can be summarized into three basic categories:

  • Raw materials and ingredients you plan to receive and store
  • Food items you plan to produce
  • Finished goods you plan to package and store

Exact needs may not yet be determined, and as business grows needs may change, but gaining an understanding of initial projections and near term projections is an important first step. Below is some general information that may be gathered. Information specific to your operations will also be obtained.

Production Information

  • Types of products to be produced
  • Type of items in each product category
  • Production volume for each product

Raw Material requirements

  • Space needs for pallet-stored items
  • Volume storage needs for bulk liquid items
  • Volume storage needs for bulk powder items

Product and People Areas

  • Space needs for finished goods to be stored
  • Areas needs for offices, break, and locker rooms
  • Space requirements for labs and quailty control

Processing Needs

  • Food processing and packaging equipment
  • Current or proposed food process flow diagrams
  • Current  food production equipment layouts

Basis of Design

Once information has been gathered a basis of design is typically established. The basis of design outlines the criteria to which the facility needs to be designed. This includes not only production capacity and storage targets, but facility and room requirements such as room temperatures, and flooring, wall, and ceiling requirements. The basis of design may involve creating food process flow diagrams and spatial relationships for each food processing operation.

Concept Plans

Concept plans are developed using the basis of design as a guideline. Concept plans are elementary drawings that outline various floor plan options for expansion, renovation, or relocation. These plans will be reviewed for feasibility and compared to each other. Factors such as relative cost of each option, ease of implementation, practicality of concept, and adherence to the design basis will be considered. Concept plans will then be either discarded if deemed infeasible, or the best features combined to create a new concept, or determined to be feasible for further development.

Site Review

If the concept plan that is select involves relocating to a new site, then the information developed will be utilized to search for and review prospective vacant sites or possibly existing buildings. Factors such as the ability of the site or existing building to accommodate the concept floor plan, utility availability, roads and parking, and zoning are used as criteria to search for and review each site.

Master Plans

Once the concept plans have been sorted out and a final concept selected, the details of the food production operation and space features will be developed. Various drawings, phasing guidelines, implementation timelines, building code, zoning analysis, and cost estimates may be developed as elements of a master plan.  These plan typically some of the following:

  • Building Features: walls, doors, fixtures, and pertinent features
  • Functional Areas: operational, storage, mechanical, operational support, employee and administrative areas
  • Process Flow & Equipment Layout: basic process flow and location and configuration of equipment
  • Utility Information: capacity for water supply, waste streams, mechanical systems and electrical systems
  • Building/Zoning Code: a preliminary building and zoning code review of the plan
  • Future Growth Potential: depending on available expansion opportunities, areas with anticipated growth will be identified as such.
  • Site Plan: preliminary site plan to indicate the roadways, parking, utilities, and future expansion opportunities

Planning for Success

The planning process is rarely linear. During the course of investigating options, new ideas and unforeseen possibilities often surface.  This creative problem solving process may lead to considering an option that was previously deemed unacceptable. Or it may unearth a solution that was not thought about in any previous plans. This back and forth process ultimately leads to the best solution for expanding, renovating, or building a new meat, bakery, or dairy plant.