Fast-Tracking a New Food Production Plant: An EPCm Case Study

Tight timelines are a fact of life in food and beverage manufacturing projects, especially for new plant construction.

When the schedule is compressed and the deadline is fixed, an owner’s engineer needs to find creative solutions for engineering, procurement and construction management to complete a new facility on time.

Here’s how Matrix Technologies helped a food and beverage manufacturer fast-track a complex new food production facility from conceptual design through construction.

EPCm Project Delivery

Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Management (EPCm) is a widely used method of designing, managing, and building a construction project.

Manufacturers sometimes prefer the EPCm approach because the engineer who was intimately involved with the design is represented onsite by the engineer’s construction manager, who provides construction management services on the owner’s behalf. A knowledgeable construction manager who played a role in the design process has a tremendous advantage because of their continuity in design and construction roles.

The Challenges: Short Timeline, Undefined Scope

A food and beverage manufacturer of shelf-stable products in the Midwest needed to renovate a 200,000 square foot vacant warehouse and retrofit it to meet food production requirements.

The owner had a substantial amount of plant modifications and improvements that needed to be developed and a schedule that would not allow ample time to prepare a multidiscipline bid package. With such a short planning/engineering development schedule, Matrix Technologies was selected to execute a fast-track EPCm contract involving all disciplines of food and beverage engineering and automation services, including construction management.

To address these challenges, Matrix applied a number of innovative approaches:

  • Thorough project planning: Matrix consulted closely with the manufacturer to more clearly define the project. To improve overall product and process flow, we rearranged product flow from equipment and operations in the most efficient way. General manufacturing product flow was organized in a circular fashion to minimize traffic crossings between plant associates and heavily trafficked fork truck aisles. Here is a simplified representation of material flow from receiving to outbound shipping:
    food and beverage manufacturing | engineering procurement and constructionThis schematic space planning helped the manufacturer and design team to be on the same page during the design phase. Once the process layout space planning was approved, the design team was able to quickly move to detailed design of major packages which required earlier installation dates.
food and beverage manufacturing | engineering and automation
Packaging Area (before)
food and beverage manufacturing; engineering procurement and construction
Packaging Area (after)
  • EPCm Leadership: Due to the remote location of the plant, the owner chose not to bid the project to a general contractor. Instead, as part of a cost-savings approach, the owner requested that multiple subcontractors bid the project as the bid packages became available. As the EPCm, Matrix Technologies provided oversight and coordination of multiple contractors. Project savings were substantial because the owner eliminated the general contractor’s markup, which would have been added to subcontractor bids.
  • Staging multiple bid packages: A compressed schedule with multiple contractors required an innovative approach to the development of bid packages. Matrix issued 60 separate bid packages and scopes, starting with “Wall Panel Demolition” and “Firewater Demolition” and finishing with “Acoustical Tile Ceiling Installation” and “Electrical Controls Installation” bid packages.Each package was tailored to suit each work construction task and was issued in a timely manner to maintain contractor continuity, allowing them to finish one smaller project and then move onto the next. By providing a comprehensive schedule for the issuance of bid packages, Matrix could also work ahead on future packages while contractors completed previous packages.This innovative scheduling approach allowed the owner to complete full engineering and construction of a $20,000,000 project in less than eleven months.
food and beverage manufacturing | engineering procurement and construction | EPCm
Retort Cooking
food and beverage manufacturing | engineering procurement and construction | EPCm
  • Innovative, cost-effective cooling: Steam is inherent to the cooking process. In previous applications, the manufacturer had condensation problems due to the amount of steam produced and emitted by the cookers. Matrix specified an ammonia over glycol process cooling system which was connected to the exterior hygienic air handling units. The ammonia over glycol system is considered the best compromise between cost, safety, and environmental impact.
food and beverage manufacturing | construction management industrial automation engineering
Hygienic air handlers constructed over existing building
  • Focusing on communication: As the owner’s engineer, Matrix needed to manage the exchange of information with the manufacturer, contractors, OEM vendors, shippers, riggers, component suppliers, local utilities, inspectors, and state and local plan reviewers. In addition, with multiple contractors working in common areas, managing safety was of paramount importance. Effective communication was essential at every step of the construction process and a top priority for the entire Matrix team.

The Outcome: A Modern, New Plant Completed Ahead of Schedule

Matrix designed new production areas, including frozen and open ingredient storage, ingredient prep areas, blending, package assembly, cooking, packaging, and finished goods storage. Office areas were completely remodeled, and new areas were created for mechanical equipment, boilers, HVAC, wastewater treatment and pump station, and maintenance facilities.

Design for the retort cooking systems in the facility included equipment layout, utility system sizing and design, cooling water system design, and integration into the plant control systems.

There were multiple technologies and OEM equipment used including Allpax retorts, Rockwell Automation ControlLogix PLCs, and FTView HMI software.

We completed the project ahead of the aggressive production schedule and the systems started up as expected without delays. This facility has helped the manufacturer reduce shipping costs from its original manufacturing plant in the Pacific Northwest, thus increasing profits while improving their ability to support their customer base in the Midwest.

Fast-Tracking Tips for Industrial Design-Build Projects

Here are some guidelines for industrial manufacturers to consider when selecting a design engineering partner:

  • Be open to different approaches: An experienced owner’s engineer may recommend approaches that differ from your original plan. Their knowledge can help you avoid costly mistakes and discover more effective options.
  • Find an EPC design company with the right experience: Look for an industrial automation engineering company that has in-depth experience in your industry and understands the unique process design and facilities requirements of producing your products.
  • Place a high priority on communication skills: The success of a complex EPC construction project depends on the communication capabilities of the owner’s engineer. Rank communication skills highly when evaluating a prospective engineering, procurement, and construction company.
  • EPCm savings: Selecting the right EPCm partner can produce project savings by eliminating the General Contractor’s markup on subcontractors. Manufacturers should contract with an experienced EPCm company with extensive construction manager experience, since the construction manager will be trusted to coordinate all onsite safety and construction activities.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our engineering, procurement, and construction management services, contact Mark O’Connell, Associate Director of Capital Project Planning.

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.

Tags: / EPCm  / Owner's Engineer  / Project Fast-tracking  / Planning  / Construction 

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