Category: Plant / Production

Plant Expansion Guidelines

by John Peter Koss

Beverage facility managers have been continually tried and tested by ever changing business environments and operating conditions. These environmental and operating realities have made it appropriate and necessary to analyze and evaluate what existing production and/or distribution facility capabilities and capacities can handle.

Such an analysis should raise the question of whether to modify or expand existing real estate or build an entirely new facility. When developing alternatives, answers and making decisions, the process has become more complex during the past few years because: 1. The SKU explosion has seriously impacted daily production and distribution conditions; 2. Global economic environment has altered markets and demands; 3. New and/or additional government regulations to become “green” have focused on compliance and penalties; 4. Increase in competitive sources has changed some management philosophies and 5. Changes in integrated supply chain conditions have all required a more comprehensive assessment of plant needs, alternatives and business initiatives.

These real-time factors create important questions: Is facility expansion feasible and/or necessary? Are accurate cost benefits positively projected? Have factors affecting an expansion project been defined? These questions must be addressed and guidelines for decision making can help in the evaluation process.

First, approaches to making the required analysis should consider at least three different capability viewpoints: Modification (minimal number external and internal changes), Expansion (any physical size changes required) and New Construction (capability needs exceed existing facilities).

Second, each viewpoint should consider the three phases in an integrated supply chain—processing, production and distribution; however, the focus here will be on modification and expansion.  

As capability need evaluation begins, the infrastructure becomes a prime factor to be analyzed for determining what can or can not be modified or expanded. It is important to note that modification or expansion in many cases will require some change in a plant’s utility accessibility, usage and post-production activity, which include water treatment, electricity, natural gas, sewage and support systems such as CO2 and ammonia. Can any proposed usage increase be handled by existing services?  Guidelines:  Ensure plant usage history is available to accurately assess infrastructure impacts that could be created by proposed modifications; Collaborate with utility companies regarding rate and application policies; Perform due diligence on impacts to the over all process.

Expansions, in addition to all the infrastructure usage issues related in modifications, must consider if the facility structurally can be expanded (is land available in proper direction), if access roads or rail can be relocated or enhanced (who must provide authority), if the infrastructure (power lines, water service, sewer lines) can be altered if necessary and if local building codes permit an expansion to the extent being proposed.

Guidelines: 1. Make structural integrity inspection to determine expandability of building(s) and compatibility of expansion; 2. Ensure expansion, if possible, is facing north; 3. Evaluate grounds security needs with expansion including exterior lights facing building and 4. Prevent traffic conflicts on ground roadways with one-way-in, one-way-out traffic flow and restricted access parking areas.

Most beverage facility managers have experienced modifications or expansions as outlined here; however, observations have witnessed questionable application of basic and fundamental facility planning and design criteria. These guidelines should help or raise some questions.  

John Peter Koss, a beverage operations advisor, is a licensed registered professional engineer and has 50-plus years of beverage business experience. He can be reached at oleboss@aol.com

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