If this type of project is approached as just a building with concrete and steel, a vital area could be missed. What’s more, a manufacturer’s food safety and quality could be compromised. The new build or expansion is much more than a box—it’s where food or beverages that reach thousands are created and packaged, which is a serious and humbling endeavor that must be felt by the contractor and the manufacturer.
How Engineering Dictates the Design
For food and beverage facilities specifically, the engineering of a new build or expansion project often drives the design. One of the first areas to consider is the site—a critical part of both greenfield and brownfield projects. For greenfield, civil engineering studies of the land must be performed to determine any potential issues with drainage or other environmental concerns. The site must also be examined for growth potential to ensure it can accommodate future expansion, which is also a proponent for brownfield projects.
Additionally, food facilities often require a high utility and electricity demand, which makes it imperative that the local municipalities and utilities can meet the requirements.
Before the design can be fully embraced, the manufacturing process has to be laid out and optimized from an equipment adjacency standpoint, particularly by defining the automation elements at play. Automated processes frequently lead to stronger safety and quality as well as increased speed to market, thereby allowing food manufacturers to stay competitive and relevant. For food and beverage companies, the following automation elements often get integrated into new or existing facilities:
- Product distribution/clean-in-place (CIP) networks via mix-proof valve clusters;
- CIP and clean-out-of-place systems;
- Grain handling, milling, and packaging systems;
- Packaging and palletizing systems;
- Sampling and package inspection systems;
- In-line blending system to replace manual batching system;
- Powder into liquid addition system to replace manual bag dumping; and
- Product quality and process monitoring systems and equipment.
Automation can also be delivered in the control systems of a manufacturing facility. For example, Canadian-based Champion Petfoods recently opened its first U.S. operation called DogStar Kitchens, requiring a highly innovative automation system to control its kitchen’s productions. For this particular project, the engineering team began with a supervisory system. Champion embraced the system wholeheartedly and wanted it to control every automated aspect of the kitchen. The system, affectionately called Window into the Kitchen (WINK), does, in fact, control and automate everything from track and trace capabilities and recipe management to product sampling and data collection. WINK ensures consistency in food production to meet Champion’s food safety and quality standards.
Security is a big aspect of WINK: a particularly high focus is put on protecting recipes. The system was developed to include remote access for users anywhere with an Internet connection. While this provides excellent flexibility, it does create security risks. To hedge against these risks, the team developed single sign-on functionality to better control users. One of the unique aspects of DogStar Kitchens is its stringent dedication to produce foods that go beyond FSMA and European Union requirements for human foods. In lieu of such standards, the security of the kitchen, too, has been said to be equivalent to that of a hospital. Champion Petfoods now wants to integrate WINK into all its kitchens and future endeavors.
Why Communication Is Vital
After these processes are determined, the architect must establish how the building can circumscribe all these elements. Designers must consider high-level master planning concepts and the details of a specific building component within each room. The fit and finish of individual rooms is determined by the risk associated with the task performed in each room.