The food and beverage industry has experienced significant changes and advancements in the past several years. From regulations to technology and automation capabilities, the industry is being faced with new challenges. But, these challenges also lead to opportunities.
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Explore This IssueOctober/November 2016
What’s Driving Food & Beverage Market Growth?
Growing consumer demand and the rise of new types of domestic and international requirements are largely driving these changes. Manufacturers recognize the need to update their operations to meet these demands and want to integrate flexibility, efficiency, and automated technology into all their processes. These requirements have also paved the way for financing to become more readily available to companies.
The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is also a factor contributing to food and beverage market growth since companies must ensure their operations accommodate the new policies. As a result, many manufacturers are finding it more cost-effective to build new facilities instead of renovating their current operations.
In sectors such as U.S. protein, there is also significant growth as offshoring poses a growing number of challenges. Pennsylvania-based Clemens Food Group is designing and building a new pork processing facility in Coldwater, Mich. that is expected to process 10,000 hogs each day.
Mergers and acquisitions have always played an important growth role in the food industry, and recent years have held many of them. Brands such as Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands merged, and Mars, Inc. acquired Proctor & Gamble’s pet food business. Kraft and Heinz also successfully completed their merger to form the Kraft Heinz Company, a transaction that created the fifth largest food and beverage company in the entire world.
When these deals take place, business strategies often change as well. Sometimes, the new business plan recommends new construction as opposed to working through the process of combining operations. For example, after acquiring Chicago-based Wrigley in 2008, Mars, Inc. expanded its existing manufacturing plant in Illinois to add the production of Skittles to its operations.
Last but certainly not least, the U.S. continues to attract food and beverage manufacturers for multiple reasons including its energy resources, its marketplace stability, and its workforce.
How to Make the Growth a Reality
Before food companies embrace growth in the form of new greenfield facilities or expansion projects, several considerations must be made; the most important is the critical control points (CCPs), the heartbeat of the food manufacturing process. As food safety is the foremost motivation for a food and beverage facility, all manufacturers have in place critical components that guarantee their brand’s commitment to food safety and quality. For some, this may be a certain piece of equipment that is central to all food preparation; for others, it might be the workers and their performance in producing a perfect product.
CCPs must be clearly defined and understood by all engineering, design, and construction partners before moving the first pile of dirt because they drive the design-build process. This understanding helps define the quantity and quality of products produced in a unit of time, how big the warehouse must be, how often the manufacturer ships products and receives raw materials, how many docks are needed, how the process flow should be developed, and how the layout should be positioned. It’s a process that begins at the goal and meticulously takes steps backwards to fully realize the project and bring it to fruition.
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.
The engineer must also consider expandability options both from an interior and exterior point of view—if there is room for the operational staff and maintenance, and how cleaning systems can be incorporated. For a period of time, the envelope is constantly shifting: structure and design are contingent on the communication between the engineer, designer, and manufacturer.
Once the envelope is sealed, the structural engineering team comes in to execute the task. Mechanical and electrical engineering teams follow to supply heating, venting, air conditioning, lighting, and other systems. Next, the process and mechanical engineering teams come in with steam utilities, compressed air, and other necessities that directly tie to the production of the facility.
To deliver the principal food safety goal for manufacturers, construction aspects must be considered as well. For instance, the life cycle cost of the building and the maintenance and sanitation of building components are some factors that need be considered when selecting construction materials. In addition, jobsite cleanliness is a crucial part of safety throughout the life of the new build or renovation.
As these steps take place, constant communication between the various movable pieces and parts must occur. Innovative technologies, such as 3D printing and virtual reality, have proven to be effective communication tools for design-build contractors to illustrate each and every detail of the project. The manufacturer, the contractor, and the suppliers and vendors must work together as one cohesive team to ensure all goals are met, and ultimately, to secure food safety and quality.
Cundiff is director of business development at Gray Construction, an engineering, architecture, and construction firm that has designed and built nearly 1,000 manufacturing facilities, including food and beverage, across the U.S. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.