Built for success – plant design in the food & beverage sector

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Plant design should be one of the first things food makers consider when looking to maximise operational efficiency. Getting the right design is all about asking the right questions.

Torino Food Service, a growing import and distribution business, recently consolidated its operations into a single facility at Ingleburn in South-Western Sydney. Previously, the company’s operations had been spread across multiple sites.

At the time, the company forecast that the relocation would result in a three per cent reduction in running costs per dollar of sales over its whole operations, as well as an additional 12 per cent reduction in servicing costs on associated equipment.

The move, in other words, was well worth the effort and goes to show that operational efficiency isn’t all about supply chains, management expertise, lean manufacturing, automation and a well-trained workforce. While such factors are crucial, having a well-designed, functioning plant, plays an important role in bringing them all together.

Vaughan Constructions

Torino’s new facility was built by Vaughan Constructions, a company that is known for specialised design and construct, particularly of medium to large scale  complex facilities.

Established in 1955, Vaughan built its first facility for the food and beverage sector over 35 years ago.

Initially, the company worked for drink producers. “We designed and built production facilities for brands like Patra and The Original Juice Co. They’re brands that have been around for a long time,” Vaughan’s Managing Director, Andrew Noble told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“Nowadays our clients include all spectrums of the food and beverage market, from soft drink to juice, the full range of dairy products, right through to all of the bakery and protein class of foods.”

Noble said that the fast-changing nature of the sector makes it an exciting one to be involved with. This pace of change is not confined to product development. “The technology on the production is also evolving,” he said.

This has implications for the buildings needed to house that technology. “It means, for any building, what we did yesterday isn’t necessarily the complete answer for tomorrow,” said Noble.

According to Noble, Vaughan is able to keep up with these changes by partnering with clients over many years and integrating specialist consultants where required.

He said that the relationship with clients is paramount.

“The most important thing for the client is that they have a single point of contact that they can trust. That’s critical because they have to look after their core business,” he said.

“We make sure that the right questions are asked right from the very beginning. We will gather all the necessary information, and provide options. The client gets the opportunity to evaluate the balance between  performance improvement versus capital investment.”

Noble added that Vaughan’s value management processes have a track record of delivering substantial project savings for clients. “Figures of 15 – 20 per cent improvement on the bottom line is not uncommon,” he said.

ASRS warehouse

Vaughan built an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) warehouse for PepsiCo in the Adelaide suburb of Regency Park . The facility (pictured above and below) is dedicated to the company’s Smith’s snack foods brand.

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“It’s the first fully automated plant that we’ve put into Smiths and it was done to drive improvement,” explained Steve Reilly, PepsiCo’s Australia & New Zealand’s Senior Engineering Manager.

“It’s allowed us to store more product at our manufacturing site. It’s allowed us to deliver to the central warehouses of our major customers, like Coles, Woolworths and Metcash. And it’s allowed us to better facilitate that delivery method.”

On top of that, the automated facility has helped the company minimise labour costs.

Reilly said that PepsiCo decided on a height of 30-pluse metres for the warehouse and added that, for a building of that height issues such as wind loads and seismic events have to be taken into consideration.

In addition, he said, there were some complications at the site.

“It was deemed that – given the soil substructure – we needed to do a little bit more in our foundation work…to ensure that the slab that was put on top of that was going to meet the specifications of the automation company,” he said. “So the floor needs to very flat and it needs to stay flat over a long period of time, otherwise there would be the potential for the automation to go out of kilter.”

“So they had to work to some pretty critical specifications and I thought they did that pretty well,” he said.

Seamless factory warehouse

Langdon Ingredients is a family business established way back in 1852. With operations in Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, UK and South Africa, the company is a supplier of food ingredients and value added services to food manufacturers.

“Vaughan recently completed stage seven of our main facility in Melbourne, which we started ten years ago and this is the final addition to the site,” said Chris Langdon, Managing Director of Langdon Foods.

“The last stage was a client and humidity controlled warehouse that was of a specialist nature and in combination with ourselves they selected the appropriate contractors for the specialty works.

“It all connects and now works as a seamless factory/warehouse under one roof.”

Contracts

There are three main types of contracts used in the building industry.

The first type is a “straight tender”. In cases where this type of contract is signed, the client is responsible for all the design documents.

As Noble put it, this can pose a risk to the client  where, in extreme cases,   if the drawings show the doors in the building  but door handles aren’t nominated, they will be built without handles.

The second type of contract is the “Design and Construct” contract. Using this methodology, the builder is responsible for the design and gives a price to the client for the entire design and construction process which is generally based on a performance brief. If there are no door handles on the drawing, it is the builder’s responsibility to include them if they’re required.

The third type of contract is called “Early Contractor Involvement” (ECI). Using this methodology, the builder comes on board when the project is at an embryonic stage and takes full responsibility.

According to Noble, ECI is a methodology that more and more clients, particularly in specialised industries like food and beverage are adopting.

“If I were to predict the next twenty years I’d say 75 per cent of specialised projects will be completed under an ECI methodology,” he said.

“It allows the client to tap into the latent knowledge, resources and specialisation within the organisation they’re partnering with. The client maintains visibility of the pricing and as much  control as they desire.”

In a fast changing, dynamic industry like food making, this is invaluable.

“With an ECI methodology the clients can actually stress test where things are at throughout the process before they’re over committed,” said Noble. “So they’ve got the option to either turn back or to change tack..”

These are great advantages for any business looking to maximise operational efficiency.