Hat's off

Designers and builders are absorbing more and more food plant services that once were performed in house

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Design and construction firms wear so many hats these days that the butter-colored helmets we've all come to associate with job sites may be the least them.


In fact, most major designers and builders have moved well beyond the realm of mere bricks and mortar, and routinely expertise in a host of areas, from asset management and financial and real estate planning to facilities engineering and management. A handful, including Spartanburg, S.C.-based Lockwood Greene and Cincinnati-based architect/engineer Hixson, even provide team process training, which focuses on team building, technical training and other related services.


Many design and construction firms began to provide such services in the mid to late 1980s, not only as a natural extension of their core practices, but also as a buffer from the cyclical downturns in manufacturing construction. If clients, including food companies, were initially reluctant to outsource these activities, many have since come to recognize the wisdom of doing so, particularly processors seeking to reduce their labor force and operations expenses. Additionally, the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions in the food industry has propelled many food companies into uncharted waters, at least where facility and asset management are concerned. How best to consolidate the resources, plants and operations of two or three newly joined companies? And where? And at what cost? Because they have been planning, designing and building a variety of plant facilities for years, design and construction firms serving the food industry say they can bring a wealth of perspective and experience to the process, as well as a fresh set of eyes.


"The bigger the vision, the tougher the problem," Pribula says. "Currently, we're working a company that has 15 or 16 facilities. So the question becomes, what categories are best for consolidation in terms of efficiency, cost savings, logistics and so forth. A lot of companies are trying to get away from performing these functions in house. We had one client that was burned to many times trying to perform its own internal estimates we became its business manager in the area asset management," says Scott Pribula, "Now they use our business as a resource for everything." 


In addition to asset management, everything, in Stahlman's case, has come to include financial consulting for commercial equipment and facilities, financial and real estate planning and maintenance training. According to Pribula, many of Stahlman's key personnel in these areas tend to be veterans of warehousing and production in general, or food processing and warehousing in particular. "We often find that solutions  that work in one industry or sector may well be applicable to another," Pribula says. "The diversity of our experience allows us to make a better assessment of a situation."







The full menu



Food plant designers and builders collectively offer a wealth of services, most notably:


Business planning

1)       Asset management

2)       Financing

3)       Financial consulting

4)       Financial planning

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