Resourceful Food Processors Plan While Supply Chain Stalls

  • Post By: Jennifer Hogan Redmond

How to unleash production when the bottlenecks clear

Supply chain woes may have limited your ability to meet a rising demand for your product. And labor shortages—already a problem pre-pandemic—have worsened the situation for everyone in the food industry. As you scramble to obtain everything from ingredients to packaging materials, it’s likely that your focus on immediate needs has left little time to think about tomorrow. Expanding or upgrading your facility may seem like an impossible dream now.

But at some point, this will end.

And when it does, food processors that have planned will be ready to move forward and ramp up production, even if labor remains scarce. Here’s how to prepare:

Set Goals

Manufacturers are frequently in a hurry. “What is your timeline?” is often answered with “Yesterday” by those seeking engineering and professional design assistance. If you’re grappling with a recall or a food safety threat, the need is urgent, indeed. But if you’ve been putting off a renovation, struggling with consistent operational inefficiencies or waiting for the perfect time to automate a process, the time to start the planning phase of your project is now, while the world is waiting for the ships to come in (truly).

Planning provides the roadmap for your project. When you have made important decisions in advance, what follows is a much smoother process. Given the uncertainties of today’s supply chain, this planning step is even more important. The following are among the many issues you’ll need to address:

  • Identify what you want to achieve:
    • Increase production by 25%?
    • Introduce an automated process?
    • Reconfigure your space?
    • Make room for a phased expansion?
  • Set a timeframe. Ideally, when would you like to have your project completed?
  • Look beyond tomorrow.
    • Are your goals realistic if labor remains scarce long-term?
    • What steps can you take to prepare for a future without the same level of hands-on labor you had before the pandemic?

Get Real

Take stock of your internal resources and expertise. Ask and answer these questions:

  • Do you have an internal engineering team that can lead your project?
    • If so, are these individuals aware of the materials and processes required to maintain a safe and sanitary food facility?
    • Can they handle the design of the intricate systems necessary to operate the equipment you need?
    • Do they understand what it takes to meet today’s regulatory requirements?
  • Can you afford an interruption in your operation as you take on a construction project? If not, do you have the knowledge and time to manage a construction project while managing your day-to-day operations?
  • Do you have access to a design/build team with extensive experience building food processing facilities? Note: Constructing a food processing facility is NOT the same as building a restaurant or a warehouse, so don’t be fooled by a local contractor into believing these are similarly complex.
  • Do you have a budget in mind? While the cost of goods and services may vary with the economic outlook, your budget is your budget. Know what you can spend.

Proceed to Plan

After you’ve done the above, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. If you can tackle your entire project internally, dig into that planning now. If you need help with process planning, master planning, site planning or facility planning, reach out to an experienced design firm to gauge if your expectations and resources are realistic. You can contact us here.

Regardless of the path you choose, having a plan puts you at the front of the line when the supply chain congestion eases. You’ll be ready to install that line, receive that equipment, initiate that automated process, or even break ground on that new building, so you can move forward to meet or exceed your production goals. 

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