For processors, distributors, wholesalers, and suppliers, there is a dizzying amount of choices for the construction of a new cold storage facility. But they shouldn’t necessarily pick the first, or the cheapest, option they have. Below, according to an article in the Produce Processing publication, are three things that should be considered before anything is built.
It’s something we all do before most of our purchases these days. Whether pooling opinions of family or friends, consulting a buyers’ guide, or comparison shopping online, it’s rare that we buy the first product we find that we think fits our needs. Think back on how long it took you to decide on your latest smartphone or computer. Or your most recent car.
In the produce processing, distributing, and supplying industries, that same type of scrutiny and consideration to ensure your new cold storage or refrigerated facility is exactly what your business needs is paramount.
Talk to others in your industry, seek out advice from trade organizations, and “do online research as well,” says Ginny Bode, Marketing Director of the Fisher Construction Group, in the Produce Processing article “Cool Considerations: Think About These Fundamental Issues as Part of Cold Storage Design/Build Plans.”
“Find companies that have completed projects that are like yours, not necessarily storing the same food as you produce, but companies that have successfully solved the issues you face,” she said.
Both Brian Hill, President of Palcon Systems, and Rob Adams, a partner with Tippmann Innovation, believe a construction company’s history in your industry should be one of the most important considerations.
“One of the things processors should be asking is how much experience someone has building food facilities, and how many they have done in the last five to ten years,” says Adams. “If they are a general contractor or commercial contractor that works on other things, they may not have the right experience to get the job done.”
If you’ve narrowed your list of construction companies, it’s time to move on to these three big considerations as you get closer to breaking ground on a new facility.
The Perfect Space for Your Company Now, and in 10 Years
Hopefully, you’re not building a new facility simply to accommodate your immediate needs. It’s great if your company is expanding at a rapid pace, and your operations are outgrowing your current building, but whatever long-term mindset led to that growth needs to preface your construction plans. Can your planned new facility sustain continued expansion over the next five years? The next ten? If you add new product types to your offerings, can you accommodate them appropriately?
According to Ginny Bode, “a key question to figuring out the size of the facility you need is understanding how you will store your product and how you will need to access it. Is it on pallets, in bins, etc.,? It is best to build the freezer for the storage needed, rather than fit the storage to the freezer.”
While Brian Hill believes the daily operation of your business–the flow of people and processes through the facility–is critical when determining what you need in a facility. “The proper separation of rooms such as raw storage to high care to packaging are equally as important. Make sure your plan includes room to expand all these areas. And don’t forget about a maintenance department, and waste removal.”
Other factors that make the perfect space should include:
- What do your growth plans require?
- Can you pay off the cost of a new facility through more storage and less trucking of product?
- How much product will you store?
- How will food product be processed, packaged, and shipped?
- Is the location of the facility close to transportation lines?
- How many employees will be working in the facility?
- What type of refrigeration system does your facility require?
Determine a Budget and Stick to it
But along with determining a meticulous budget outline, ensure the design/build process includes everyone on the team who will be using the new facility. Assessing everyone’s needs early is the easiest way to keep a project on track and on budget.
“Many people think, ‘I’ll get bids and take the low bidder.’ But that type of process can lead to higher costs when items are missed by you or someone you are working with, or lower quality materials to stay within their bid,” Bode says. “When you work with a designer/builder, you invest in the feasibility portion of your project before you invest in the complete design of the building. That way, you know if you have a budget that works for your business, and you don’t proceed with your project without a firm budget.”
“Be specific in your room finishes, i.e. coatings on floors, types of walls, drains, curbing, lighting, room temperatures, etc.,” says Hill. “There is a big difference between holding a room at 34 degrees Fahrenheit versus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Any additions after the fact will cost you much more than if you it was included in the original proposal. If you don’t have an in-house team capable of determining the design and performance criteria, you should seek outside assistance.”
There is also a very large correlation between sticking to a schedule and staying in budget.
Optimizing the Facility for Energy Efficiency
Utilizing energy efficiency elements can go a long way in offsetting the cost of a new facility filled with expensive refrigeration systems.
During-construction measures such as installing more roof and wall insulation, proper dock seals, rapid open/close doors in the refrigerated areas, air destratification fans, and automatic light sensors are all great, according to Hill. “Identify what is most important to the success of your business. You can always purchase an additional piece of equipment or upgrade office furniture in the future.”
One of the most widely adopted energy efficiency measures today is using LEDs for the refrigerated space lighting. [RELATED: Refrigerated Spaces and Energy Efficiency 101: The Definitive Lighting Guide]
But LED lighting isn’t the only way to optimize your facility.
Ginny Bode dotes on the capabilities of controls and automation: “Automated mechanical systems, which include lighting and refrigeration monitoring, provide an excellent return on investment because they provide 24/7 system monitoring, and can make corrections remotely. Automated refrigeration systems also provide safety monitoring.”