When plastics manufacturers consider replacing an inefficient facility with a state-of-the-art plant that can carry them successfully into the new century, two initial pitfalls must be avoided.
Whether manufacturers overestimate difficulties and fail to move ahead, or underestimate challenges and move blithely ahead without careful planning, the results range from expensive to disastrous.
There is, however, no need to go down either of those paths when development of a new facility is relatively straightforward.
Assemble a high-quality team, including an architect, general contractor and, if needed, a consulting engineer. Select only professionals who have experience with plastics manufacturing plants and bring everyone, contractor included, in early. Bring the team into the process upfront, even before a site is selected.
Choosing the right site is often the most critical decision in the process. Look at all the variables.
Make sure the new plant has adequate access to power and water. What are current rates for these essential utilities? If rates are low now, are they likely to stay that way? Does the local utility have an alternate grid system and automatic switching if there is a problem?
Consider what combination of highway and rail access will work best for receiving raw materials and shipping product.
Check to see that local zoning codes allow for the type of facility you need, such as: Does the code permit silos or a cooling tower?
Look at staffing issues. Is the local labor supply adequate? Does the labor force include workers with plastics experience? Are there training programs available if needed?
Select a site that allows for future expansion.
Don't build a facility that is technologically antiquated before it opens. New construction and heating, venting and air-conditioning technology can help reduce operating costs significantly.
Finally, plan for growth from day one. Design the building so that expansion can be accomplished without interrupting production. Warehousing should be looked at as future manufacturing areas. Wiring and piping systems should be designed with expansion in mind. More loading-dock space should be planned, and parking areas must be easy to enlarge.
Allowing your team to review all these issues and develop a preliminary design study will take about two weeks at a nominal cost, but the investment will be repaid several times over. In the end, you will have a plan that allows you to make decisions that could save thousands of dollars and will result in a plant that fits your needs today and in the future.Krusinski is president of Krusinski Construction Co. in Oak Brook, Ill.