The food and beverage industry is in the midst of a building boom, with dozens of new plants and cold storage facilities currently under construction.

On this episode of From the Cold Corner, Don Olsen, vice president of design and operations at ESI Group, discusses what food manufacturers and processors should know about the design-build process for cold and frozen facilities.

Despite the myriad differences in F&B and cold storage construction projects, Olsen said design-builders hear a common request.

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“You know, the first question is, ‘What can we do to make our operation more efficient? And what can we do to make sure that we can help maintain our employees and keep them around?’ It's not the actually the easiest question, because it kind of can go into a number of different directions,” Olsen said.

Efficiency – whether it be environmental or simply the movement of people throughout the plant – is paramount, and employee welfare areas continue to be an area of focus, in both additions and greenfield projects, Olsen said.

“What can we do to make this facility a better place to work in? That’s something we’ve really noticed, especially the work we’ve done in meat processing,” he said.

Another initial challenge facing all F&B companies is getting your approvals through the city or county in the in the state.

“That has been it has become much and much more onerous in the last five to 10 years to get, get approvals on your plans, especially depending on what type of food facility it is," Olsen said. “There's a lot of concern about potential for odors and sanitary requirements for wastewater and that type of thing … so to get some of those things approved can take a tremendous amount of time. In one state, we're still a year and six months into getting approvals. But we have another state in which we can have our approvals done in probably less than two months.”

Other issues Olsen expects to impact construction timelines this year include “a number of issues related to bringing utilities on site."

“We’re still seeing issues in regard to getting electrical components like switch gear and transformers. In some cases it takes up to a year to get those so it can affect the schedule," Olsen said. "It’s very common for us today to design our food processing plants today with a walk-on ceiling and interstitial space above for utilities … a lot of older facilities don’t have that. You look at ways to upgrade the facility to be closer to what you’d build today."

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