Master planning critical to major capital investment in food processing industry

Posted in: Food & Beverage

Master plan

The food and beverage industry’s inability to predict the future is unique in its complexity. Government-mandated changes, consumer preferences, transportation costs and wholesale market trends change rapidly. Creating viable long-range plans in this environment is critical to your success.

The first step is to look at your past and then decide where the business needs to go. For example, say you began making ice cream because cream was an unused byproduct of your cheese plant. But now you have divested the majority of your cheese business and are therefore now buying more cream than you produce. This means proximity to the cheese plant is no longer important.

Your food processing business’ master plan should focus on your individual plant’s key strengths. Reassess your business’ advantages, and identify opportunities for innovation. Implementing new processes and/or technologies can significantly impact operations and ultimately the bottom line. Selecting inappropriate options can be costly and disruptive, leading to poor quality and lost customers.

After determining your business’ potential for growth, establish a realistic budget. If your budget is limited, do not develop plans for an expansive, technologically complex facility suitable for 20 years of record growth. There are options for smaller, phased, budget-friendly improvements.

It is impossible to have all the answers, so assemble a team that can fill the information gaps. Apply logic to the decision-making process by collecting quantitative, tangible characteristics. This means interview customers, consult with the manufacturing team and perform time-studies. I’d recommend documenting your research and decisions so there is a reference document as changes inevitably occur in the future.

Don’t wait until the roof is collapsing to begin. You’ll want a phased plan that will not adversely affect operations. Plan your downtime, define how to ramp-up and commit to a schedule. A great planning team will have mitigating solutions in place. The goal is to transition good, safe, quality product onto the new system.

If you have one take-away from this article let it be – get a little help from your friends


Troy Woodard is a project manager in Mead & Hunt’s Food and Beverage group. He has lead project design and construction for a diverse range of technologically complex project types. His work focuses on design, efficiency, logistics, network optimization and minimizing construction impacts on production. He has completed projects across the United States and international projects in South Korea, Columbia, Russia and Chile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles